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Showing posts from 2012

Endings and Beginnings

The final week of my journey was a pilgrimage to the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland. To reach Iona, I had to take the 8:21 train from Glasgow to Oban, a spectacular 3 hour trip, then a ferry to Mull, past the Lismore Lighthouse, glowing white against the mountains behind.  A one hour bus ride across Mull and a 10 minute ferry to Iona. I stood up top on the ferry, loving the cold wind against my face.

It was called Quiet Week.  Nineteen of us stayed in the Abbey, eating communal meals, washing up afterwards, sharing stories by the coal fire in the cozy Common Room.  We attended daily sessions with Stephen Wright, an interfaith minister, learning about the Contemplative Way, meditating and praying. We attended two services a day in the tiny Michael Chapel that was lit only by candle light.

It's difficult to find the words to describe how I feel as I come away from Iona.  I wish I could always carry Iona with me.  I spent a lot of time alone, meditating in the cold, e…

My Journey Continues in Scotland

This part of my journey has taken me on to Aberdeenshire in Scotland where I've been staying with cousins for the week.  The first day was glorious with clear skies and bright sun and we made hay...visiting 3 stone circles and 2 other archeological sites, and also the graveyard where my grandparents are buried.  It's wonderful how I feel connected to this place through those grandparents and my cousins.

The stone circles here are quite different from those in Ireland.  The circles I've seen here in North East Scotland have a recumbent stone at the head of the circle, flanked by 2 standing stones.  These circles are oriented to the rising or the setting of the full moon.

I began to ask my cousins for stories of my grandparents that they had heard from their grandparents.  My grandparents were born in Scotland and emigrated to Canada in the early 1900's. My cousin Carol and I went to the Old Meldrum archives to try to research more about them. I am reminded of my earlier p…

Cill Rialaig -Last Day

Endings and beginnings.  As I pack up, I also wrap up in my mind what I take away from this place.  One of the biggest lessons I've learned is about the gift of letting the day unfold as it will,. My friend Rebecca Crowell wrote a wonderful post about learning to follow her intuition.  Of course this is always the case in painting abstraction where you have to trust that what you do will eventually resolve itself into a painting. But this journey to Cill Rialaig has helped with that lesson.  In some cases, I've been forced to stay in the moment as in driving a car with a stick shift on the wrong side of the road on steep single-track roads with no guard rails, around corners where you can't see what's coming.  I am totally in the moment then!
It's been important to give in to the beauty of the day and to the rhythm of life here.  Some days have been grey, overcast and windy  where the studio skylight is pelted with rain and small bits of hail. It was good to stay …

Cill Rialaig Artist Residency Week Three

The adventure of being in Ireland continues.  I begin to get into a routine of life and then it changes.  I had a wonderful visit from my friend Mary Meighan, who leads Celtic journeys in Ireland.  We walked up to the ancient monastic site just up the road from Cill Rialaig.  After spending some time in the site, Mary offered a Celtic Blessings to us for our work, blessings upon the ancestors of the land  that they might guide us and blessings to the people at home who helped us be here.  Mary and I also visited other ancient sites that day.  Part of the journey was to talk to people about where the sites are.  We searched for the holy well of a female saint and asked for help from construction workers, from the women who work in the Cill Rialaig Arts Centre and from a woman in a white hairnet who works at the Skellig Chocolate factory.  Everyone is more than eager to help if they can.  The woman in the chocolate factory knew of St. Finian's holy well across the road on St. Finia…

Cill Rialaig Week Two

Each day, I catch my breath again and again with the beauty in this part of Ireland-the light, the changing sky. Rebecca and I are driving and hiking in this incredible part of Ireland.  Our travels have taken us to the vast Inny Beach in the nearby town of Waterville, where we walked the length of the beach and  created an Andy Goldsworthy stone sculpture using the lines on beach stones.  

We drove to Valentia Island over a mountain on a single-track road edged with high grass-covered stone walls.  Some kind of terror in that effort!  But the views from the top were out of this world and the island was like a fairy land, with enormous ferns and palm trees here and there.

And almost everywhere we've gone, we've seen brilliant rainbows shooting out of low-hanging clouds.  Breathtaking.

