About the Artist
My Connection to Ireland
When I was thirteen I traveled to South Kerry with my parents and had my first introduction to the coast, mountains, and people that make up this rich and starkly beautiful corner of the world. For several years after that we would, for a few weeks each summer, rent the captains house and the boathouse of the old Coast Guard Station in Kells; the site of probably the only victory in the Fenian rising of 1867.
Then, in the early 1970’s I helped build the house that I have been returning to whenever possible. Since that time I have photographed in many parts of Ireland. It is from these photographs and on site in Kerry that I paint.
Although I am primarily fascinated by landscape, in Ireland I find that the connection between the land and the people has been so intimate that I rarely see landscape devoid of human impact. Houses and walls seem to spring from the land and fences delineate the mountains as surely as they do the small fields. Ireland, however, is changing. The accompaniment to prosperity and economic opportunity seems to be a diminished connection to the land. As a result I find myself increasingly draw to “old” Ireland. The reason is not that it is cute, idyllic, or the trite subject of tourist art. Rather, I think that there is a larger message that appeals to me—humanity as a part, only a part, of something bigger—the natural landscape.
I enjoy working in watercolors because the medium creates variation and spontaneity. By nature I am meticulous and interested in detail. I also greatly appreciate the fresh, unique, spontaneous quality in art that sometimes I find difficult to create myself. Therefore watercolors—a notoriously uncontrollable medium, allows me both to express the details while facilitating the generation of unique, runs, blooms, and variation. For these reasons I work mostly wet on wet.
Much of my time is spend monitoring the wetness of the paper so that when I introduce paint onto the paper I get the desired effect. Some of my paintings also involve using a technical pen to pick out details. I also work with the paper itself. In some of my paintings I treat the paper with gesso which I then sand to further modify the surface. I also distress paper and stain it, often with turf ash to create texture, variability and depth. Finally, I sometimes introduce rice paper into works for added surface complexity.
Recently I have begun painting on old maps and Irish language texts. I especially enjoy working on maps as they explicitly make the connection between the land and people on the land that is a focus of my painting. In addition to painting with watercolors I paint with egg tempura and oils on board and canvas.