VIEW FROM MOUNT EAGLE

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On the path coming down Mount Eagle, the views are stunning. Here you can see Dunquin and the Island of Inis Tuaisceart, (The Sleeping Giant) one of the islands of the Blasket group, off the coast of the Dingle Peninsula, South West Ireland.

Please check out my other Dunquin photos on http://helene-brennan.com/tag/dunquin

CLOGHER

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One of the most wonderful places to be on the Dingle Peninsula. Inis Tiaracht  and Inis Tuaisceart (Sleeping Giant) – both islands of the Blasket group, are on the horizon, left to right.

Please see more of this area on my website:

http://www.helene-brennan.com/tag/clogher

BLASKET EVENING

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The warm colors of evening sun on the ruins of Great Blasket Island. The island’s beautiful beach lies behind.

More paintings of the Blasket Islands on my website:

http://helene-brennan.com/c62-blasket-islands-paintings

Blasket Sunset

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What a great privilege it was to sit and observe the beautiful colors of the late evening as the sun sets over the Islands of Great Blasket and Beginish.

More paintings of the Blasket Islands on my website:

www.helene-brennan.com/c62-blasket-islands-paintings

Photos of the islands can be seen at: www.helene-brennan.com/c53-blasket islands-photogtaphs

Pattern and Rhythm

Cliffs of Moher
The famous Cliffs of Moher, in County Clare, on the west coast of Ireland. The forms of the cliffs running into the distance create a rhythmic aspect to the composition, and I have attempted to express the richness of the patterns in each area of the picture.

Have you ever thought about how much your life is affected, governed, controlled by patterns and rhythms. Rhythms are intrinsic to our existence. Our bodies have rhythms; the earth has rhythms; seasons are rhythmic. Rhythms are all around us in our environment.  We seem to have a basic need to organise our life and working spaces into rhythms and patterns. Without this organisation we would have chaos.

Rural farming landscape in the hills of Northern Thailand

The furrows in the field, the trees in the distance and the banana trees in the foreground all offer variety and interest to the rhythms and patterns of this composition. I also use fast flowing strokes to further contribute to the rhythms and movement in the picture.

Small wonder that works of art are often designed with the use of clearly defined areas of rhythms and patterns, which are important aspects to the composition.

Rough Sea with Sleeping Giant

Stormy Sea on Clogher Beach with Inis Tuaisceart (also known as the Sleeping Giant) in the background. The sea provides endless possibilities for the expression of rhythms and patterns.

Patterns in nature are free and random, while still maintaining a sense of organisation. Rhythms and patterns are to be found in many art forms.

Fermoyle Beach, on the north side of the dingle peninsula, West Kerry

The rhythm of the waves on the sea,rolling into the beach, an endless rhythm, random, yet repetitive, maintaining an irresistible visual excitement.

It seems our artistic sensibilities and responses are, in many cases, strongly influenced and encouraged by our need for rhythm and patterns. Often, in visual art, it is impossible to clearly define the difference between rhythms and patterns, but you know – it doesn’t really matter.

Wood Shed in the forest, by the River Wye

The wood pile, the corrugated roof, all framed by the rich foliage provided a wonderful opportunity to express the wonder of nature in its fabulous varieties of patterns

Of course there are many other aspects to a work of art, but for this post I am focusing on pattern and rhythm. I have selected some of my paintings and photos that have examples of pattern in the composition.

Villages and Terraces in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco

Mountain terraces and village houses offer fascinating sources of patterns in the landscape, in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco

 

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The retreating tide leaves patterns in the sand, enhanced by the golden light of the setting sun
Sunset at Slea Head, Dingle Peninsula, with the Blasket Islands in view

Without the pattern in these clouds, there would be limited visual interest

In a pond beside Tralee Ship Canal, two swans negotiate a film of ice around the edge.

There is a hint of rhythm created by the two swans, working with the grasses in the foreground. The pattern on the water in the background contrasts with the smooth surface of the ice around the edge.

Evening clouds on Ventry Beach, Dingle Peninsula

Clouds are a wonderful source of nature’s patterns

The setting sun reflects on the fishing boats in Dingle harbor

The visual rhythm created by the row of boats is enhanced by the strong golden evening sunlight, and their colours are unified. The composition gains further interest by the patterns in the clouds, water and stone wall etc.

