A hundred and fifteen years ago, the last person to live in Tyrone House packed up and left. Actually, that’s not quite true: the caretaker stayed there for another few years, and was carried out in his bed when Republicans set the house on fire. I’ve heard many stories about the unpopularity of the occupants of the house over the century and a half that it was lived in, how they treated the locals poorly, and how its use as an infirmary for the Black and Tans was the last straw. Today, the ruined stone shell looms on a hill near my house, and it’s always dark, day and night (although the ruin does make a wonderful prop for one of our legendary sunsets). What a sight it would have made as it burned back in 1922. Tyrone House may be dark and gloomy, but the countryside is so gentle and beautiful that the effect is mitigated…at this time of year. In April, May and June, my stretch of road is beautiful beyond description.
I decide to sketch Tyrone House because the setting is so lovely, and I ask for the company of one of the kids. Paddy comes with me. We bring Reuben the fluffy white terrier, and it is so sunny that he sits right underneath me in the shade cast by my little stool. It is Paddy’s job to make sure Reuben is kept safe if a car passes, but there’s not so many today, so Reuben has freedom to wander as he pleases. He is a very loyal little dog, so he chooses to stay close – and besides, I’m the one providing shade.
As I sketch, Paddy discusses his options for the coming year. He leaves school for good in a month, and would have gone straight to university…but he is keeping his options open for the time being. The covid crisis has forced him to think carefully about what he’s going to do in the coming months. I don’t think this is a bad thing – I’m all for a bit of creative thinking.
As usual, I think bad thoughts about painting grass. Along with dandelions, its loveliness, its fresh and glossy perfection eludes me. I know I could lick it if I painted in oil – or from a photo; with time and a more versatile medium you can do anything. But I’m not about studios, nor photos. I am about being there. When I look at this sketch in the future, I will always think of my beautiful son, my beautiful dog, the beautiful day and the beautiful warmth and sunlight.
Take your sketching kit and get outside.