I spent a month in Ireland this summer, returning to The Ballinglen Arts Foundation in Ballycastle, County Mayo for a month of painting. The first trip was amazing, but it was great heading to Ireland this time with a better sense of what was waiting for me there, in terms of possibilities for painting, and a sense I wanted to accomplish. I still worked fairly small on many of these, but plan to use these to develop some larger work as well.
I’ve added 15 paintings from Ireland to my main web site joeforkan.com.
Here are two more from the same series.
I managed to finish quite a few paintings in Ireland, and made many sketches to work from later, as well. County Mayo is a beautiful part of Ireland and a varied and dynamic landscape. The light and weather changes there so quickly that it helped to work smaller and try to complete paintings in one session.
Revisiting a painting on a second or third day usually meant a complete renegotiation of the palette, composition, and the general focus of the image. Often, the weather was extreme enough to preclude it entirely. That’s always a possibility of that with outdoor painting, but it seemed especially so in Ireland.
Ballycastle is a small village, about a mile from the edge of the North Atlantic, surrounded by working farms and pastures full of sheep and cows, many that edge up to or jut out above the ocean. The people were great, and the area was lush, even in a summer that lacked rain (to the degree that water rationing was suggested for parts of Mayo, until the rains returned in July).
The residency was quite an opportunity. Many artists came and went while I was there, as my stay was one of the longest this summer, and it was really interesting to see how other artists responded to the same environment. Una Forde and Christine Tighe from the Ballinglen Arts Foundation were very helpful and generous with their suggestions and information about County Mayo and places of potential interest for the artists.
The sea cliffs were stunning, often with drops of hundreds of feet to the ocean, and the bogs (where peat is cut for heating and bog cotton grows in the summer), reminded me of the tundra in Alaska. Viewed from a distance, the yellow/brown colors and low growth on the bogs gave a look closer to parts of the desert southwest in the US than I would have expected.
Many places I painted are on private land, but are open for hiking (or painting) as part of a system of Looped Walks throughout Ireland.
It is quite a transition to go from the population density of southern California to areas that I was able to explore in Mayo, where often I would not see another person on a three or four hour hike through areas of absolutely stunning beauty.
Many days while working near the Atlantic, where the wind is strongest, I made drawings or took notes. Other days I struggled against the wind with my easel on the cliff edges, beach rocks or bog. It’s a tough way to work, but a spectacular place to attempt it.
Here are a few of the paintings. I will be posting more later to my regular web site.
I took a painting trip to Europe this summer. These paintings are two of several that I finished on site while there. Chateau Blonay was painted over the course of many days from the balcony of a friend’s place in Blonay, outside Vevey, Switzerland. The weather and light change very quickly in this area as it sits in the Alps just above Lake Geneva. You have to be very patient, and constantly ready to flee the rain while working.
Outside Siena was painted in an olive grove looking across a valley in Tuscany. This painting was more direct and painted in a single session. The variations in light and color were remarkable. The colors in Italy were much warmer, and very different from the cooler light in the Alps. It was interesting to watch the shifts while taking the train from Switzerland south to Italy.
There are about 20 more small paintings in the studio that I began in Switzerland and Italy that I am still reworking .