Thursday, June 28, 2018

The struggle to adjust to the middle of nowhere

"We're from a pretty big city in the desert in the United States." That's how I describe us most of the time. Of course we have lived in the country, when my kids were small, but life moves at a slower pace when you have little children. By the time they're teens it's a manic pace and the middle of the city feels just right for that.

My fold out book "An Caisleán"
So while we're here we're all just focusing on our work and our projects, sometimes we can get a ride to town for shopping.

This is Chloe's pencil drawing, unfortunately it was all smudged up at one point. She tried to fix it. Phoebe painted an oil portrait of me and it fell in the grass. A million tiny pieces of dried grass stuck to it. Three of us spent an hour trying to pull them all off.

The weather has taken an unpleasant turn in the last few days. It's  85ºF and humid and really quite hot and buggy here. I'm covered in bites and there are no screens on these windows. We took a walk at dusk (around 10:00 pm-The sun takes forever to set here!) over to the pond near the castle and the mosquito swarm over the lake was the most massive one I'd ever seen. Thinking about it will keep me up at night for years to come, I'm sure.

Two days ago Phoebe and I took a walk to see the scarecrows in the field. This is the first one we found.

This is the second.  I guess I should remind you now that this farm/castle is run by artists. Anyway I think they scare people more than they scare crows. I saw about 40 crows flying in the field that day.

   On Monday, Elizabeth Cope had an appointment for an hour in the famed medieval town of Kilkenny. She had room for three of us. Desperate to get out of here, Mike, Chloe and I jumped on the opportunity.

Mike and I near the castle.

We all walked along the canal

Hiked up to the castle. This is a stone head near one doorway.

This one was on the other side (they're actually pretty amazing!)

A view from the gift shop.

Probably the best photo taken of the castle. (Chloe and I in front)

Across the castle yard was the Kilkenny Design Center.

This was an interesting installation.

Mike and Chloe on High Street

From there we took a stroll up High Street.

This "Uncle Sam's Pizzeria" looked like an interesting establishment, but we didn't really have time to explore Ireland's take on American cuisine. From here we wandered into a book store (which is something I love about Ireland, bookstores are everywhere!), and then, well, we killed our hour of Kilkenny and had to race back.

Anyway, it's been a challenging week adjusting to this country pace. I'm a bit worried about my kids, who have just started laying in their beds a a lot of the day. With little else to do I've drawn and written my whole book project and I have finished painting more than half of it. We're going to sort out how to travel away from the castle today (I hope). The buses are hard to figure out,  and no one has a car that can hold all five of us, but we have a phone number for a taxi company, though our phones don't work here (of course my crappy phone barely works in the states). We did try the sim card thing in Dublin with no luck (I hate phones), so we'll see how that goes. In the mean time maybe at least the weather will break and we can have some of that amazing Irish gloom we came here for.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Donkeys and drawings

Yesterday we went out to the field and gave the donkeys some apple slices.

They were really very cute.

Naomi's getting along well with all the animals. She feeds the chickens and pets them. They're actually pretty affectionate.

We're all adjusted to the country pretty well. This is one half of our sleeping loft in the cottage. The sheep seem to bleat all night but as noises at night go it's extremely benign. There aren't even any tree frog noises here, which is odd for us. We lived in the Catskill Mountains in NY for years and I spent summers in Maine as a child and there were ALWAYS tree frogs making a racket. I have however been bit by, maybe a spider, and managed to find the stinging nettles the hard way.

We have been drawing everyday. This is from Mike's sketchbook. His goal is to fill the book, and he's doing quite well. This plant is in the walled garden.

This is by the Coach House Cafe.

The Castle from across the pond.

There are a lot of stone sculptures like these on the grounds. So when we saw one set up on a path like in the movie "Spirited Away", we both had to draw it...

Anyway this is my drawing of it.

And this is Mike's.

I have started my project as well, which, this time is not a sculpture.

I'm still drawing it, but it will be painted.

It's actually quite large and it's a story about the Castle with fantasy creatures worked in. It will be a bit like my children's book work. I'll also be sculpting the cover. The working title is "Haunted Halls".

