It is hot today. We have been spoiled with amazing weather lately, but then some wretched wind came in from the Arctic and we got cold again. Now the good weather has returned. I suggest to Liv (15) that we head off for a snorkel. She’s game, so just after lunch we find ourselves all alone at Mulroog shore, and the tide is looking deep enough to swim. I have bought snorkelling gear in Lidl last week- two sets so we can go out together – and while my husband Marcel, an ex-diver with well over a thousand dives under his belt, scoffs at them, they turn out to be very good quality. But Liv is already starting to chicken out as we approach the water: she does not have the marvellous layer of blubber with which I have been gifted, and so feels the cold more than I do. Soon I am snorkelling; normally, putting on a face mask makes the aquatic environment much less threatening, but today it has made it worse. The water isn’t as clear as I’d expected and it isn’t a huge feat of imagination to picture sharks only feet away. Liv has watched The Shallows only two nights ago, so it goes without saying that I keep quiet. It takes a long time, but Liv finally enters the water, but I am ready to lie about in the sun by then. Before I do so, Liv and I admire a jellyfish just below the surface of the water with our face masks on. It is half-dancer, half-blob, with a beautiful purple pattern on top that has clearly been designed to dazzle as its little transparent body flares open then shoots closed.
Back on shore I plop down onto the rocks and see how lovely everything is. It dawns upon me that the rocks will make a beautiful subject, and that Liv herself will enhance the scene if she will pose for me. I ask her to remain in the water but she won’t. To my delight, she perches on a rock for me and looks absolutely magnificent, like one of those exquisite creatures from the pages of a Vogue magazine in the 1950s (they just don’t seem to make photographers like they used to. I have a theory as to why). I have just about drawn her, and little Reuben the terrier, who has noticed a young boy arriving – hence the alert pose – when Liv lets out a shriek.
“Lightening!” she says. I look up: the sky to the right has gone an eerie dark indigo. Liv is genuinely frightened. She has never seen forked lightening before and when you are at the beach there is really nothing but sky and sea, and you are very much at the mercy of the universe. While Liv panics about us all being vaporised where we are sitting, I get my stuff together, although I have yet to finish the clouds. I paint them from the parked car – you can see the dark creeping in from the right – while Liv Googles whether she has to actually TOUCH the rubber tyres to be safe from incineration.
The drive home is dramatic. With lightening flashing, we drive towards ominous black clouds in one direction, and see sparkling sunshine and a bright sky in the rear view mirror. Liv cannot get home fast enough. Poor little Reuben, who is not the sharpest tool in the box (but full of love and loyalty), is instinctively nervous and hides under a tree when we get out of the car (see?) and has to be carried inside. Once safely home, Liv drags a rug outside, fetches her book and watches the storm like it’s a show. The birds are trying to drown out the thunder with their beautiful singing. Despite being in full spate it doesn’t feel dangerous: Liv is unimpressed. “I’m going to give it a one star Yelp Review,” she says. Meanwhile, Marcel and I stand at the back door and watch lightening fork across the sky. It is a light neon pink at one stage and I would definitely give it a better review than Liv.
I wake up at silly o’clock to tune into the USk Talks live on Instagram. By 6.00am the talk is over, and I am up and doing stuff in my studio. I am a little low: whether it’s down to fatigue or the ups and downs of raising kids, it’s hard to say, but I know I will need to go out and sketch at some stage during the day to cheer myself up. Lately I have been sketching a lot – back to my intense mid-pandemic rate – and it is doing me the power of good. I cycle down to the shore at Killeenaran after lunch. I make myself comfy on the stones opposite the quay and watch villagers throw themselves into the tide. I hear voices clearly: a young man in his early twenties with a gloriously lilting Galway accent is getting very excited about the local marts, and he discusses the ins and outs of the local cattle dealing with enormous enthusiasm. A little girl of about seven is being persuaded by her mummy to leave the bottom step and come into the water. She is not at all short of opinions about the experience and seems to think her mother wishes her ill. “You made me go in the SEAWEED!” she says, and “STOP! You are trying to push me in!” and “My tummy is SO COLD it is HURTING!” It has to be in capitals, I’m afraid, she is a very loud little girl. I finish my sketch and feel great. Like the birds, I am singing through the storm.
I am taking registrations for classes at the moment: there are still a few places left on Saturday and Wednesday afternoons (suitable time for Europeans and all North and South Americans) for intermediate or newbies watercolour sketchers, and on Monday afternoons for beginners who have never lifted a brush. There’s also a Saturday morning class at a time suitable for Europeans and Asians, but not for those on the Western seaboard of the US and Canada, unless they are awake in the middle of the night…
Here are a couple of my most sparkling testimonials:
“I have been on the last 3 Wednesday classes with Roisin and a pretty international group of people wanting to learn and improve sketching virtually and it has been a great joined up and enthusiastic experience so far. I really admire Roisin’s work and she is a great teacher with varied sketch challenges and tips for us each week. We have been transported virtually to the green fields/stone walls of Galway, Sissinghurst Gardens(Kent), a cafe and most recently The Long Walk(Galway), getting to grips with doors, windows and perspective. Really enjoyable class and lovely to see the same friendly faces each week and all the different approaches to the same topic with always lovely results. Thanks Roisin for doing the classes since we can’t travel to do workshops in the current circumstances. Keep up the great classes.”
“Attending Roisin’s Wednesday zoom sessions have been the highlight of my week and I have attended four so far. I cannot recommend her classes enough! Roisin is such a great teacher sharing her knowledge with great ease and simplicity which makes it an enjoyable experience for a beginner like myself. The classes have been a lot of fun and it’s great to always see the same familiar faces from previous sessions tuning in from around the world. Beforehand Roisin emails us with some background information on the topic we’ll be learning about which gives me a better understanding going into the lesson. During the class we go through the different exercises sketching and painting scenes to help us apply what we’re learning. I laugh to myself when Roisin shows us the scene we’re going to create thinking there is no way I’m going to do that. But I do, and we all do it together! It’s amazing! I think one of the best things i’m seeing is how my daily sketches have improved with everything I’ve learned from Roisin who continuously tells us to be confident and keep going. Thanks very much Roisin these sessions have been amazing!”
Join me – at the moment you can buy a block of six classes for the price of five (€125 instead of €150) but once the blocks start on 27th June (or until they’re all sold out) the blocks won’t be available any more. You get homework, loads of personal attention both during class and afterwards and you’ll make friends – I know it’s hard to believe, but it works so well on Zoom.
Looking forward to sharing this beautiful activity with you.