The first of the large pieces on wood from the replica Jeanie Johnston ship. The dress is made of watercolor painted rice paper collage. Acrylic, charcoal and china marker used for the rest of the piece. And she so makes me smile! Again, huge thanks to Ann for providing the wood! Only one piece remaining to be painted. I may have to start begging for wood in the town square.
Yesterday was halcyon. Sunny, clear, breezy and warm. We stashed away our raincoats and sweaters, and made every excuse to go outside. So when local legend Damian Stack asked if we wanted to go touring, we didn't hesitate. Diane threw her painting gear in the "boot" (the trunk) just in case it became paint o'clock.
First stop, a local store where Winegums were on sale. Second stop, a famine cemetery which I previously saw at night, this time made perfect for photos by the setting sun.
From this point forward, the next three hours were a blur. Careening around blind curves at a million kph as we chased the sun once more, we leapt in and out of the car for pictures, dazzled by the shadows of 16th century castles and churches.
A brief tutorial on car parts as we zipped toward Lislaughtin Abbey - learning about "boots" and "bonnets". Damian telling Diane she locked his keys in the trunk at one stop. Ever the prankster. We'd seen the Abbey before, but on a rainy day. This time we were dazzled by the sun's glow through pane-less windows, mimicking the stained glass which was there long ago. Read more about the abbey and about Ballylongford village here: Irish Treasures
So once we began walking - and walking - and walking, we decided just to stop right there and paint. Laziness (and a lack of sleep the night before) might have prevented us from seeing the actual bog, but the incredible peace and beauty of Ireland captured our hearts as soon as we were unpacked and set up.
Verdant fields, wildflowers four feet tall, blackberry bushes for miles. A mowed path through it, curving gently, inviting eyes and feet to follow. Birds everywhere. Insects, sure. The occasional enthusiastic dog bounding through. Quiet walkers, deep in their own revery.
Hours passed before we knew it. We were lost in the peace of the path, painting meditatively. Direct light (I am learning - the worst kind for plein aire painting) and yet somehow it was diffused enough to create soft loveliness.
The rain, wind and mist, instead of dampening our spirits, created incredible eerie light everywhere we went. It was impossible to take a bad photo. We felt like hardened, warrior tourists out in the elements, soaked through our coats yet eager for more fascinating stops. The beach in this photo was empty and wild, waves crashing and roaring, wind whipping and rain pelting our faces. Yet we played in the rocks, looking for treasures when others might cower in cars.
Ancient oratories (places of prayer) with markings so old they are likely druid. A cemetery so old it combined Viking gods with Christianity in a beautiful mix of ornate carved buildings with primitive cat head sculptures and stone markings predating modern written language. Check out this incredible church and cemetery here: Kilmalkadar Church
There were crashing waves the color of sea glass underneath steep cliffs along the roadside, a huge crucifix on a mountainous shore which was the last glimpse of Ireland seen from ships filled with immigrants long ago, remains of cottages occupied during famine years and green, everywhere green lush landscape as far as the eye could see.
It wasn't all misty ruins and moody landscapes, however. Damian's jokes and pranks kept us on our toes, while a random herd of cows crossing the road made us jump out of the car full of smiles and squeals of delight.
There was no paint o'clock on a rainy travel day, so the piece at the beginning of this blog was painted days before, along the banks of the River Feale just as the sun was setting, flashing brilliantly along the water.
We return to lovely Listowel from Dingle today, newly inspired and ever more enamored of this wild and beautiful land.
We were lucky enough to have the sun (it can be up until nearly 11 pm in the summer here), which cast delicious shadows through the ruins of a 13th century abbey. Visitors are allowed to climb the steps carved into the side of the tower, which I did, despite my fear of heights without handrails...
We drove along the Wild Atlantic Way, stopping wherever the photo opportunity was good. Damien pressed Irish crisps (potato chips) and a Cadbury Twirl into my hands at one stop. Things which his tourists are required to sample, apparently. Check out the candy here: Cadbury Twirl. I've been promised something called Winegum when I see him next.
