27.8.11

It's not clear where our wild garden ends and the rest of the world begins











































Today in the garden I had that thought; it's really not clear where the garden ends and the rest of the world begins. It's also very unclear as to who owns what and who is really in charge of what happens! Don't think it's me.......

It's probable that this is because I am such a lazy gardener. I work very hard in the Spring when my imagination is fuelled by the lovely pictures on the front of seed packets and the promise of what summer will bring. Once the summer is here I am more than happy to sit and look, or to wander around talking to the insects and admiring what some people call weeds, as they invade the various beds. Who could eliminate drifts of willowherb or the tall marsh orchids that insist on growing up between the cabbages? Not me.......it's such a good excuse not to hoe.....

The garden just merges with the meadow eventually, and that joins a field and then that turns into Foxglove Lane and then that takes us up over the hill on one side or down towards the lake on the other. Myself and the myriad of bees and insects, and the rabbits who eat all the greens, and the mice who gobble up the seeds, and the fox who takes a stroll through and just cocks his leg on my herbs.....we all settle down for the summer and feel a little sun on our backs....just while it lasts......

PS When asked recently what my favourite garden tool was, ( I am not a garden gadget person) I said a handfork but I think that battered old wheel barrow comes in a very close second......




25.8.11

Just a few seconds of listening to lakeside grasses, birds and art.....












Sitting by the lake on a summer's day, just listening to the silence.........you hear the grass grow, the breezes singing and the birds telling us their stories. Sometimes it's nice to just let them speak for themselves.......




And I suppose it's the same for painting.........




22.8.11

Some Wood Mouse babes interrupt the weeding..............











































We were weeding the small patch of chard which Paddy is growing, in amongst the Rosemary bushes, when three infant Woodmice emerged from their small earthen burrow. All blind they stumbled out and ran amock in the damp earth. We had obviously disturbed them prematurely. As usual I ran to get the camera and managed to capture the little babes before the rain really started to pelt down. Luckily the mother came to their rescue later and they were all duly returned to base.

I am not a great weeder at the best of times and will always cry off if one of the "neighbours" puts in an appearance. I think I am happiest when taking the pictures rather than doing the real work.............



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18.8.11

The marshy green shore that catches my eye from every window........











































The lake below us is a strong character in our lives. We see it from every window and it influences the land by creating small marshy areas where streams make their way towards it from all angles. Although small, the weather changes are always apparent first by looking at the lake and then the sky. The meadow leading down to the shore has been left fallow for many years and supports a diverse range of plants, small animals and birds. Moving from a garden into a wilderness and then into a marsh there are subtle changes in the colours and the textures. These photos are from the marshy area next to the lake which shows some of the beauties and the beasties living there.






























I think that this is Wild Angelica, Angelica Sylvestris, Gallfheabhr├ín, which is growing there. According to www.irishwildflowers.ie the amazing website and labour of love, it grows throughout Ireland on riverbanks and in damp meadows, grassland, woods. The embryonic budding flowers as they are about to unfurl are wonderful. It is a very large plant too and we see each other eye to eye.


The view from my new office/studio (of which there will be more later) has brought me even closer to the lake and I'm not sure how I am to do any work with the lake catching the corner of my eye every other minute.......











15.8.11

Was hoping Jessie would sit for a portrait but not a chance....











It's a rainy day in Foxglove Lane, and I was hoping Jessie would sit for a portrait, as you know I'm a bit short of candidates (not counting the cattle and the bees).......but I got action pics instead! Jesse in and out of the water, and in and out of the water and again, and again, and again! All that effort just to make everyone delirious with joy that a green tennis ball has been rescued from the Atlantic Ocean. Well we are happy Jessie, very happy, but it's just because of your tenacity and sheer energy, we don't really love that ball like you do.......

The focus, commitment and especially the love affair with the ball I hope will inspire my own work as today I move into a new studio and feel quite challenged by that. It's full of boxes at the moment and I'm not even sure what I will be doing.......but I am here!



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9.8.11

Wild swimming at Brandon Creek, County Kerry





It is said that Brandon Creek in County Kerry was the point of departure for St. Brendan who set out from here in the 6th century (long before Columbus) and after seven years discovered America. In 1976 Tim Severin again set out from here in a replica boat and the following year landed in Newfoundland, thus proving the old tale very probable. 

It is a place that has all the drama and beauty of a great cathedral, sheer rocky cliffs and very deep water. Four of us swam here in the cool briny water during August. It actually rained while we tried to get dressed afterwards and as the clothes got stuck a comical performance ensued with bits of damp stuff just clinging on to other wetter bits!

Later we made dinner and included the sea spagetti that we foraged in the creek. (It is delicious and easy to prepare, in this case into a tangy salad) A special evening with a lot of laughs, wonderful old friends, and an amazing view of the beautiful Atlantic coast of Ireland. 