On the way home from Valentia Island,  we stopped at the beach at Finian's Bay.  It was about 5:30pm, the sun was setting and the sky was clear and golden.  The tide was out and a local dog …

Cill Rialaig Artist Residency-End of Week One

I just walk out the door of my cottage and the sights change each hour with the weather.  The cottages are perhaps 200 metres above sea level affording a spectacular view down Ballinskelligs Bay to the east and out onto the Atlantic to the west.  The clouds are the main attraction.  They change hourly creating patterns of light and shadow on the islands and peninsulas.  Sheets of rain can be seen approaching from many kilometres away.
This has been such an exciting week.  We had Hallowe'en here and although no ghosts or goblins visited the cottages, we got together with three of the other residents for a Hallowe'en party in the meeting house.  We lit a huge peat fire, drank some wine and chatted until midnight.  The light in the sky when I came up to the meeting house before our party, was so spectacular that I took a few photos with my camera braced on a nearby stone wall.  The photos captured the heart of Hallowe'en at Cill Rialaig!  it looked very spooky here.


Cill Rialaig Artist Residency-Week One

We arrived in the blinding sun, driving our small rental car up the single-track road. Rebecca yelled when we got near the top of the road because neither of us could see ahead as we crested the hill.  The edge of the cliff was on her side of the car!  My artist friend, Rebecca Crowelland I are doing an artist residency here at Cill Rialaig in the small cliff-top stone cottages about 3km outside the little village of Ballinskelligs.  Part of the pilgrimage here I'm sure is the difficulty finding the place.  There are no signs and people give directions as though you've lived in the area all your life.  "Go to the right past the Abbey,  then turn left at the intersection and left again just before the Skelling Ring road". After several wrong turns and chats with local farmers, we finally found the one track road narrowed in with bushes and grasses, giving us an exciting 3km drive up to Cill Rialaig.
While we were lost and driving on the Skellig Ring Road, we rounded …

Cill Rialaig Artist Residency in Ireland

I'm heading off in two more days, to Ireland for my artist residency at Cill Rialaig. The Cill Rialaig Project, which opened in 1993, was founded by Noelle Campbell Sharp as a place where artists, writers and musicians can spend a period of dedicated time developing their own work. There are seven cottages, each with studio space, that were restored from the ruins of a deserted pre-famine village, circa 1796.  Situated on Bolas Head, a remote peninsula in County Kerry, the cottages sit on top of a cliff face overlooking Ballinskelligs Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
 I'm going to meet up in Killarney with my dear friendRebecca Crowell , an artist from the U.S.  We'll rent a car to get to this remote residency.  It's a 3 mile hike into the nearest town of Ballinskelligs so it will be convenient to have a car, and especially wonderful to have two of us to share the driving in case one is frightened of driving a stick shift on the left side of the road!  I can't even think…

Speaking of Silence Series: The Process

In painting this series, I work (mostly) without using any tools or brushes.  I choose the colours I intend to work with, mix up many gradations and have them ready on the palette.  I wear latex gloves on my hands.  I've been going through many many pairs for each painting because I either have to wipe them carefully each time I change colours, or put on a new pair. Then I  put my fingers into the paint, rubbing my hands together to spread the paint evenly on my palms and fingers.  Sometimes I even mix the paint right on my hands…dipping say into one colour and then into another colour and then blending them as I rub my hands together.   I love the intensity of the physical contact with the paint and with the surface.  There is a quiet patting sound as I apply the paint.  The sound of silence perhaps.  I began my art career as a potter so getting my hands into my work comes naturally and it feels like the energy moves into the work more directly, without the intervention of the br…

Painting for an Audience: Part 2

In my lastblog post, I wrote about painting for an audience and how difficult I find that. 
Interestingly, since writing that post, I've started to read a book called Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.  My need to paint in privacy I learn is very much an introverted way of being and creating in the world.  My introverted self just doesn't want to paint in public. This book is helpful to me in understanding this.
Cain writes, "From 1956-1962, an era best remembered for its ethos of stultifying conformity, the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research at the University of California, Berkeley, conducted a series of studies on the nature of creativity. They assembled a list of architects, mathematicians, scientists, engineers and writers who had made major contributions to their fields and invited them to Berkeley for a weekend of personality tests, problem-solving experiments and probing questions.  One of the most …