We chased the sunset all the way to the top of the mountain, were we stood at an old stone which once held a cross, now small in the shadow of cell phone towers. Easter mass used to be held at this stone on the mountain. The wind whipped us soundly as we watched the twinkling lights of Listowel down below.
As we descended the mountain in the growing darkness, Damien played a recording of writings about Listowel, narrated by the brother of John B. Keane and written in the 1960's. The beautiful words described perfectly the scene unfolding in front of us as if we were in a movie.
As a last stop, when there was barely light left, we pulled into a famine cemetery and viewed the mound outside of it with a small placard of poetry. Under the mound were babies from centuries past, when the unbaptized could not be buried within the cemetery walls. A somber reminder of the huge toll of the famine on this country, and a place I plan to revisit in the daylight.
The piece of art at the beginning of this narrative was inspired by a view walking the streets a week ago, when a man on a ladder in front of a brightly colored building seemed to pose for a photo mid window repair. Another scene from lovely, poetic Listowel!
There's a little skip in my step with a return to reclaimed wood painting this week, thanks to Ann. After several days of wrestling with screwdrivers and drills in an attempt to disassemble the large piece, I finally used good old elbow grease and a hand saw to make the wood obey my commands. It was a mighty battle, but I won! Huzzah! (Huge thanks to Olive for loaning me her saw)
These two are painted on the small end pieces I removed. A good place to begin. Necessity being the mother of invention, I decided to print rice paper with watercolor over several days for the collage materials. The results were a delightful surprise! Even without my dearest gelatin plate, printing was possible. Now the wheels in my head are turning...
The front window at Olive Stack Gallery has become a moving display - each day new pieces go in, and older pieces come out. We've been prolific in our painting (because it's nearly always paint o'clock), and suddenly one piece a day for the upcoming 30 Paintings in 30 Days doesn't seem so hard! So if you're in lovely Listowel, stop by the window and see what's new, then pop in for a proper chat.
Here in magical Listowel, conversation is a work of art. Each one carefully crafted and tended, with little risky bits (like Damien's "blue Jokes") and lots of niceness, all rolled into a lilting accent of loveliness. We love conversations here. And that folks take the time to have them. Not rushing here and there, not texting as they speak, a discourse of the highest caliber to be slowly savored. If conversations could be bubbled (like in the cartoons), you would see beautiful bubbles floating all around the town, each one a treasure.
Now with that visual drifting about in your mind, dear reader, guess what? It's paint o'clock again! And off we go...
"New Spuds" - watercolor on paper, 9" x 12". Ready for framing.
A couple of blissful days in lovely Listowel. Painting, pubs and new spuds. New spuds? Yes, indeed. The term for the newest of potatoes, buttery and soft. The cream of the crop. And you can buy them at random places in the countryside. Another reason to love Ireland.
There are some things done really well here. We could learn a thing or two from the Irish. In the recent past, a law was passed banning stores from giving out plastic bags (you can buy one, but you can't get them for free) and folks bring bags wherever they go. No more Harris Teeter or Publix bags floating around parking lots, tangled in tree branches, clogging up streams.
The roadways are pristine. Street cleaners are busy round the clock. Perhaps part of the reason the scenery is so lovely is how well cared-for it is. And cigarette butts are "binned", not ground out on the sidewalk.
"Around the Bend" - watercolor on paper, 7" x 10"
Yesterday we went walking. We didn't intend to walk quite so far, but we were lost for a bit. Being lost in another city, another country, is quite enjoyable. We found back alleys with old stone buildings, the recycling center, the library, a pharmacy and the muscles in our legs. Ouch! There they are.
And after a break and some dinner (the most delicious sausages ever known on the entire planet and I do not exaggerate here) we went walking again. This time back to the beautiful cemetery, the park along the river, the fields within the park and the river along the racetrack. The wind had whipped up fiercely, and the clouds were moody and moving quickly. The feeling within the cemetery in the wind, under the stormy skies with a murder of crows noisily flocking above us was out of a movie. Emotional, wild, eerie - and perfect.