I can feel the summer slipping away...........



7.8.11

Ann Craven, who painted 400 moons and then did it all again

Image courtesy of the artist


One of the highlights of the Kilkenny Arts Festival so far has been the work of artist Ann Craven. Ann has ancestoral Irish background but lives and works in New York. At the Artist's Brunch event, the curator of the visual arts strand Josephine Kelliher talked about Ann's dedication and her life of painting and re-painting significant images. During one year she painted 400 images of the moon, staying up each night to capture the sky from her roof. Later she re-painted that series again. Say no more!


The show in Kilkenny is discussed here by Ann, anyone who sees it will find these words deepen the experience. The works are large and although she says that roses signify the end of mourning, to me they were still laden with sadness.


The only down side of this show was that I would love to have seen more. If you would like to see more have a look here at her Studio link. The show is in the Castle Yard, Kilkenny and continues until August 16th.

In the past, you have often used found images as sources, but 6 of these paintings are made from observation. What does that change mean?

I began painting flowers when my mother died – I painted the roses from the funeral from life. The paintings were gifts for my family.

You’ve painted the roses from observation, but the backgrounds are semi-abstract flowers.

I took the backgrounds from some of my previous paintings of birds. The bird paintings always have flowers in the background. They’re often lifted from Georgia O’Keefe’s flower paintings.

All the flowers are painted in black and white? Why is that?

The absence of color takes out the decorative aspect and feeling. But even in black and white, they seem to me full of color and light.

Do the dark tonalities mean that there is something sinister about them?

No, not at all. I see light emerging out of the darkness. I see them as the end of mourning, almost as rebirth. That’s the traditional symbolism of roses, you know.

You’re well known for making paintings using animals, such as birds and deer, which today are considered as amateurish or discarded subjects. Why do you choose this kind of iconography?

I really connect to popular imagery. And I like making paintings that people who do not know much about art can connect with. At the same time, the birds in the paintings are like actors in a play or an opera. I can use the birds to express human situations and feelings. I sometimes think of them as costumed actors in an extravagant opera production.


What do you do everyday, what process do you use for developing your work? What is your studio, workplace like? (a photo of you working would be great!)
Do you have a daily practice in your studio?

I need to have things around that I’ve already painted. In many ways, one painting comes from the next – it’s born from the previous idea. I also have thousands of printed-out images that I need to have around me. I print out images of my old paintings, as well as flowers from every nature book I can get my hands on. I love cat books – and vintage bird books. I paint watercolors from printouts I make from the cat books. Then, when I start painting, I’ve got to stick with it for twelve hours, sometimes more. I paint wet-on-wet, it’s all one continuous surface, so once I start, I can’t stop until it’s finished.







3.8.11

The lush wild hedgerows of Ballyferriter in County Kerry






























































Ballyferriter on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry has the benefit of the Gulf Stream, Atlantic soft rains and a relatively under developed and inaccessible landscape. I go there every year for a few days and it is a magical place with mountains, beaches and lovely villages. The local Kerry people simply call it "the Kingdom."

Kerry also has a great number of traditional hedgerows which are crammed with the wild and the beautiful. Huge bouquets of Purple Loosestrife and Meadowsweet, Fuschia bushes laden with flowers falling over swathes of golden Monbretia and wild Roses wrapped up with garlands of pink bramble blossoms. Drunken bumblers and greedy honey bees are stuck into the rich pollen and some have speckles of it all over them. There are so many plants like huge garden borders that even the nettles and docks don't take over. Instead they are part of the meandering whole, in balance and in moderation.

These hedgerows are dying out in Ireland because of pesticides, over cultivation, new fences and building development. I love them. Shouldn't the remaining ones be preserved?








1.8.11

Things change but Garrarus thankfully remains the same

































I swam here yesterday in Garrarus on the Copper Coast in Waterford. In under an hour the day went from blue sky, to a large front approaching from the south west, to grey and overcast. As you can see the ocean was flat calm and ideal for lolling about in. I am essentially a lazy bather rather than a big swimmer. I consider that a dip in the sea is better than the best spa in the world!

There is a plaque on this beach to the memory of a man who used to come down from his cottage on the lane, usually in his wellies and overcoat no matter what the weather was doing. He would sit and enjoy the view and always had a chat to anyone who engaged with him. He was certainly loved, and it's nice to see his memory commemorated, by his friends.

My children, their friends and cousins have all spent so many happy sunny days here. There have been lovely picnics, snorkelling adventures and all weather outings here and at the other local beaches. Generations of my family have done the same.

We change as the years pass, and the weather changes every few minutes, but thankfully the views in Garrarus are always the same.





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