Sunday, October 29, 2017

A trip to Ireland and Scotland with the girls – 7

Peace Wall – Belfast

In place of the paintings I usually post here, I am illustrating this post with photos of one of the peace walls in Northern Ireland.

The peace walls are a series of barriers put up to minimize inter-communal violence between  Catholics, most of whom are Irish Nationalists, and Protestants, most of whom are British Loyalists. The first of these barriers was built in 1969, following the outbreak of ‘The Troubles.’ They increased in both height and number following the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, but since 2008 have been gradually ‘opened’ and dismantled.

In recent years, ‘political tours’ have become increasingly popular, with black taxis with Catholic and/or Protestant drivers taking visitors around Belfast’s peace lines, trouble spots and famous murals. Many of these murals are professionally painted with beautifully rendered portraits and dramatic scenes. On the murals on some parts of the walls, however, input from anyone who feels moved to write or draw something is encouraged. In one of the photos, my daughter is adding a thought to such a stretch on the most famous wall, which separates the Nationalist Falls Road and the Unionist Shankill Road in West Belfast.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A trip to Ireland and Scotland with the girls – 6

Kylemore Abbey
Watercolour and crayon
©2017 Charlene Brown

This magnificent estate is much more extensive than I’ve pictured it here. The famous Victorian walled garden on the mountainside in the upper left quadrant is actually some distance from the abbey, and the walk to it shown on the right,below, took close to half an hour. 

I liked the 'Hundertwasser look' I imagined in this telescoping of perspective and added to it with some concentrically-lined trees and meadows.

Kylemore had a very romantic beginning, built in 1867 by Mitchell Henry, doctor, industrialist, politician and pioneer, for the love of his life on the location of a hunting lodge where they had honeymooned in 1850.  They had a gloriously happy life with their nine children in this idyllic location, but unfortunately she died (on holiday in Egypt) in 1874.  After that the estate changed hands a couple of times, in large part because of gambling debts. In 1920 it became the home for the Benedictine nuns who arrived as refugees after their monastery at Ypres was destroyed in World War I. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A trip to Ireland and Scotland with the girls – 5


Watercolour and crayon
©2017 Charlene Brown

Next we traveled through the truly majestic Inagh Valley in the Connemara district.

I was tempted to include all of its visual delights tiny villages, stone bridges spanning rushing creeks and waterfalls, flocks of fluffy black-faced sheep, the occasional Connemara pony but decided to confine my painting to the basic mountain scenery, without even trying to work in an outcropping of green Connemara marble.

Perhaps I will have some of these embellishments in the next painting an all-encompassing panorama of Kylemore Abbey and the Victorian walled garden at the head of the valley.      

Monday, October 16, 2017

A trip to Ireland and Scotland with the girls – 4

Cliffs of Moher
Watercolour and crayon
©2017 Charlene Brown

We had another bit of rain the day we walked the famous Cliffs of Moher, Ireland’s most visited natural attraction.  (In fact we had bits of rain every day we were in Ireland. And rainbows every day as well.)

Unfortunately, these spectacular 120 m high cliffs have also been described as one of the ‘most deadly tourist hotspots on the planet.’  Despite extensive fencing along the most-visited stretches of the cliff edge, designated ‘official’ paths, and many ominously-illustrated warnings (note the now-famous selfie-sender featured in the sign on the right, above), accidents and suicides are actually increasing in frequency.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A trip to Ireland and Scotland with the girls – 3

Ladies View
Watercolour and crayon
©2017 Charlene Brown

One of the stops on our Irish RailTour was Killarney, and from there we were taken by bus on the very winding, sometimes precipitous Ring of Kerry.

A highlight was the Ladies View of the Killarney Lakes so named because Queen Victoria, while dedicating or inaugurating something during an official visit, gave her ladies-in-waiting the day off and sent them on an excursion.  They spotted this lovely vista and insisted that the Queen herself have a look at it the next day.

In keeping with this backstory and assuming Queen Victoria was always accompanied by a kilted bagpiper, we were ‘piped’ to the lookout point. Our piper was not kilted, but decked out in industrial-strength raingear known as an Inverness Cape, leaning stoically into the wind. I’ve exaggerated how much of the ladies view you could see that day everything but the piper was actually kind of blurry.  

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A trip to Ireland and Scotland with the girls - 2


Watercolour and crayon
©2017 Charlene Brown

After Blarney Castle, our Irish RailTour took us to the picturesque port of Cobh on the south coast of County Cork. 

This relatively small town was key to the maritime and emigration legacy of Ireland. In the eighteenth century, the port, then known as Cove, had become an important centre for merchant shipping (and shipping-adjacent activities like piracy), and in the nineteenth century became a tactical naval military base, especially during the Napoleonic Wars between France and Britain (of which Ireland was still a part). The name of the port was changed to Queenstown in 1848 to commemorate a visit by Queen Victoria and was a major point of embarkation for the transportation of ‘criminals’ to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) as well as the massive migration to North America at the time of the Famine. The name was officially changed to Cobh, a Gaelicisation of Cove, in 1920 around the time of the formation of the Irish Free State. 

A ‘Victorian’ garden and many international flags line what is now a major cruise ship terminal.   

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A trip to Ireland and Scotland with the girls - 1

Blarney Castle
Watercolour and crayon
©2017 Charlene Brown

My daughters and I last went on a trip together, just the three of us, to celebrate my sixtieth birthday, many years ago.  We decided it was time for another one, and selected Ireland because none of us had been there, and Scotland because our family is pretty solidly of the Scottish persuasion.

It is said that kissing the Blarney Stone will bestow upon you the ‘gift of the gab’ (or blarney).  It is also said, by just about everyone who has been to Blarney Castle – including us, that they didn’t have time to kiss anything. There’s just too much to see standing stones, mysterious caves, fern gardens, waterfalls to waste any time standing in line, climbing an alarming number of spiral steps and hanging upside-down off the edge of the roof to kiss the stone parapet that juts out about half a meter (see top left of tower in the painting). 

The pictures below are of my daughters on the castle grounds.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Stuff you used to know, but now have to Google

I’ve never lived in this city. Actually, I did live in Edmonton from 1959 to 1962, but the city pictured here was not there at the time.
The only structures in this painting that I remember from my university days are the High Level Bridge and Provincial Legislature on the far left and the Fairmont MacDonald Hotel, which is just about exactly in the middle – and it is quite different from the MacDonald I remember. Back then, the hotel had a huge ‘Brutalist’ addition, and the whole structure was referred to as a ‘tiny perfect chateau and the box it came in.’ Anyway, the box has been removed, and dozens of much nicer boxes have been added to form today’s Edmonton skyline.

Energy research is quite different from the physics I knew back in the day as well. And when you can’t even remember most of the physics you did know back then, well it’s a good thing there’s Google and Wikipedia now...