day 12 at cill rialaig
I’m over half way through my time here at Cill Rialaig, already sad to see the end approaching. Each day begins with waking up in the loft bed, often before it is light outside, and emerging from the warm covers into the chill of the house. Coffee, stoking the wood/peat fire, some time with my journal or a good book, gradually warming up… I’m usually ready for the day at about the time the sun comes up. The light on the sea outside is an endless visual delight and never more so than at the beginning of the day—the sunrises are gorgeous. Sometimes I enjoy a solitary early morning walk, or other days I just start painting. The usual rhythm is to paint for most of the day, with breaks for food and a few little chores, and of course some time just sitting in front of the fire or writing in my journal. In the late afternoon my friend Janice Mason Steeves and I usually connect for a walk or other adventure (yesterday, we took a road trip to Valencia Island, returning at sunset where I took the photo above on the beach at St. Finian's Bay, with the Skellig Islands in the distance.) In the evenings we share dinner and a little wine, check out each other’s paintings and talk. Sometimes I work in the evening but the light is a bit dim, so it may be writing instead of painting.
While painting is always the main focus, the thread that ties each day to the next, it has also seemed important to explore this incredible landscape with its rocky seacoast, beaches and ancient monuments. A few days ago I hiked up over the steep hill above Cill Rialaig, where I had heard there were some standing stones form megalithic times. It was one of the most strenuous hikes I can remember—straight uphill, with no path other than where the cows have walked, over huge rocks and stone fences, through wet boggy places and rough patches of tall grass and gorse bushes. (Speaking from experience, I do not recommend falling into gorse bushes.) Finally at the top of the hill, I spotted them in the distance, four standing stones against the stark field. To come upon them in silence and alone was an unforgettable experience. Then, in typical Irish manner, it suddenly began to pour, and the wind was intense. As I headed back down the hill a double rainbow appeared over the stones, but so briefly I couldn’t capture it in a photo. I like this one though:
In this wild, beautiful place, the interaction of art and life is seamless—the experiences out walking and exploring play out in my work in both conscious and unconscious ways. Most of my paintings here are somber and muted in color, reflecting the November landscape, with textures inspired by the rocks, the patchy fields and the constantly changing atmosphere.
I’m working in mixed media on paper on a fairly small scale—mostly 14”x11.” I sometimes wonder what I can do with all these paintings on paper, which will be expensive to frame or otherwise present, but this format is the most practical way to do a lot of work here, so I don’t think about it much. Life here, with its intense focus and simplicity, seems far away from the world of sales and galleries and other aspect of making a living as an artist. Perhaps this work is just for the moment, for myself--a personal record of the experience.