Work Day

It is 5:13 on this, our very first independent day of work here at the Olive Stack Gallery.  We close the doors at 6 pm local time.  Today we found ourselves visited by the postman, a neighbor from a shop across the way, and a few other folks in need of framing services which Olive handles on her days in the Gallery.  All in all it was fairly easy and delightful getting to know the locals on their errands.  We merely tucked ourselves in just up the stairs in our little apartment and worked on our own art work between the bell tolling a new arrival.  

As a warm up for the day, I painted a little painting for my friend Michael whose birthday it was yesterday.  I have a photo from a blog post long ago of him at his family’s bog plot where they would have harvested peat for fuel back in the day.  The bog is a lovely quiet place, filled with a sort of old magic and whispers of time before time.  I love it out there and hope to go again.  

Upon finishing this painting, I knew I wanted to do more but transitioning from one task to the next is often where I get tripped up when I am working at home.  There is always something to take my attention away from the task at hand.  Easily distractible by nature, I find the time between tasks to be extremely tricky territory.  The great gifts of this time in residency are time and space not only to work, and to be deeply inspired, but also to sort of analyze how I work and perhaps how better to navigate the creative process in my more complex day-to-day back home.  It also helps to have a fellow artist in house who, while working very differently in materials and process, is also deeply curious about her own ways of working and so we are spending some of our free time over meals or walking to the shops discussing how we work and the ins and outs of being a creative being in the world.  It’s all been really fascinating and I am learning loads.

I’ve been on a couple of other residencies and they were filled with many gifts of their own for the time.  But they were also filled with tremendous self-induced pressure to produce.  A goal of mine with this residency was not to place too much undue pressure on my time here.  Instead, merely open to all possibilities, even things such as learning more about how I work, or perhaps learning a new tune or two.  There is no pressure to this particular residency.  I am not sure I would even apply to one where there was tremendous pressure.  That said, I did come with a couple of tangible plans with potential, just to see if they result in anything interesting.  

One such plan is the idea of painting pub portraits – painted interiors of some of the cozy places I might find myself on this trip.  I am fascinated by the concept of an Irish pub.  These are more than just bars, they are community centers.  Not so long ago, the more far flung pubs would see legal matters and marriage arrangements and the like being worked out in the private “snug” in the corner when a lawyer came to town.  Sometimes the publican can be found listed as a witness on official documents.  

During the pandemic, among all the global heartbreak we were reading, were stories of Ireland and what the closing of the village pubs in all the hidden places was doing to the local communities.  I found this at once tragic and fascinating.  

When my Listowel residency was indefinitely postponed for Covid times, I wondered if I’d ever get back here.  If I might ever get to sit in a cozy snug at a beloved pub with beloved friends over a pint or two.  When I realized I would be coming back, I was interested in what the pubs might feel like on this visit.  Things have definitely shifted.  There are barriers of plexiglass in some places, a few fewer punters in other places.  The pub spirit seems wounded, but well in place even so.  

Along my travels I have been taking reference photos and doing some sketches of some of the interiors of the pubs we have visited.  Sometimes for a sandwich and a cup of tea, other times for a dram of locally distilled gin and a pint or two.  Always to find what the local ‘craic’ is in any given place, always to meet an interesting person or two.  Although I am awaiting the arrival of some bigger paper from Cork Art Supplies to make proper paintings, I worked on a little sketch today which will go out tomorrow as a post card.  

I worked in layers, like I plan to on the larger pieces.

Eventually a small work resolved and the practice of making it has me excited about doing another one on a slightly grander scale, perhaps of this pub view, perhaps of another.  Or both.  We shall see.

I want the works to shine with the warmth and quirk that the independent pubs have here.  Hopefully I can manage this with the painting supplies I brought along.  At the very least, it’s the beginning of something.  For now though, I am going to go get a bit of wine and settle into soft pants for some knitting tonight.  Here’s to a wonderful first day at work.



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