A few days off the beaten track…

Dublin, once visited never left, it seems – or at least it appeared that way as we drove hour-by-endless-hour around the suburban fringe, trying to find the road to the North-West! Possibly a GPS would have helped, though a map would have answered just as well – unfortunately, we had neither and the driver relied on her sense of direction, not always wise when it comes to the leaving of that city…

Still, the wild delights of the Sligo countryside eventually appeared. As this was a social trip, the chances to paint had to be grabbed in the spare moments. The delightful view across the bay offered itself from every window in the house, with distant mountains, forlorn ruined houses and huge massed clouds at every turn.


View Across the Water, Sligo (5×12″) Oil on panel – 2016


An unexpected drive to see the area was offered to us, so we piled in the back of an mpv and set off just as the sun was going down. Not wishing to try the patience of our elderly host too much, better to bask in the glow of being an artist with some miraculous powers of observation-and-recall, naturally, than stop and possibly disprove them, I could only jot down some quick ideas in pencil – at least until we arrived at windswept Streedach beach. There I knew that if I didn’t do something quickly I’d miss the best opportunity of the trip so far, as the Golden Hour was upon us and behind me the sun was sinking fast…so having left behind the looming mountains, castles and forests and flat marshlands for another time, I set to work (see top picture)…


Paul Henry’s House, Sligo (6×8″) Oil on panel – 2016


Echoes of the great Paul Henry’s work abound in the flat marshy fields, in the clouds piled high like mashed potatoes above the ruined cottages and, towering over the landscape, the menacing magnificent and mysterious mountains and hillsides, aloof and withdrawn or dark and forbidding, depending on the available sunlight. Most of the hills I only managed to catch in a few fleeting pencil drawings.


Strandhill, Sligo (10×12″) Oil on panel – 2016


Strandhill had only been glimpsed the evening before, too late to paint but possessed by the grandeur and power of the incoming Atlantic breakers. The wind whipped the tops off the surf, creating a fine spray and a distant mist, subtly blending all the colours and unifying them, in the diminishing light. Of course, the next day was lovely, the sun came out and it was as picturesque as a place-mat, but without the rugged, elemental feel that had so captured me the evening before.


View from O’Neill’s Hill, Dungannon (6×8″) Oil on panel – 2016


Dungannon is a town that reveals its treasures slowly. Or so I thought, as I stood on the Hill of the O’Neills and surveyed the few visible roofs of the town under a blanket of fog. I also drew in the High street, the challenge being to draw fog or at least the objects just visible through it. When eventually the fog broke up, it revealed another higher layer of cloud, ensuring the same grey consistency despite the increased distance  to see things. And no discernible view, either. So much for Dungannon. A walk to the local park produced nothing to draw or paint, all was flat and evenly lit, under the same heavy cloud. Back to the cafe, then. However, after a rain shower, out came the sun. So, once more I trudged back the mile or so towards the park, fully laden and keeping an eye on the gaps in the cloud; this time I got straight to work by the lake determined to produce one ice-breaker for the day while the light held.


A Break in the Weather, Dungannon (5×12″) Oil on panel – 2016


Swans, ducks seagulls and a boat appeared, as if by order, to add some scale to the half-panel, the cloud staying away from the background to allow me some clear blue in the sky above the opposite shore.


At The Start Of The Day, Dungannon (10×12″) Oil on panel – 2016


The following dawn produced another from out of the purple and grey of an early morning; the sun broke just after I finished, to show the lake in its autumn glory, but I was almost out of time, our whistle-stop Irish was soon finished.


Back Across the Water, Sligo (6×8″) Oil on panel – 2016


This is somewhere I have to revisit soon – the countryside, around Sligo particularly, has all that I require in landscape painting – not just the wildness and the receding blue of the distant hills, but the little personal touches: a spire, a ruined dwelling, an upturned boat or a distant farmhouse, witness to man’s vain attempts to impose their puny efforts onto such a prospect…


Streedagh Beach, Sligo (5×12″) Oil on panel -2016

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