Nature has taken root in the walls of this old building

Reduced to black and white, we are encouraged to appreciate the details of the patterns in the wall and nature’s growth from the crevices.

The ruin of the schoolhouse used in the movie 'Ryan's Daughter'

In this old skeleton of a ruin of the schoolhouse used in the movie Ryan’s Daughter, over thirty years ago, the sunlight shining through provides interesting rhythms of light and dark.

Great Blasket Island, Part 3

Great Blasket Island, Part 3

As promised, this is Part 3 of my post on Great Blasket Island, which is off the Dingle peninsula, County Kerry, south-west Ireland.

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Blasket Islands from mainland

The gorgeous visual beauty of the island and the glorious views provide great delights for visitors. The familiar landmarks on the mainland – Mount Eagle, Cruach Mharhain, Sybil Head, Mount Brandon, Dunmore Head… and of course the other islands of the Blasket group all conspire to present a feast for the eyes and soul.  Walking around and along the length of the island is such a pleasure and a privilege. Sitting on a rock in a heathery hump, observing the slow passage of feathery, fluffy and puffy clouds  and the swell of the blue ocean with ribbons of white trailing the contours of the land, while enjoying a simple sandwich and contemplating the splendour of our natural environment, cannot fail to re-affirm your values (if needed).

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The island Inis Tuaisceart – also known as The Sleeping Giant, or The Dead Man, as seen from Great Blasket Island. The sleeping man shape not so obvious from this view.

The island, like many remote islands, has its own unique ecology. Wildlife on the island is a special reward, especially so for those who are experts in the fields or ornithology or biology etc. But even for those of us who are no experts, but who have an appreciation for the wonder of all the earth’s creatures, there is great enchantment at even the sight of a humble rabbit, of which there are many on the island.

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Blasket Rabbit

I recently caught a fleeting glimpse of a hare – scampering away at the speed of light. Hares are not indigenous to the island, having been introduced by man’s interference with nature for his own dubious reasons.

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Nice quiet place for a nap – no tourists down there!

There are sheep kept on the island, and a few donkeys are left to roam free most of their time, much to the delight of visiting children. I once watched with amazement while a donkey led his harem of females to the field of choice to settle down for the night, and then proceeded to move all the sheep well away from that field. He walked and walked, his head nodding up and down and the sheep all across the fields in the area in front of him slowly moved towards the setting sun, and when he was satisfied that the sheep were far enough away, he walked back to rejoin his ladies. I concluded that this was his habit at the time, and the sheep probably knew the drill.

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Group hug

The seals are a big hit with visitors. They are usually seen just off shore during the day and when the visitors leave they come up onto the beach. They are usually too shy to hang about when humans arrive. At night they make some very eerie sounds, their howling and wailing being reminiscent of the stories I heard as a child of ghosts and banshees. Thankfully, I don’t believe in ghosts, so it doesn’t worry me.

All seal eyes on the human visitors on dry land.They appear very untrusting – not surprising as there have been reports of mass slaughters of seals on these islands.

The nights also bring the strange, unmelodic calls of the manx shearwater as they return in their thousands to their colony under cover of darkness.  This is one of the largest colonies in Europe.  On my recent stay on the island I did not hear so many, and whether their numbers are diminishing or if they just vary their itinerary or timing according to weather and lighting conditions I’m not sure. There is also a major colony of Storm Petrels – most of which nest on the Blasket Island of Inis Tuaisceart. This is the largest colony of the Storm Petrels in the world. The mink on Gt. Blasket Island are seen as a serious threat to these ground nesting creatures.

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Butterfly, quietly resting in the grasses on the island.

There are no rats on the island, and of course most people would want to keep it that way. There is no landing pier there, and there has been much controversy about whether or not to build one. The larger vessels that could land there could potentially carry rats or even other creatures that would disturb the delicate balance of nature. The ferries cannot moor at the small rough concrete slip so passengers have to climb down a ladder into a dinghy, which drops them off at the slip. This slip hangs on the end of a very rough rocky and steep approach to the more smooth and grassy but also steep path that leads up and around through the village. Those visitors who have some mobility or fitness issues may  find their enjoyment of the island somewhat compromised.

