The castle wall

Dunboy Castle, County Cork, Ireland
16”x20” oil on canvas

Just putting the finishing touches on this work in progress while taking a class in Ron Hayes studio (The ArtCan Gallery). It’s a self portrait of sorts. I’m standing on the last remaining wall of the original O’Sullivan Castle in Ireland with mixed feelings. An ancestral home, Dunboy Castle was lost to the English during a brief battle on December 24, 1601. Learning about it was a reconnection to the roots of my family’s past that we had lost. Was it reverence, quiet awe, or a sense of completion I felt? Hard to know. Though I’d only found out about it, on some deeper level, it felt like I was home.

Cloud revision

Ireland 7×14 watercolour

Though some of the white space has disappeared, I feel these clouds are stylistically more in line with the realism of the beach compared to my last post. It’s very easy to overwork clouds and I am almost never satisfied with my first versions. Another layer likely wouldn’t be prudent. It’s time to leave this and move on.

Light and Fast

Ireland 7×14 watercolour

I worked this up today from a photo I shot on a vacation a few years ago. I initially wanted the hard edge on the clouds but have since changed my mind. I’m not sure that’s it though. The shape is odd and the centre is a problem in how much it pulls the eye, Lifting off pigment could fix it but more than likely would make it worse. Perhaps carrying the dark cloud farther to the right would be a better solution for unifying the right and left of the composition. Maybe a bit of both.

Cliffs of Moher in Miniature

I accepted a suggestion from a friend, fellow painter, and blogger Anne Wedler, to try out a miniature painting with the new palette I made. I worked from a reference photo I took in Ireland a few years ago. It was way more satisfying than it should have been but also took a lot longer to do than I thought.

In the spirit of minimalism and saving the environment it’s a good way to use up scrap paper or the backs of old paintings that didn’t quite cut it. As a relaxing bit of escapism, it has potential.

The Fleet, Castletown Beara, County Cork

It’s been a couple of years since our trip to Ireland. I finally did this painting of the fishing fleet to use in a brief demonstration I agreed to put on for our group. It’s mixed media but mostly watercolour.  I chose a fairly monochromatic palette to accentuate the light. The boats are at rest but there is still so much going on. Can you feel the tension between busy and quiet?

Dunboy Pony

Dunboy Pony 6×9.5 300lb arches cp

I wasn’t sure if it was an Irish horse or a pony, in the yard near the gatehouse, but its sentry-like presence sparked my imagination. It watched as we drove in the road that leads to Dunboy Castle on the Ring of Beara in County Cork, Ireland. The trip was a few years ago but I remember the moment clearly. 

The gaze never flinched as I snapped a few pictures. It was a look that said I know who you are. It was the only welcome we got on that cool October day and I felt it was a solemn greeting full of the knowledge of the final battle and defeat that took place there;  the castle, once home to my ancestors, was a ruin of stones covered in moss and ivy. Parts of some walls still stood. A few plaques had been mounted to remember those who died in its defence.

I felt the air and attitude of the pony held the feeling of the place. Could I capture that in watercolour?   

I chose mostly single pigment washes, or mixed no more than two pigments on the palette. It meant going for intensity without mud… not one of my strong points. I used a wash of burnt umber over burnt sienna for the pony, mixes of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna for the darks, with manganese and ultramarine blue washes for the sky. Naples yellow and quinacridone scarlet with a touch of purple finished the hoizon, and yellow and blue mixes suggest the grass.

I kept the background loose adding a ghost of a structure on the horizon. I wanted to convey the sense of determination and steadfastness of the O’Sullivans through the spirit of this little horse more than I wanted to “tell” the story.  

Obviously, my interpretation is subject to place and time but I’d be interested in knowing what others perceive. Let me know what you think!
For a history of the O’Sullivans or Dunboy Castle check out Wikipedia. Lots of history there.