Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ben Bulben

Kate Kern Mundie, Ben Bulben, oil on masonite, 8 x 20 inches, 2010

While snowed in this winter with my kids, I found inspiration in some watercolors, drawings, a journal, and photos from a trip we had taken to Ireland. This became my escape from snow shoveling, kids, cooking, and laundry. The Irish landscapes were painted on the snowiest days this past winter.

I had been thinking of the landscape around Ben Bulben in Sligo for a long time; wanting to do a painting of it in oil. The goal was not to do copy of the original watercolor done on site, but to create a new composition. I used my old watercolor and some photos as a jumping off point but also looked to other artists.  I looked at some of the paintings of Irish landscape and genre painter Walter Osborne and of Scottish printmaker Sir David Young Cameron. Cameron did such beautiful etchings of the Highlands and I looked to him to get some guidance on creating a believable rocky structure to Ben Bulben. The painting came together in such a pleasurable way.

From our travel journal written in Ireland in July 1999 
(Jim and I were traveling by bicycle up the west coast)

A quick five miles into our ride we stopped at the church in Drumcliff where William Butler Yeats is buried. The headstone itself was a rather plain square slab with nothing but the famous "Cast a cold eye on life, on death/ Horsemen pass by" epitaph on it set in a bed of gravel. At the same site is a rather elaborate 11th-century Celtic high cross and a 5th-century round tower -- all that remain of a monastery that once stood on that spot. The many sheep about the place seemed oblivious of all this history.

Ben Bulben now showed us a different side of its unusual face and the strange scarring near its summit that gave evidence of the height of the seas some 15 million years previous. We rode on along the coast of Donegal Bay, past Ben Bulben and through Cashelgarran, Grange, Moneygold, and Cliffeny -- towns so small we scarcely even realized we had been through them until we consulted the map afterwards.

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