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The village is built on quite a steep slope.

But aside from these inconveniences, I have no doubt that all visitors are glad they made the effort. Information about the islands history and heritage is available from friendly guides on the island, and there is usually plenty of time for a trip to the magical beach, or maybe even a long walk along the island, before returning to the ferry.

Walking on the island, with the mainland in view

It’s with great reluctance that I leave the island and I always intend to return soon. That’s not always possible. Now that October is here, I don’t expect any more ferries until next year. One day, I’ll get my own boat!

More photos and also paintings on my website:

http://helene-brennan.com/c62-blasket-islands-paintings and

http://helene-brennan.com/c53-blasket-islands-photographs

The Blasket Centre in Dunquin is well worth a visit:

The Blasket Centre/Ionad an Bhlascaoid

For more information on Flora and Fauna and other Blasket Islands information see:

http://www.dingle-peninsula.ie/blaskets.html

For bird lovers:

http://www.birdwatchireland.ie

http://www.kerrybirding.blogspot.ie/

Great Blasket Island – Photographs, Comments, Stories (Part 2)

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Great Blasket is a very beautiful Island which has been unhabited since 1953. It’s three miles from the mainland, a mountain rising up from the sea. There is one lovely sandy beach, about 60 acres of arable land in and close to the village; the rest is highland bog and rough grazing land.

On Gt Blasket, viewing the mainland.

Walking on the ridge of the island, viewing Mount Eagle on the mainland

There was once a vibrant, egalitarian community living there – up to 150 people at one time.  A hardworking people who had little material wealth, but they had an enormous wealth of culture and noble values, manifesting in the richness of their language and storytelling. The island boasts several writers among its people, who wrote mainly about life on the island and about its characters, and that’s what makes this island different from other island communities.

Music, song and dance played a dynamic role in their lives, and the island enjoyed the talents of a number of fiddlers and singers who entertained at gatherings in the houses. Traditional set dancing was a popular feature of these social evenings. It was also common for groups to gather for debate and discussion, gleaning information from each other after mainland trips and especially from ‘The King’ (a community leader), who would read the newspapers and keep up with the news of the country and the rest of the world.

Several scholars visited the island in the early part of the 20th Century, being drawn by the language and culture: The  playwright J.M. Synge, linguists like Carl Marstrander and Robin Flower, and many others such as George Thomson, the great Greek scholar, and Kenneth Jackson, the Celtic scholar were among the people that went to learn about the culture and the language.

The people mainly survived on fishing and most families also kept a cow, some sheep and hens. They grew potatoes and a few basic vegetables. Donkeys were also kept for carrying loads, like turf (peat) from the bog, or seaweed for fertiliser. To many of us now, their diet would seem somewhat exotic – aside from the usual potatoes and common vegetables with buttermilk or thick sour milk and  fish – they ate rabbit, birds (puffin, razorbills or young gannets), gull’s eggs, limpets and periwinkles, various seaweeds, lobster roe  (they did not like the lobster flesh), roasted red crab and roasted seal meat.

Resident Donkey on Gt. Blasket Island

A few donkeys are resident on the island

The decline of the fishing markets contributed largely to the process of emigration from the island. The young people left their island homes for a better life in America or the mainland. The vast majority of emigrants settled in Springfield MA. Their numbers declined until in 1953 there were only 22 people left on the island. They knew they had reached the end when a young man died of meningitis and because of a storm that lasted for about three weeks they were unable to get medical assistance for him. Following that they were also unable to bring his body to the burial ground on the mainland. The difficulty of bringing services to the island was no longer acceptable in the middle of the 20th century, when mainlanders appeared to have an easier life. So finally in 1953 they vacated the island.

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These houses ,different in character from the other island houses and recently renovated, were built by the Congested Districts Board in the early 20th Century. The famous storyteller Peig Sayers lived in the 2nd left.

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The lovely island beach, An Trá Bán (White Strand) is shown here. The grasses in the fields are summer gold.

