When my mum came to visit me in London earlier this year we spent a few very enjoyable days drawing together (read about it here). We both loved it so much, we said to each other ‘we should do this again soon!’. My mum came up with the idea of going on an artist retreat and found this cottage on the West coast of Ireland, owned by a group of artists from Amsterdam.
So after a short flight from London Stansted and a two-hour (nerve-wracking – I’m still very uncomfortable with driving on the ‘wrong’ sided of the road..) drive my mum and I arrived in Polranny, just across the bridge from Achill Island. The property actually consists of two buildings: the main house and a ‘Folly‘. For 9 days we’re staying in the latter – pictured beneath – , which once used to be a cow shed. For heating and hot water we rely on a coal burning stove, and there is another wood and peat burning stove called Stanley. Very cosy but hard work!
Our first day was spent fine tuning our fire lighting skills, exploring Achill Island and sketching in a deserted village. The island is incredibly beautiful. There are stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean; you feel like you’re on the egde of the world. I guess it is the end of Europe really. There are impressive cliffs and mountains, and everything is coloured beautifully in autumn colours. And it’s so quiet, there’s hardly anyone here. We brought loads of grey pencils as we were prepared for lots of rain, but so far the weather has been absolutely gorgeous!
^ the deserted village – about 80 cottages built with unmortared stone. Deserted since the Great Famine (1845-1852), though it has been used as a booley village till the 1940s (temporary housing in summer, when people would take their cattle to graze there).
There are plenty of things I’d like to work on while I’m here, varying from improving techniques (this is where mum, watercolour master, comes in!) to creating work inspired by these beautiful surroundings and my personal family history. My great-great-grandmother used to live less 200 km from here, before she was put on a boat to the United States. It turns out I’ve quite a bit of Irish blood in me, so no wonder I feel a connection!