Anyway back to drawing, have a fantastic week!!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Life in the country, and visiting Carlow

So our first couple of days here have been interesting. Naomi learned to build a fire in the stove and filled the cottage with smoke, and had an unfortunate encounter with a mouse in her room. We also learned to work our gas stove in the kitchen with only a small fire/incident (oops!)

The sheep and chickens and geese  are all around us. Naomi had gotten some sardines to win over the barn cats and fed some to the chickens who now follow her everywhere. I once saw a chicken break into a full (and hilarious) run down the path when she spotted her.

We did start drawing right away. Mike and I are drawing the castle and grounds and I'm working on a book project at the residency.

The castle has been a challenging subject to draw, but my project is based around it so I'm trying to get the hang of it.

Yesterday Elizabeth Cope, the artist that runs this residency brought us into Carlow for supplies and to look around. We stopped at the ruin of a church on the way in.

The girls and I out front.

Chloe reading an ancient grave.

Naomi in a cubby.

Inside the church there was a tour, but Elizabeth dropped us off and was swinging back around to pick us up so we didn't really catch the tour this time.

After stopping at the pharmacy, the "petrol" station (I love when they say that.) and a gallery that had some of Elizabeth's work up (should have taken photos!) She dropped us at the Contemporary Art Museum in Carlow.

Like most museums they had some strange exhibits (such as the film of the obese, naked man scraping an ax along his arm), and some really interesting ones, like this one about bees...

It's an initiative to set up boxes for struggling bees to form hives in when they swarm.

This is a comic that explains it all.

Mike near the graveyard

Anyway today it's back to drawing and exploring, and sorting out my book project. Also the Coach house Cafe will be open (the one that was featured on Irish television). It's interesting that all the people we've met here at the castle are local reality TV stars.

At this moment a group of 40 refugees are here touring the grounds and having tea in the castle, there are chickens at our door looking for Naomi and I think I'm off to draw and finally get started today!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The train to the countryside

This photo is from our kitchen window on our last night in Dublin.

Naomi with our luggage at Heuston Station in Dublin.
We set out in the morning in an extra large taxi cab to Heuston Train Station. It was my first experience looking out through the front windshield while driving on the right. I have to say it did make me anxious. Unfortunately when we bought our tickets it was only 11 am and our train to Bagenalstown was at 1:15pm....So lots of time to kill.

Our luggage became a great surface to set food on.

We listened to a mom and child pluck chopsticks on this public piano.

Feeding the pigeons became a big activity.

Finally it was time to board. We raced in one direction, wrong track. Then we raced in another to track 3 and the train was already half full. The Irish rail is confusing to say the least. Then we pushed all our luggage through looking for spots to stow it. An epic effort after hours of nothing to do. Finally we found seats and were off! An hour and twenty minutes later we were hustling our luggage off the train. The conductor stuck his head out and waited patiently for us!

When we arrived at the station Reuben from Shankill Castle was there waiting for us. Unfortunately the car was a bit too small for so many people and all the luggage so we waited a bit longer for his uncle to arrive with another vehicle.

This is Elizabeth Cope (well the back of her) she and her family own and run Shankill Castle. She's taking us on a tour of the grounds in this picture. She's also a very well known Irish painter, and her family is full of artists.

One of so many archways.

By the carriage house. This is the back near the Coach House cafe. They only just established the cafe in the last year and while they were building this business an Irish reality show followed them about with cameras. Since it aired last April, they've been getting busloads of Irish folk coming through.

This is a graveyard next to the pre-reformation church on the grounds.

The tour ended with tea in the Castle, a big group of people from Iowa were also there. The castle rents out airbnb space and they were just passing through.

        This is Mike this morning in our resident's cottage. Already today the construction up the road made a hole in their fence that all of Reuben's sheep slipped out of. He woke up to them wandering up the road. He collected them and then moved the sheep close to us in our cottage, which bumped out the chickens. So we had chickens knocking on our door. 

In the mean time both Mike and I have started doing some drawing. Mike is planning to fill another life drawing sketchbook (like he did in Morocco), and I'm sorting out some sketching for a painting project I have planned. This place is very inspiring! 

“As my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance”-Calvin (Calvin and Hobbs)


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