Ireland- Part 1

Two weeks ago, I flew to Ireland for the first time. I didn’t anticipate how profound it would feel to see the country my great grandmother left behind at age 16 for the promise of a better life in America. But as dawn broke from the airplane window and a patchwork of pastures spread out below, I saw connections stretching across miles and generations. The Irish lace that threaded through my childhood began here. It carried through my grandmother and great aunts; it spun stories, laid down values, forged friendships, and connected a large extended family.

Though I was traveling to Ireland for a conference and a week’s vacation, it felt like going home to a place I’d never been. My husband, son, and I spent our days exploring beaches and ruins, cities and towns, parks and cemeteries. It was an incredible journey. What follows is a first installment of sketches; I’ll post more in the coming days. Hope you enjoy the trip!

Tips and Techniques- The first rule of travel sketching is that there are no rules. Other than being committed to recording parts of your journey, you’re going to need to allow yourself maximum flexibility and a lot of room for sloppy, fast, imperfect sketches. I often drew on location and painted later. There was simply so much going on, so much to see, and so much time moving from place to place that there was rarely enough time for the kind of detailed and careful work that I prefer. I used both a graphic calligraphy pen and a size 03 Micron (both larger than I typically use) to try to restrict my tendency to fuss.


24 Comments on “Ireland- Part 1

  1. These pages are super. You say to allow for sloppy fast imperfect sketches – but I am in awe as to even then how beautifully finished and charming they look ❤ !

    • Thanks Meera! I have done a bit of clean up or added small elements to finish pages afterward as a way of completing the travel journal. And there’s a couple of things I still want to include. Got to get painting today before I’m pulled in new directions.

  2. How lovely, Jean. I’m heading off in a few days on a similar journey to Scotland and England, but with 41 non-paining companions. I’ve selected my colors, topped off pans and tested my palette and several gray pens. I’m rejecting one very scratchy technical pen and opting for lighter gray on another after a weekend of sketching storytellers.
    I know I’m going to have to truly sketch on the fly and mostly add paint later. So that’s my intention. Hoping roads will be smooth enough to utilize bus times to catch up Must settle on sketchbook that will fit in my purse today so I can sketch in an itinerary map before we embark. Happy travels ahead. Appreciate your advise to work loose and free. I plan to embrace wonky and push myself to just get something down each day.

    • Hi Sherry- I did the same things before leaving– trying to pare down and select the best tools for the trip, while also packing a few extras “just in case.” Sketching with a bus tour will be a challenge– I can’t imagine doing anything on a moving bus. I did paint on the airplane– but it was super tight. I spilled my small water cup during some turbulence and that was that! Hope you have a wonderful trip and can take some time during your days to get some lines on paper and then add a bit of color in your hotel room.

  3. I so understand the call Ireland has to soul returning “home.” The drawings are beautiful.

  4. I enjoyed your post on so many levels, Jean. My mother emigrated from Northern Ireland and this time last year I took my husband for his first visit. He loved it as much as I do — how could one not? Those endless empty beaches and lively towns, and of course the Guinness. What a wonderful anniversary moment for you and Dan — wishing you another 30 happy years! Your pages are beautiful and I look forward to seeing the rest. I had stopped blogging until just last week when I took it up again and did a post on our Ireland trip — more photos than sketches though: If you loved the Irish Bread as much as I did, I’ve included my version of the recipe.

  5. How timely! My sister and I enjoyed our first visit to Ireland the last week of August. I just today got my photos in some kind of order! We sketched during the tour, but now I’m working on selecting the images for studio focus. Love what you did in your journal; looking forward to your following posts!

    • How nice! Glad you enjoyed your trip! I suspect it will take me a while to get photos in order too. There are a few small sketches I want to finish. What types of scenes will you focus on for studio work?

    • It certainly is challenging Karen! I nearly gave up mid-trip, but my husband urged me to keep it up and, of course, I’m glad I did. I hope you can make it to Ireland– well worth it!

  6. I totally agree with the first comment by artbymeera. I’ve looked at your second post, at this point, and your sketches are beautiful. I love the variety and your great compositions.

  7. Hi Jean: I’m thrilled to hear about your Ireland trip and see your paintings, which I feel are much more precious than photos. We just returned from our Ireland trip, and just as you said, it truly felt like a homecoming (my DNA says I am 45% Irish)! I’ve learned that my family is from the Donegal area, which we didn’t get to visit, but if you did, I’d love to see your impressions of that region. I hope to go back in a few years and find out more about my family of origin there. 💚☘️

    • Hi Carol- we didn’t get to Donegal, but I hope you get to return and sketch it yourself. We did get to the town where my great grandmother was from and I was so glad we were able to do that. Glad you enjoyed your trip!!

  8. It sounds like a transformative trip – your opening description is moving. The sketches are impressive, as always, and I love the “anything goes” prescription, and your very practical idea to use a larger tipped pen to keep yourself from fussing. Made me smile!

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