fifth day at cill rialaig
Cill Rialaig: sea, sky, rocks and fields of sheep….rain, sun, wind….smoldery peat fires, dressing in layers to handle the chill, taking a hot water bottle to bed. I’m settling into the rhythm of painting, reading, writing, poking the fire, and visiting with Jan. I can’t pass a window without looking out at the changing weather and light on the sea, and often step outside for a moment in the midst of painting. Life here is basic, bracing, elemental, sometimes challenging in terms of the comforts and conveniences of home. I am savoring every day. There is poetry and mystery in the air, in the astonishing natural beauty, the ancient sites, and the beautiful Irish language that is spoken widely in this part of the country.
The studio area in my cottage is quite nice—not huge,around 10x20 ft.—but it’s fine, and I like the fact that it is right there as part of the living space. I look at my work all throughout the day, not just in the studio area but I’ve also taped some of my finished things around on the walls of the living space. I enjoy that it all flows together, living and painting.
I moved my kitchen table into the studio area to have that surface in addition to the work table provided, and I asked the very helpful maintenance guy to bring in some blocks to raise the work table to a comfortable height. I’m painting on paper taped to a board on the easel--the studio walls are stone so they’re not useable as support for painting. Above is a skylight that provides perfect natural light. There is a fluorescent fixture also, for night--but when the natural light fades I don’t find it to be great for working. Still, I’ve made some starts at night –I save the more subtle working for daylight. There is a radio and when I’m not enjoying the silence (which is profound here) I listen to Irish public radio. (I include these details because they are things I wondered about beforehand, as other artists might who are thinking of coming here.)
I have a good variety of art supplies, because I had stored some paints and things in Ireland when I was here last year, and brought more with me. I’m keeping an experimental attitude and working mostly on paper, with a mixture of acrylics, charcoal, drawing materials and various acrylic mediums. At home I always gravitate to oil and cold wax medium so it is an interesting challenge to make this shift. I do feel that things are flowing well. I’ve used water-based mixed media on other overseas residencies so it’s not new to me, but I’ve struggled with wanting it to be like oil in the past, and often feeling less than satisfied. So far this time, I am enjoying the surprises while feeling a sense of control over the basics and am pleased with what I’m doing.
(Please excuse the lack of square cropping--I am having to photo on a table without my usual set up.)
My work so far (four days in) is strongly influenced by the textures of rocks and ancient surfaces, and also by the patterns of stone fences in the fields. Colors are soft and earthy. I’m also playing around with edges, a result of the process taping the paper down on the boards. The tape makes a border of white around the piece, and I’ve also started some paintings on the table with color extending clear to the edge, then moving to the board, so that the border is not white, but has color and texture. I like it when something that arises out of process offers new ideas.
In all of this, throughout the peaceful, productive days, I’m also aware of and disturbed by reports of the terrible hurricane devastation back home. It’s hard to imagine the extent of the destruction, and so far, aside from short reports on the radio, I have not caught much news. Overall it is very positive aspect of Cill Rialaig that there is no internet, but at the moment there is also a frustration in not being able to know more about the situation. Today Jan and I are going back to the internet café where I will post this, and will catch up on the news. I send my caring thoughts and best wishes to everyone reading this that has been affected by the storm.