Thursday, July 28, 2016

Drawing | Joan the dog on Barna Pier

Between visitors, housework, the garden and dogsitting it has been too busy (in a good way) to make time for art, or so I thought. But then I snatched 15 minutes yesterday evening to draw a scene we witnessed a few weeks ago on Barna Pier - a man and his dog looking at the water. We spoke to the man briefly and learned that the dog's name was Joan. She must be the first canine Joan I have met.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

In mounts and frames


Even though I have most of my illustrations stored quite safely in portfolios, I am always relieved when I mount one of them and slip it into a protective plastic bag or wrap it in florist foil (after panicking about damaging the mount). It is so satisfying to see them well-presented and smoothed out. Generally I am not that precious about my work (twice now I have lost piles of drawings and paintings to leaks/burst pipes, and  the second time I just shrugged it off), but the neat freak in me loves to see everything ordered and safe.

Some of the illustrations for Amie's book are off to new homes, which prompted me to get organised and sort out mounts. I seem to be in mounting and framing and hanging mood - we have been rounding up all the artwork we want to hang and creating clusters and 'gallery walls' (a big chunk of one wall in the corridor) displaying work by friends as well as our own. 

John is obsessed with maps (who doesn't love a good map?), so we are hoping to get a few framed, for example a print of the 1651 pictorial map of Galway he was given and Tim Robinson's beautiful Burren and Arann maps (my aunt bought the Burren map for me, and I always thought it was a pity to just have it folded up in drawer).

It may seem laughable how excited I get about little things like mounting artwork (see also tidying the shed and sorting out a kitchen drawer), but as India Knight said in her column last week (about losing yourself in a hobby in times of crisis), "It is so important to remember the comfort of ordinary things" for "whenever we feel discombobulated by life."

Saturday, July 2, 2016

A tale of two homes

There is still a lot of summer to come, but I can already feel its end. It is over a year since we first came to view this house, which is hard to believe.

Our lovely neighbours dropped in with a box full of gooseberries, rhubarb, herbs, spinach and rocket from their garden, all beautifully picked and put together. The care and time spent growing these things is immediately apparent when they come like this and not wrapped in too much packaging from a supermarket shelf. We have become quite good at not letting anything go to waste - this has been a week of turning leftovers into all kinds of new dishes. Some of our apples and pears had gone so soft that touching them made the skin come off, so I simmered them in a bit of water, and we ate the result with yogurt and cinnamon - an autumn taste, which might explain my dislocated feeling of nearing the end of summer.

Our builder kindly sourced legs for the bath and threw them in for free (the legs that had arrived with the re-enamelled bath didn't fit), so we finally have a bath that doesn't wobble, and I had my first bath in it, with lavender and a cup of tea. And then of course we always have the sea. I went for a walk at the coral beach in Carraroe this week. The water was clear, but the beach was covered in jellyfish and I hadn't brought my swimming gear.

We had the first of our housewarming parties last week (hence the leftovers), with the neighbours, and now, with the building work finished, I feel more settled. But it can be bittersweet, because I miss my family in Germany more than ever. I feel at home here, but at the same time, because this is the closest to a 'permanent' home I have had here in Ireland, it brings into focus that I am separated from my orginal home.

I feel it every time a German tourist or language student comes up to us after the storytelling night to buy a book. Most of the time I am not that conscious of being a foreigner, but when I hear their accent and they spell out the name of the person they want the book dedicated to, I feel a twinge of homesickness.

As so often happens when something is at the forefront of our mind, it pops up everywhere (or we are more attuned to it). Several articles and reviews I have read in the last few weeks were about the concept of home (this book looks interesting, if controversial).

Emma Cullinan wrote a column in last week's Irish Times about moving house and starting over after over two decades of sharing a family home, and about the objects, including a lot of books, she brought to the new place: "[I]t's been a revelation as to how at one you feel with yourself when everything around you has meaning, and, as the Danes would have it, hygge (a sort of huggy cosiness)". I thought of that when we filled our new bookcase with the books that had lingered in boxes for the last ten months. On the other end of the spectrum, I also did a purge, burning diaries and getting rid of paperwork, but not before reliving the first decade of this century, with a mixture of nostalgia and relief that I am now in my "mellow thirties", as John would say. 

Then there was an interview with Jungian psychoanalyst John Hill a few weeks ago, also in the Irish Times, about his book At Home in the World: Sounds and Symmetries of Belonging.
An Irishman living in Switzerland, he talks about noticing images of the land he has left (the sea, the hawthorn bushes, the hills) coming up in the unconscious when he is away, which is when he feels home as a sense of belonging.

The gooseberries remind me of the summers of my childhood and were an immediate trigger. It must be the first time that I have had them here in Ireland (apart from jam). As Hill - who misses apple tart - says, our sense of home can have "a very sensuous basis".