Wednesday, 27 of September of 2023

Category » Cill Rialaig Diary

My Cill Rialaig Diary.

Day 5, Friday 6th March 2009

Painting on Ballinskelligs Pier.

I wake early, clear headed and ready to paint. I look out the window to see the mountains are playing peek-a-boo in a mist and the fog is still being blown in by the northwest winds. I get going straight away, and head for Cahirsiveen to get some bits and pieces I missed last Monday. It’s a chance to stop off at the Point (Reenard); my mother’s family came from here. There are great views of Knightstown and surrounding headlands ‘over the water’ on Valentia Island. But the fog makes it too grey and distant to paint with any definition. I need to get closer to my target.

At least now I do know where I need to go to get really close to the landscape, and I head for the Ballinskellings pier. I set up and paint a panoramic view of Hog’s Head through the gap between Horse Island and the mainland. I don’t use a brush at all, but instead trowel the paint on with a palette knife. Quickly the layers build up and the rocks and wave crests stand proud on the canvas. Its textural and tactile and I like it.

I have parked my van at my back so as to block the wind but after a few hours I am cold and ready for home. As soon as I arrive friends Becky and John drop in for a short visit on their way back from a dusk walk. I light the stove when they go. John from Glasgow knocks at the door to see if I want to come to the pub. I am tempted but I decide to stay home and continue painting whilst polishing my halo.

My Cill Rialaig Diary.

Day 4, Thursday 5th March 2009

I get out early today. The cold northwest wind is still blowing showers of rain and hail.

Painting at Finnans Bay.

I find a spot above the beach at St. Finan’s Bay and set up my easel facing Bolus Head. The sea is reflecting silver and white into my eyes and the headland is in silhouette – I am worried it will make a very monochrome image. But by the time I have sketched an outline the sun had moved around to turn the surf a rich turquoise, blue colour with bright sunlit wave crests.

There’s a little black dog on the beach chasing the stones the tourists and day-trippers throw for him. The people come and go; just the dog and myself remain. Lost for a playmate he brings up a stone and delicately lays it on the floor of the van, beside my palette, for me to throw. I would dearly love to play but I know if I begin there’ll be no end and I won’t get my painting done. Fortunately the next hire-car soon arrives and the occupants are charmed when he tosses the stone at their feet. They probably think he is my dog.

My timing is perfect and as I complete the last palette knife stroke the rain hits again. I retreat into the van and work on an oil sketch looking out the side door. I pack up before the sun sets and head back to the village cold, tired and hungry, and very, very happy.

My Cill Rialaig Diary.

Day 3, Wednesday 4th March 2009

Rain on the windscreen.

It sounded like the northwest wind would lift the roof last night. I rise to see snow on the mountains inland and hailstones rattling on Cill Rialaig.

It takes me all morning to reload the van with my painting gear. With a packed lunch I head off hoping to find a break in the weather when I’ll jump out and set up my easel to capture the atmospherics. No chance. The surrounding mountains appear and disappear as rain follows hail, which is followed by more hail. I step out once but the gale blows, picks up to storm force and I have to keep well back from the pier’s edge. Defeated I return to the cottage, light the stove and start a small painting in the studio.

I am happy and cosy, painting away as the elements rattle on the glass roof above my head. My conscious is clear, at least I tried to get out but the weather won this round. I’ll be back. But for now, early to bed.

My Cill Rialaig Diary.

Day 2, Tuesday 3rd march 2009.

Rising late at 8.30, a light rain is rattling on the roof, and the radio is promising big wind and rain coming off the Atlantic. I make coffee but skip breakfast and start unloading the van hoping to finish before the rain gets any more established. This was not to be, but at least I had packed all my wet gear. This includes my camouflage-rain-poncho; I probably look like a Vietnam veteran in wellies. By one O’clock I have experienced all four seasons: rain, sun, hailstones and a gale that just keeps blowing.

I light the stove and begin moving the furniture about to make my temporary home and studio my own.

During a break in the clouds I walk up through the village to find out who the neighbours are. On first impression they are mostly sheep, it’s amazing how they find any grass to chomp on at all, Bolus Head is still in winter and it seems they have nibbled away everything from between the rocks and gorse.

I start knocking on doors. There are seven cottages and four are occupied; myself, John from Glasgow, Angela from Cork, and Stefan from Austria. After some brief introductions I scurry back to my cave before the hailstones become too much for my head.

I make a couple of small oil-sketches based on some historical seascapes. It’s the first painting I’ve done since November. Bed.

My Cill Rialaig Diary.

My Cill Rialaig Diary.


Cill Rialaig Main Street

Cill Rialaig Main Street

There is an artist’s retreat consisting of cottage studios situated in the deserted ruins of the pre-famine village of Cill Rialaig, located on Bolus Head, South West Kerry, Ireland.  It is a wild and beautiful landscape perched on the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Each cottage is designed for one artist, simply furnished and modern conveniences are not provided. The space comprises of a small kitchen, small bathroom, a sleeping mezzanine and a studio to die for. There are no street lamps on Bolus Head but the landscape is full of inspiration and the local people are warm and generous.

In 2008 I applied for a residency and was delighted to be offered a place for two weeks during March of the following year.

Day 1, Monday 2nd march 2009.

I have been packing and loading since last Wednesday. I finally fill the van with diesel and hit the road at 1400h.  The journey takes me across the country from east to west, from County Wicklow to County Limerick before turning south towards the county known as the Kingdom. Kerry is the home of my maternal ancestors. At dusk, after four hours on the road I stop for provisions, there was no more light to be squeezed out of the day.

Pushing on for two more hours in the dark, the roads get windier and narrower until a single track leads me up to Cill Rialaig, a little further up the hill the track ends altogether. I am relieved to have arrived safe and sound and enjoy a very late bite and a glass of wine.

My mobile phone rings – it’s Mario, a special friend from my Düsseldorf days, calling for a chat. You can run to the far edge of the continent, and up a dead end track but you have to turn off your phone to disappear.

I unload the things I need most and hit the hay at midnight – a tired but happy bunny.