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?
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.