It’s impossible to not feel some sense of sadness to see the ruins of what were once the precious homes of good people. In the much quoted words of island writer Tomás Ó Croimhthain “Our likes will never be seen here again”. It’s compelling to imagine how it must have been? How did it look then? How did it feel to live here? In what activities were they involved – men, women, children? How different were their lives from the mainland people of the time, and now?  What did they think and feel about the island? Did they love the place? Did they appreciate the beauty of it? Were they proud? They could never have imagined how so many people today could be so very interested in the lives and characters of the island and their way of life.

Thousands of day trippers flock to the island every summer. none can fail to be touched by what they learn of the island, and all of them would be greatly impressed by the beauty of the island and the views from there.

Part Three to follow.

My paintings of Blasket Islands can be seen on my website:

http://helene-brennan.com/c62-blasket-islands-paintings  and:

http://helene-brennan.com/c104-recent-paintings

More photos of the Blaskets can be seen on my website:

http://helene-brennan.com/c53-blasket-islands-photographs

More information about the islands can also be gained from the following websites:

http://www.gokerry.ie/locations/na-blascaoda-blasket-islands/

http://www.dingle-peninsula.ie/blaskets.html

http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/South-West/IonadandBhlascaoidMhoir-TheBlascaoidCentre/

http://irishislands.info/blaskets.html

 

Great Blasket Island – Photographs, Comments, Stories (Part 1)

This is a view of Great Blasket Island from the mainland.

Last week I spent a couple of nights on Great Blasket Island, which is the largest of a group known as The Blasket Islands, off the coast of the Dingle Peninsula, in County Kerry, South West Ireland. I have previously enjoyed a lot of time on this island, and have taken hundreds of photos and painted several pictures of views form here, but new experiences and images are presented on every visit. The island is uninhabited, except for one or two people who may stay here during the summer sometimes, and occasional campers. There is a village, now in ruins, that was vacated in 1953. It’s an extraordinarily beautiful island.

Having completed the strenuous task of hauling supplies up the very steep hill to the tiny, primitive cottage where I was to stay (the island is basically a mountain rising up from the sea), I fell asleep in a state of exhaustion on a chair facing the open door. Later I awoke, with great surprise, to see this lovely apparition:

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A sailing ship unexpectedly dropped anchor right in front of my door

Well actually, it wasn’t an apparition, but a real sailing ship, a French visitor, who had just dropped anchor here to spend the night. See http://www.belespoir.com What better place! No pubs, no night life for the young crew, but they sure did enjoy themselves leaping, into the sea and swimming to and from the shore. Many also came ashore in their dinghy and savoured the many delights and mysteries of the island and its magical beach. I’ll bet it ranks high on their list of favourite overnight stops.

I thought of the previous inhabitants of the island, and how many of them would have sailed to Boston, to settle in Springfield MA in a very similar ship. But they wouldn’t have had the luxury of boarding the ship so close to home. The emigration of young people from this island left its once thriving and vibrant community of writers, storytellers, musicians and fishermen very sparse, until the hardships of managing with inadequate services and fewer young strong people eventually forced the last few to leave in 1953.

Image The ship, Bel Espoir, as she settled for the evening at Great Blasket Island

The ship dropped its sails to rest for the remainder of the day and night. The small island of Beginish is seen here between Great Blasket and the mainland. The ruins of the village homes remain a poignant reminder of the island’s history.

Image View from the cottage door of my temporary residence on Great Blasket Island

This photo was taken a little while after Bel Espoir dropped anchor. This is the view from the door of the cottage in which I stayed.

Image Great Blasket Island with the tall ship Bel Espoir

The crew of Bel Espoir enjoyed one of the most beautiful places it could visit. This photo shows the lovely island beach, An Trá Bán.

Image The light of a warm sunny evening on Bel Espoir, at Great Blasket Island

The warm light of the evening sun falls on Bel Espoir

Image The ship, Bel Espoir sets sail after its overnight stay

Au revoir, Bel Espoir.

For more information about the island and to see several photos and paintings please see my website: http://helene-brennan.com/c53-blasket-islands-photographs and http://helene-brennan.com/c62-blasket-islands-paintings

More to follow about the island……..