In Merrion Square

I had a few minutes to wait for a meeting in Dublin last Monday. It was cold but very sunny so I did a quick sketch of a pretty little statue in the sun, part of the Oscar Wilde monument in Merrion Square. As the paint refused to dry, running all over the page and into other colours, I thought about how beautiful the colours were, and how I hoped the same thing will happen on my watercolour workshop in Portugal at the end of April (two places left!). I will be encouraging the students to let go of control, as watercolour is so versatile; you can be its mistress, or you can let it call the shots. More and more I am allowing it to be MY boss, and I’m loving the results. But it’s nice to know what you’re doing, to CHOOSE whether to be in control or not, so on our workshop I will arm my students with the knowledge they need to decide.

This is the shop of Ray Lyons, the fantastic framer
who has put my paintings behind glass since 1993.

I’ve been away from my blog for a little while. Some of you might know that I have a book coming out soon, and I’ve been putting the finishing touches to it. It’s one thing to pile a load of sketches together, quite another to put them in an order that makes sense and a story. so I went for the former. Only joking, there is actually a story in my book, albeit a very simple one: I came to Galway, it was nice, I stayed…and this is what it looks like. The book is nearly finished now, give or take a few edits and direction from my publisher, but in the last year I have sketched more of Galway City than any other town, ever (like the shop of my fantastic framer, Ray). It’s been great. I’ve met the nicest people whose niceness has inspired me to be nicer. In fact it’s just a very nice book. I sometimes wish I had “important” things to say but I’m afraid that’s just not me. I was the same in art college: everyone else in my class was making very serious work, and I didn’t have the confidence to tell the tutors that I just liked stuff that was beautiful (I suspect some of my classmates didn’t either). There was no place in art college for someone who was all about aesthetics, not in drawing and painting at any rate. (I could have made beautiful things in fashion, jewellery or ceramics and no one would have objected, but that wasn’t the case when it came to drawing and painting. And the sad thing is I think it’s still the same, thirty years on.)

This is what Fishmarket in Galway looked like back in 1905, down by the Spanish Arch. I spent a while in Galway City Museum sketching from a huge photograph covering one wall, part of an exhibition that’s on there for the next little while. I know it’s a bit small on whatever screen you’re looking at, but in my book it’s going to be glorious and magnificent (I hope, anyway).

In my writing, I have alluded to the fact that things weren’t always rosy for me. That discovering sketching saved me from a life of frustration and bitterness. You’re never sure if your kids notice what you’re up to, but I guess my youngest, Liv, has.

“I’m going to say something that’s going to make you big-headed,” she said.

There was a pause while I prepared myself.

“You’re mentally preparing yourself for what I’m going to say,” she said.

“You’re actually quite role-model-istic. You went from being a sketcher to a teacher, to taking people on sketching holidays, to writing a book. It’s very impressive.”

I basked in the beautiful compliment – every mother wants her 14-year-old daughter to respect her choices. I was on a high for the next day at least.

Then I thought a bit more about it. Liv doesn’t know that it didn’t start with being a sketcher – it started with feeling completely lost and frustrated, and isolated, as a stay-at-home mother in rural Ireland. That wasn’t funny at all, and a situation that doesn’t have an easy solution – who minds the kids if you want a career? But I will dwell on the positive and just enjoy the moment: that’s why I have written it down here.

Book launch in May. If you can make to Galway then keep an ear out for a date. I’d love to meet you and sign a copy of my book…if you think it looks nice.


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