August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney passed away today.

As my good friend and poet, Denise Blake, put it, "A gentle man goes to his rest."

A few years back I had my moment with Seamus and I wrote about it.

Seamus Heaney is in the room

On Tuesday the 20th, Karen and I attended a reception and poetry reading by Seamus Heaney and Peter Fallon at Villanova U. A great night. At the reception, my new painting was stuck in the corner but made a dramatic backdrop to the festivities. I was, of course, very nervous that he might just hate the painting... insecurity, thy name is Barrie!

(I've now painted all four Irish Nobel Laureates -- Joyce, Yeats, Beckett and now, Heaney.)

When Karen and I were able to make our way over to and speak with Seamus, I introduced myself as the painter of the portrait, he smiled and greeted me graciously. Karen introduced herself as the "Calendar Girl" because she had corresponded with him over the use of some of his poetry in our Ireland Calendar. Gesturing across the room towards where the painting sat in the distance, he told me he hadn't had a chance to get a good look at the painting, and leaning closer he said, "I didn't want to seem to be genuflecting to my own image."
We laughed and he said, "But I think looking at it with the artist would be acceptable," and he took my elbow and guided me through the crowd to the painting.

When we got to the painting, he was surprised to see that there are lines from his poetry in the painting, and we were just beginning to talk about that when Jim Murphy's voice came over the loudspeaker announcing the beginning of the speaking part of the evening. Thus ended my
tête-à-tête with Ireland's greatest living poet. Karen snapped this photo as the speakers began.

May 2, 2013

I took the coast road West out of Galway and then turned into the interior and came across this beautiful, muscular Connemara pony.  For me, the stone wall and rugged November plant life turned the simple act of grazing into a wild, thrilling thing. Call me crazy but that's the way I sees it.

April 18, 2013

Driving into Ardara, County Donegal, one November day, from our cottage in Crumlin along the shores of Loughros Beg, we came across a small flock of sheep being brought down a hill to our left by a pair of sheepdogs and a farmer. I screeched to a halt at the side of the road but my vision was blocked by the hedgerow. I stood on the car door sill and held the camera high over my head as high as I could reach and fired away, shooting video, not knowing what the camera was recording.  I got lucky and captured a great bit of video which became part of a larger video called Ireland in November. (You can see it on my video page on my website.)

It was a year later when I began this painting, because I was a little afraid of it, I knew it would be difficult and I really didn't know how I was going to handle the hedgerow.  And it did prove to be a hard slog, but after about three times as many painting sessions as is normal, I declared it finished. Leonardo da Vinci said, "Art is never finished, only abandoned." And so it goes.

March 27, 2013

Celt-Iberia Traders in New Hope  Last week Karen and I hung a bunch of new paintings and prints at Celt-Iberia Traders in New Hope, PA.  They bring in the work of Celtic artists (fabric, pottery, jewelry, etc.) from Ireland and Spain.  Believe me, this is the classiest Celtic shop you'll find anywhere.  Many one-of-a-kind products. We have been collaborating for years and they are the only shop that carries my Irish Quilts. (Real quilts, not the painting series of the same name). They're located in a historic 150 year old stone building right in the parking lot of the Bucks County Playhouse, the legendary summer stock venue that has just been brought back to life after being closed for many years. In August I'll be having a show of my new paintings there; the opening is Aug. 17th. Y'all come?

March 6, 2013

Sinead was the name we gave the piebald pony in the little field across the road from our rental cottage in Crumlin, a tiny townland on the Loughros Beg penninsula just west of Ardara (Arr-DRA) in SW Donegal. The most beautiful setting in which we've ever found ourselves staying in Ireland. As far as I'm concerned, for a painter or photographer, Donegal is the most inspirational and subject-rich county in Ireland, and that's really saying something!  This is the second painting I've done from that visit (see painting to the right) and there will be more to come. 

On the November morning that we reluctantly left for the drive to the Dublin airport, there was frost on the grasses and tidal bay was filled with mist, lit by a brand new sun in the East.  A scene right out of a fairytale. As always, Sinead was there... but she didn't even turn around to say goodbye though we called her name over and over. 

February 25, 2013

stone walls    Two amazing days on Innishmaan in May of 2012 led to a dozen painting ideas.  I thought I had seen stone walls before, but noooooo. 
   On our walk through the empty village the first afternoon we came across an old woman who was tottering along with a cane and was having difficulty filling a pail of water for her cow; I offered to help and after we had together filled the bucket the old woman thanked me and, as we walked away, called out a blessing to me, twice, in English and again in Irish.

   That evening at the hotel pub, I struck up a conversation with the Innishmaan Postmistress who was seated next to me at the bar. I told her about the meeting with the old woman and she asked, "What did she look like?" I described her and she rolled her eyes, "That was my mother. She didn't need to be watering that cow. My brother takes care of that." Only in Ireland.  Innismaan is Ireland in it's purest form.

   I decided to put the old woman in a painting and so here she is bringing water, not to her cow, but to this beautiful Connemara Pony.