Peripheries 2: First Sketches & Research Trip 1

So, at last! I got down to the west of Ireland to the cliffs I was dying to get to draw!!!!! Beside myself with excitement !!!! (I don’t do ‘cool’- never have!) .

I left Dublin in driving rain and dirty traffic conditions, but when going West a bit of faith and optimism is required. The weather changes fast and out on the edges it’s got  mind of its own.

As I arrived to Kilkee the weather broke and by the time I got to the town the sun was shining. I couldn’t wait a second more and did a quick very rough sketch of the first cliff I saw – right at the edge of the Bay.  A quick watercolour which did capture the colour. (This proved to be very useful in the end!).


Packing for the trip was educational. It took a lot of organising.  I want to use the Irish trips as a dry run for more ambitious trips to Norway  and Iceland, as well as being research trips in their own right.  So I am keeping notes of what was useful. First prize goes to the Aran sweater – works hard. I also regretted not packing a few more specialist bits and bobs for cooking. Hardly matters for a couple of days but longer it might make a difference. I am assuming all the places I will be in are fairly off the beaten track, remote even.

So, first off – Kilkee.  This is a small village at the head of the Loop Head Peninsula. The village is mostly known for being a seaside resort – it is literally right beside the beach. And also as a starting point for the Loop Head routes.


Loop head is one of the underestimated landscapes of Ireland, and I am tempted to wish it stays that way – uncrowded,  quiet –  and all mine!  It has spectacular rock and cliff formations all along the headland, including breathtakingly gorgeous views of the Atlantic.

I spent the morning scouting the locations I want to return to. Settled on several points with views of sea-stacks, cliffs, caves and sea arches. Stunning. Also wild.

Kilkee 2014

I lucked out with the weather on the first day of drawing – perfect blue sky and warm, very little breeze. The water was dark rich blue. I sat on the scratchy bouncy grass on a cliff top to draw. Seagulls floated at eye level on the airstreams from the cliffs.

Sketch in situ

First small sketches to have a wee think, pen and pencil, then a bit more detail, then onto larger pages and chalk and charcoal.  I will keep drawing these ‘objects’ until I understand them and will gradually move into paint and colour. I need a lot of drawing references for the planned prints.

This is the first proper painting trip I have been on this year, so things were a bit disorganised – in bags and boxes – I brought EVERYTHING.  So, first job was to get the kit sorted out for the day’s research. In the end I put the equipment for each medium in its own bag. I also taped watercolour paper to Perspex boards to have the ready for use. Of course all this took longer than expected. But then it is also part of focusing for the day ahead.


As is the drive around to get a feel of the location. I have now begun to realise that this is part of the process too, in fact there is quite a palaver to selecting the right spot to draw. Quite apart from the practical considerations of how to reach it, and is it safe, it must also meet the requirements of whatever notion I am pursuing. It’s one of the reasons I return to certain spots over and over again.

I like wherever possible to revisit a view and draw it dozens of times to really get to understand it – much the way I would for life drawing. Usually, too, the spot has been picked because it is representative of a whole category, it is a good example of ‘the species’. Thus it can take a while to locate! But I got lucky with Kilkee and it is exactly the material I was looking for.


Day two the weather changed, but I was able to get in a few hours drawing before I had to leave. I have mastered the art of drawing from inside the car, it just requires some skilful if death defying parking. And a few contortions.

Car Park Kilkee

It also turns the car into a mobile studio, and as it’s also essential for scouting and reaching the places I need to be, at this stage I am including access to wheels as ‘ part of my process’ whenever I make funding applications.

IMG_0385 IMG_0384IMG_0383

By the end, outside was getting a bit blustery – an occupation hazard of working outdoors!


Then back to Dublin – Till next time…….

Next stage: The studio!


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