Capturing the Summer

It’s cold these days. Cold for June. For the first time in a long while, Irish people keep expecting a heatwave to arrive, like we’ve had in the last couple of years. And we’re unimpressed that it hasn’t happened yet: friends sit around and grouch about the cold.

“We’re spoiled,” says my friend Lorraine, “this is actually what an Irish summer is supposed to be like.”

She’s right. Ireland is not a hot country. It’s not that cold either – many enthusiastic patriots maintain it’s the perfect climate – but when it’s sunny, it’s gorgeous. So I try to capture it…somehow.

My youngest, Liv, was lying out on a sun lounger yesterday. She asked me to draw her, so I did. It’s not easy to draw Liv: from the time she was a teeny cutie in the womb, she kicked, flipped and tumbled, and being born did nothing to halt her gallop. She cannot keep still and is a natural athlete (the only baby I have ever seen with a six-pack stomach). This constant movement makes it difficult to draw her, but I did my best, remembering the fun of sketching above all. Her right leg, which as you can see I wildly overestimated, didn’t move at all, so I have no excuse there. But ink is ink! It can’t be erased!

Reuben lay under the chair in the shade. All three of us had climbed Abbey Hill in the Burren with my good friend Lorraine earlier in the day, and we were all a little worn out. I enjoyed the freedom of using the blues and nothing else, to capture the strong sunlight.

Meanwhile, I’m capturing the summer in ink…or the fruit of summer, in a way: I’m making iron gall ink, from the galls on the oak trees in my garden, for my workshop in Amsterdam this July. I thought I would show you the process, since it’s shaping up to be very easy so far.

Smashing the oak galls; putting them in a big jar; adding rainwater.

The next step is to leave them to steep for a while. Then I will filter the solution, add ferrous sulphate (copperas), then gum arabic – and presto, a very deep black ink that will be impossible to remove from paper. I may also add cloves to kill the fermented smell and some phenol to preserve it, and after I transfer it to a light-proof brown glass jar, I will be exceedingly satisfied with my efforts.

Now all I have to do is turn goose and turkey feathers into quills. I shall share how I do that too!

Watch Ye Olde Space!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

19 − 10 =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.