Ireland- Part 4: Odds and Ends

As my days in Ireland transitioned from vacation to work, my time for sketching and painting moved to finishing pages and writing notes and impressions. I added color to unfinished sketches; listed birds we saw; recorded our highlights. Yet what struck me most throughout my travels was how open and unpretentious the people I met were. From cab drivers to businesspeople to the President of Ireland himself (yes, I did get to meet him*), people were kind, friendly, and open to making a personal connection. There’s no way to capture that in a sketchbook. Still, that intangible part of traveling stays with you long after towns and countryside and grand vistas fade.

Thanks for coming along for my Ireland adventures. I’m now back to the home front, where the ordinary and extraordinary happenings of my own backyard will once again fill the pages of my sketchbook.


Tips & Techniques- Carving Stone with Watercolor
I loved the artistry of medieval stone cutters and wanted to capture some of it in my sketchbook. I found that using watercolor to carve stone is a fantastic exercise in seeing values. I highly recommend trying it if getting a good range of lights to darks is tricky for you. I used just two colors—ultramarine blue and burnt sienna for the limestone. Picking a simple palette means you won’t get lost in color and will focus only on value to create your sculpture. Here’s what to do: Choose a stone sculpture and render it in pencil. Then put a loose watercolor wash over the entire thing, letting the colors blend on the paper. Let it dry. Next paint medium values using small graded washes. Right away, your painting will start to come to life. Last, add dark areas and shadows. You might need to adjust as you go, making areas darker or putting in a bit of detail, but part of the beauty of this exercise is keeping the relative simplicity of the stone cutter’s original work. (Click to view larger.)


*My travels in Ireland preceded my attending the World Canals Conference in Athlone. President Michael D. Higgins gave the closing address and I was invited to a special reception, representing the Erie Canal and New York State.

15 Comments on “Ireland- Part 4: Odds and Ends

  1. I love the stone carving paintings, especially the gryphon. Using that limited palette really brings out the shadows/relief of the carvings. Nice!

    (And do they have salamanders?)

  2. Enjoyed your trip to Ireland via your journal pages. Is your presentation available? Would love to read it. Thanks for sharing Ireland!

    • Thanks Rhonda! My presentation was not related to art, but to my work with canals. The topic was “Who’s out there? Using visitor data to attract and serve canal visitors.” Let me know if you’re interested and we’ll connect via email.

      • The canal study sounds very interesting. What canal have you been studying? I live in Virginia not far from the James River which has an interesting canal history. Scottsville, which is about 40 minutes from me, was a booming town when the canal came through in the 1840s. When it was being built, there were hopes to take the canal over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Instead, the railroad took over as the main transportation. I have been involved with researching the Irish workers who built the railroad here, so, of course, we have looked at the history of the canal also. The Irish were also involved in the building of the canals here. So much to learn! Would still love to read your presentation. Thanks. I also loved the drawings of the relief sculptures and your tips for doing those.

  3. The narrative is interesting – the intangibles, the people…and what a great idea to do that page of questions. My partner and I constantly ask questions like that when we travel, but it never occurred to me to write them down. It may not be realistic to expect them to be answered, because we always jump into a different reality when we come home, but just writing them down takes you back to the trip, in a new way. And what a first-rate sketch you made with two colors, thanks to reading those values. BTW please let me know if you ever are out this way (PNW) for a workshop –

    • Thanks! Yes…random, interesting questions–a sign of curiosity. I was glad I wrote them down and our cab driving on the way to the airport answered several! I’m sure that was new for him! But it led to a great conversation about all sorts of other things. Sometimes I think the questions are more valuable than the answers.

  4. Congratulations on Your invitation to such an event, and THANK YOU for all of Your beautiful drawings!!! The people of Ireland are like children; wide-open hearts and “Well, hello there! You’re family!!!” friendliness. Amazing. Cheers! 🙂

  5. This is an uplifting and inspiring conclusion to your Ireland journey posts Jean.
    I always enjoy your sketches and musings…but these were extra special.
    Thank you so much for sharing with us.

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