October 11th, 2016 / posted by paularath
Paula at Muckross Abbey. Photo by Carole Pinard

Paula plein air painting in the rain at a cemetery next to Muckross Abbey.        Photo by Michael Shepherd

Plein air (outdoor) painting has never been my thing…especially with a group of people. I am a loner when it comes to painting – give me a little studio space and leave me alone, please. That’s how I work.

But Jerry is great at plein air – and he loves being outdoors with other artists. And, hey, it’s Ireland, what’s not to love about being in the midst of all that beauty?

The day our group went to paint at Muckross Abbey and Ross Castle, it was pouring rain. Most of our artists found painting subjects inside the Abbey walls, but I fell in love with a little rock wall with vines and flowers winding all around and over it. It called to me when I saw a little dog go bounding through the break in the wall.

So I tried painting one-handed while holding up an umbrella. That did not work very well. So I put up the hood on my raincoat and let the rain do its thing on me – and my painting. Here is the result:

A "fairy wall" at Muckross Abbey

A “fairy wall” at Muckross Abbey

The first painting day on our trip we went to Cahir Castle, sitting across a stream and looking at a turret with ivy growing all over it. Our scene was punctuated with noisy geese and an occasional curious child. It was a Sunday and a lovely day.


Cahir Castle from the creek side.  Photo by Crystal Beshara

Cahir Castle from the creek side. Photo by Crystal Beshara

Paula's painting of Cahir Castle.

Paula’s painting of Cahir Castle.

Everywhere you go in Ireland there are rock walls and fields of green – 30 shades of green! And, of course, adorable sheep eating hearty in the green pastures.

I love the way Crystal teaches, but it is so different from the way George Woollard, my Honolulu teacher teaches that I got overwhelmed occasionally. So I plunked myself down next to Crystal to learn. Here we are at Burren, a huge national park.

Crystal and Paula painting in a setting featuring rocks, terraced fields and sheep. Photo by Debbie Blum

Crystal and Paula bonding in the Burren.    Photo by Debbie Blum

The Burren is home to 70 percent of all Irish native plant species, according to a park ranger who enjoyed spending some time with us. He also said there are hundreds of tombs all over the Burren, as well as cracked pavement of glacial-era limestone. The Burren means “a rocky place.” Basically, it’s rock heaven.

A view of the Burren we experienced while painting.

A view of the Burren we experienced while painting.

Here is the painting I did in the Burren. Definitely one that I need to try again!

A view of the Burren's walls and meadows and sheep.

A view of the Burren’s walls and meadows and sheep.

The Burren is also home to some ancient tombs, such as the Portal Tomb, which we made our morning subject.

The Portal Tomb. I painted it from a different angle. Photo by Crystal Beshara

The Portal Tomb.                     Photo by Crystal Beshara

I was painting from a different angle than Crystal, as you can see.

I was painting from a different angle than Crystal, as you can see.

It rained again when we went to Ross Castle in County Kerry, so I didn’t even get a photo of the castle. I painted from a first impression as I ran for cover.

How I saw Ross Castle

How I saw Ross Castle on a rainy day

One of the things I really wanted to work on during this watercolor workshop was painting rocks. I have a real thing for rocks – river rocks, rock walls, buildings made of rocks and stone. Crystal is an expert at rocks so I watched her closely. One of her techniques is spattering, so I will have to buy a fan brush so I can learn to spatter paint rocks.

A page from Crustal's sketch book.  Photo by  Crystal Beshara

A page of rocks from Crustal’s sketch book.        Photo by
Crystal Beshara

As an abstract painter, sometimes I just have to interpret things as I would like to see them, rather than how I actually see them in real life. Here is how I imagined the Cliffs of Moher:

My imagining

My imagining

I am in the process of seguing from large gallery-wrapped acrylic abstract paintings and fiber art pieces. Now it’s watercolor that makes the most sense. So easy to store and a medium I can take anywhere on our travels. It’s a really difficult, temperamental medium, but I think I can learn to like it. And, hey, if I mess up, it’s just a piece of paper!

– Paula Rath





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