"Stay" - watercolor on paper, 9" x 12". Ready for framing.
You can learn more about Irish Travelers here: itmtrav
We took hundreds of photos of windows and doors, hillsides and streets. Everywhere we turned was something exquisite. Even the doorknobs were fantastic. How is it possible to have so much lovely in one town?
Lunch at Lizzy's was phenomenal. A seafood chowder like I've never had before. Sitting in the front window stools, you can watch "window theater" and see some interesting stories unfolding on the street. Yesterday in the midst of a rush of traffic, one driver recognized a lady on the footpath and stopped to have a chat while the folks behind him waited patiently. Those of you in south Florida know this would not go over well at all in the states! Lots of lovely lads in caps, young ladies with heads full of auburn curls, folks dressed up for a wedding in town and an endless stream of small cars, transit vans, tractor trailers and large tractors meandered through the narrow streets in front of us. Check out Lizzy's here: Lizzy's Little Kitchen
Along the way home, we found a small, gated courtyard with a gang of yorkies inside. Today's piece is inspired by one of these friendly tiny guys, who smashed his face cutely between the bars in a way that was sure to garner some petting from passersby.
Th"Goodies from Olive's Mum" - watercolor on paper, 9" x 12". Ready for framing.
Another most interesting day in Ireland.
I was set up in the gallery to paint by the window this morning when I received a message from Olive. She let me know that Ann forgot to mention the wood she gave me (see "Treat Day!") was from the Jeanie Johnston Ship Project, and suggested I look it up. Intrigued, I googled it immediately. That's when the tears started. This ship made 16 trips across the Atlantic between 1847 and 1855 carrying new immigrants to the U.S. The Jeanie Johnston carried more than 2.500 people without losing a single passenger. And a replica of this ship was built here in County Kerry so that people could experience first hand what Irish immigrants went through. The original Jeanie Johnson carried people away from the famine in Ireland to the U.S. and Canada. Could my mother's ancestors have been on this tall ship? And here I was with a piece of the replica in my hands, waiting to be transformed by paint. Just as with pub theater night earlier in the week, I felt the tug of my grandfather and Irish family now long gone.
And then there were the cows. Diane noticed the sound of cows bellowing right outside our door. I thought perhaps it was a strange engine gone bad. But no, actual cows in trailers, pulled by tractors past the window of the gallery. The cows were quite vocal, perhaps unhappy with their accommodations behind the tractors. We don't know where they were headed, but we got the feeling this was a regular occurrence in Listowel.
Today's piece was inspired by the beautiful pastries we received yesterday. The artists here before us painted these treats, and we thought it was a lovely tradition to continue. Besides, if we keep painting treats, maybe folks will bring us more. :)
"Watch Over You" - watercolor on paper, 9" x 12". Ready for framing
It was the most amazing day at the gallery.
People began arriving with treats! This morning began with a gorgeous pie from Ann and her precious daughter, Margot. And then Ann disclosed the large, gorgeous piece of wood she was hauling around was also for us - to paint on! Can you imagine? It is divine! And my head is spinning with ideas for what to make of it (or paint on it).
A little later, Olive's mum arrived with gorgeous cream-puffs covered in fruit. And I mean GORGEOUS! Too pretty to eat. So we may have to use them as our muses and models and have a go at painting them, in the tradition of the artists here before us.
Our dinner this evening was made with vegetables and herbs which Olive gave us from her garden. The fridge is full of home-grown goodies - potatoes, peas, lettuces, onions, herbs and eggs.
After a day of painting in the studio and chatting with customers, we set out for a night of comedy at St. John's It was a double header with a talented female comic, who managed in two hours to give us a real feel for Irish humor and storytelling. And guess what? Vicar Joe gave us some free beverages to welcome us to Listowel. Top to bottom, a lovely day.
Today's watercolor is inspired by a cemetery next to the Garden of Europe, and a large stone angel, covered in lichens, pitted and aged. It was comforting to see her standing there, eyes cast down, watching over in the steady rain.
Jen Walls and her imaJENation