The Impact of Ireland Part 1

June 23, 2019

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Ireland changed me. I suppose that is the truth for every experience but I have come to understand that some moments create much deeper shifts in one’s heart than others, and Ireland was one for me. There is a wild stillness there, in the people, on the land, in the sky and bits and pieces of it left a lasting impression in me. It was echoed in the moist breezes, on the shores laced with rocks and wood, and across the pastures where sheep grazed and goats roamed. What I expected Ireland to be turned out to be so much more and yet, there was a small part of me that felt a bit of home there. I believe it was the green. 

What brought me to Ireland was the opportunity to guide a group of artists at EOM Studios in Mulranny, Mayo Co. for a week of fusing the experiences in this beautiful country with the practice of painting in a way that was unique to them. Over the course of those 7 days we explored the west coast between Westport and Achill Island, and the nooks and crannies in between. As we did I shared my love with them of how to experience a place through the lenses of creative wonder. How to seek out specific colors, patterns, textures, and stories and use them to infuse their own work as they painted. From the studio we shared our insight and connection in personal ways, and began to build paintings from a much deeper well. Three things stood out for me, as more significant than others based on my time there: the colors, the rocks, and the wildness of the country which stood witness to the history of a great people. 

The View from EOM Studios in Mulranny

The View From Upstairs at EOM Studios overlooking Clew Bay

I was snagging a pic of some sheep.

I knew green would be undeniable and as soon as my feet landed in the country it began to blanket me whether I wanted it to or not. It reminded me so much of the green from my own home, except in Mobile the green moves upward through the oaks and pines and in Ireland it moved outward with vastness. From the train between Dublin and Westport we had beautiful views through the windows of pastures and livestock, simple homes and farms, and the shifts between the cool greens and greys became vivid when the sun broke through shifting them to green gold. 

Learning to gather visual information seems simple, look for green, choose 5 patterns that interest you. But, it is much deeper than that. As creative humans, we are equipped to move through the world with lenses that help us filter what’s in front of us and keep what impresses. For me, I found the hectic schedule and life of daily living made that task a challenge so over the years I have taught myself to slow down, to listen, to see the world through tints, tones, and shades. I have also learned the value of connection and story from people and places, and in this practice my teaching is based. 

EOM Studios in Mulranny was the perfect home to help us cultivate the slower pace of our senses and our guide, Lora Murphy, who lives in Mulranny made the experience rich with history and connection between story and place. I don’t think our visit would have been nearly as deep without her insight and wild heart. The flora and fauna were lush, and she was able to share with us the similarities and differences between what we touched in Ireland compared to what we have at home. Although the green was vast here and ever present, it shifted for us based on where we traveled between shore and countryside. The light was amazing, staying lit until well past 11 pm in the evening and never quite getting dark as night. It helped illuminate so much for us during the day and late into the evening. 

Tide coming in from Clew Bay

On the road to Achill Island

Greens were palpable here, but they were sided with the blue greys of a far away range, through the mist after a rain, and in the slate blues of so many rocks and ledges. We noticed these things, and took a wee bit of this pigment to heart when we painted. The narrow roads undulated and curved in ways that were a bit difficult for the stomach at times, but as we passed the resting sheep sitting just next to the road, or caught a glimpse of the turquoise water below the cliffs, we realized the unsettling nature of the ride was worth it. 

In the studio we shared our insight coupled with our own personal exploits brought to this time. We used our own photographs paired with what we remembered and added a side of vivid imagination. EOM gave us unlimited access to the studio so we had plenty of time between trips to move the line and our practice. It is one of the things I loved about this workshop because it gave the painters a true experience of travel and studio time. Each painter approached their subject matter differently, between figurative and landscape, but we all shared a bit of our inspiration with one another and worked as a team to guide and move our paintings forward. 

Everyone travels and takes a workshops for different reasons and it was a joy to witness painters tapping in to their own wellsprings based on our shared time there. Green represents so much to each of us, the color of life, of envy, of money, and for me time. Over time I hope these painters remember the lessons and moments we shared here in Ireland and I hope their painting practices are richer for it. Green and blue are constants in this world, like time, but it is green that remains. It works through the blues and greys of stone and continues to claim the wisdom of belief that the living matter. This week resonated that for me. As painters, we create moments and images of beauty and emotions. The green of this week seeped through our brushes with a deep testament that the voices of Ireland mattered, and ours does as well. 

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