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the cow on top of the cliff

Day 1, Cill Rialaig Artist Residency. 

I arrived at Cill Rialaig through a series of interconnected skinny, 6 foot wide deeply rutted backroads in the middle of nowhere, Co. Kerry, Ireland. Coming around a hairpin corner  a vision of an 18th century stone village appeared, set at the base of a mountain overlooking the craggy cliffs of the Atlantic. After catching my breath and noticing the absolute silence (I mean nothing), I started to unpack and set up shop in my very rustic accomodations.  As I looked up through the skylights in my small studio there was a black and white cow at the top of the cliff peering down at me non-chalantly. She was about 300 feet up looking straight down at me while munching her food. She stayed there for aproximately three hours in this precarious position. 

The surreal next few days were full of energy and experimentation and lack of sleep. The natural pigments I had made the week before were used specifically on Arches and Fabriano heavy Watercolor paper. The colors seemed to devour the surface and strange chemical reactions occurred as one color overlapped the other. Totally unpredictable! Additives like alum salts, citric salts, gum arabic, vinegar and table salt all had varying chemical effects on the colors. Trial and Error! I started with quasi-representational rural architectural imagery that eventually evolved into abstraction. Some paintings were worked on for days and others more immediate and spontaneous. Usually, because of the lengthy drying process, there were five to six pieces in the works at one time. The journey seemed pre-ordained and chronological with a direction of it's own. I worked day and night and took naps as needed. Almost a monastic experience and consuming. I shipped some of the raw materials that seemed unique to that region back home. This included fuschia, ochre rock, a reddish seaweed, and dock. 

I am now in my third day back home and trying to decipher what's next. Three of the smaller pieces are already slated for an upcoming show in Florida, another couple will be going to Memphis and most are just the beginning studies for larger work to come. I'm not sure how all this will play into my future processes and outlook. I am not a purist (like my workshop mentor, Kari Cahill), but will use the natural foraged pigments freely where needed. I imagine it will be a healthy mix of acrylics, mixed media, and the natural pigments. To early to tell yet and now i need to find and make my own pigments from my home location. I am really excited about using and making pigments from specific sites chosen for paintings that will then make a complete statement. I should add that i do NOT know how all this will play out on large gessoed surfaces yet. TBD.

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