No sooner than I arrived in Donegal and made a start on two large paintings than Seamas and I came down with Covid 19. Apparently the current wave has been mopping up many of the people who had thus far avoided the horrible virus. I never gave up wearing my mask in shops but I still caught it. Darn! So I have spent most of the last two weeks sleeping and lying in bed trying to do very little, in the hope that my immune system will bounce back and my energy levels will return to normal.
I am also feeling faintly stupid but very delighted because I only just realised that Claire Keegan’s novella “Foster”, is the basis for the film “The Quiet Girl”. My oil painting “The Traditional House, Gola” has been used for the cover of the reprint of “Foster”. Actually, never mind the covid, I nearly fell over when I made the connection.
I must have seen these adverts on TG4 (the Irish language chanel) because I thought of this film by it’s Irish language title “An Cailín Ciúin” – as just about all the dialogue is in Irish. I didn’t realise that it was the same story as “Foster”.
It’s story about a nine-year-old girl, Cáit, who is sent to spend the summer with her aunt Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley) and her husband Seán, who live in the Rinn Gaeltacht, County Waterford. The film is directed and written by Colm Bairéad , based on Claire Keegan’s story “Foster”. It has won a whole pile of International awards, rave reviews and has been breaking box office records in Ireland and UK. I am really excited and greatly honoured to be connected, even in a tenuous way, to such an amazing project!
I am now going back to bed, in the hope that I haven’t over done it.
We are about to decamp to Donegal for the summer/early autumn. I have mixed feeling about returning to oil paints. It’s been a quite a steep learning curve getting comfortable with acrylic paint but I feel like I finally got there. I am not sure what it will be like to paint in oils again; oh the the joy of easy blending! I am looking forward to being able to paint larger canvases. I will continue my practice of laying down an underpainting in grey-scale paint, regardless.
Here are some of my recent acrylic paintings, mostly of Inishowen Penisula (Donegal)
And finally a few also of my favourite, Gola Island.
The weather forecast is for cool weather, so I will be packing some light jumpers. I have found, however, that forecasts are pretty unreliable for Donegal so it could be very pleasant. I am looking forward to the sweet breezes!
Here’s a photo-story about our move to Ireland. The photos are all by Séamas Johnston, my husband. He is also the architect of the move, the new studios and our new life. He’s been amazing. It’s great to see all his hard work finally come together.
Just to warn you. I have access to wifi this weekend (on a 3 day trial) but we decided to use a different company for our internet but they can’t install it for another 10 days so my responses will be delayed. My business remains closed until the middle of this month (July 2021).
A while back I came across a quote on the internet that has stuck in my mind:- “If I knew the world was to end tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today.” I was quite struck by this sentiment, especially in the light of current events.
I could not remember who said it. So I did some research. I was intrigued by what I discovered online. I found a number of statements:-
It was originally said by Martin Luther, a 16th century German monk
It was originally said by Martin Luther King Jnr, the 20th century African-American Civil Rights Campaigner.
It wasn’t said by 1) or 2)!
This puts me in mind of one of my favourite internet memes by that teller-of-truth Abe Lincoln…
The apple seed quote apparently originates in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, in the Protestant Confessing Church, which used it to inspire hope and perseverance during its opposition to the Nazi dictatorship.
To be honest, it doesn’t matter who said or when (although there’s a lesson about taking things at face value there) because I like the sentiment. No matter how dreadful things seem, they will pass. Eventually.
Here is my apple seed for this week.
This is another gem in the Gower landscape – the Worm’s Head Lookout Station at Rhossili. I really enjoyed painting this. This stout and sturdy single story building is made of granite and was built over 120 years ago, around 1896. It sits alone at the top of the high cliffs that look out towards Worms Head and beyond to Lundy Island and to the Celtic Sea. The wind-blasted building has an 8m flagstaff and a 6m wind generator. I was inspired to paint this because of the sharp summer shadows and the isolation of the tiny building. It oozes Hopper.
It is set in a very beautiful but dangerous coastline. Between the cliffs and Worm Head is the Causeway, a scramble of rocks and rock pools, which is open for 2.5 hours either side of low tide. The tidal rise here is the second highest in the world. However, it is fatal to attempt to wade or swim to when the causeway is flooded or partially so. The coastline and waters around Gower are lovely to look at and to paint but they need to be treated with great respect. The waters around the Worm can also be dangerous to small craft, fishing boats and surfers.
This is why I am very glad that a team of local volunteers for National Coastwatch look after the interests of visitors and seafarers, alike. Since 2007, from 10am till 4pm in the winter and 10am till 6pm in the summer the lookout is staffed. If at the end of watch the Causeway has not yet flooded and there are members of the public still out on Worm’s Head, the watch is kept open until everyone is safely back on the mainland. So although the Lookout Station looks somewhat bleak and empty, the front door is, in fact, open and there is someone inside looking out for us all!
We have lived on the doorstep of the Gower Peninsula for almost 18 years now. It’s small enough (19 miles in length) to make day trips from Swansea possible. As a landscape artist, it has given me inspiration for many Gower landscape and seascape paintings over the years. Yet, there is always some part I come across that I don’t remember having seen before. It is 70 square miles in area, so that’s a lot of coastline, hills, valleys, woodlands, streams and fields to explore. I have always wanted to walk along the entire length of the coastal path, to see all the “linking sections” that we miss on the day trips. Perhaps, I will do it this summer.
Rhossili is always popular with visitors. It has an incredible view of the 3-mile beach of Rhossili Bay that arcs northward. In the other direction is Worms Head. This curious dragon-like, tidal island snakes off into the sea. I have seen seals on the leeward side of the island. At low-tide, the causeway can be crossed to the island. When we visited the tide was dropping and the causeway was revealing itself minute, by minute. Yet, the surprise for me was the Old Boathouse at Kitchen Corner. Kitchen Corner is a small bay to the right of the path that leads down to the Worm’s Head causeway. The boathouse was built in the 1920s and was up for sale in 2013. Looking at the real estate details, it doesn’t look like the new owners (if it was sold then) have painted the boathouse since! At low tide, the rocks below are exposed. I painted it when the green heaving sea was still at its feet. I love to capture the deep green that you only see with a summer sky. It’s a distinct colour that is often found off the coast of West Wales, in Pembrokeshire in particular. I use a lot of turquoise and royal blue to try and recreate the tone in my oil painting. There were also fishermen on the ledges opposite the boathouse.
Rossbeg (sometimes spelt Rosbeg) is a tiny townland on the west coast of Donegal, just south of Portnua and Nairn. There is a pier and a scattering of houses, some are modern, but many are old cottages, probably used as holiday lets. The day we visited the weather was calm and sunny. It was just perfect.
Oiláan Na Marbh is a poignant island on the edge of the land in Donegal. It is inaccessible at high tide. Both beautiful and very sad. For it was on this island that over 500 stillborn and unbaptised babies were burried between the time of the Great Famine in the 1840s, and 1912.