A day of dramatically changing light

Still. Quiet. No white rings of waves around the bottoms of the Islands in the dawn light.

6.30 am
Sunny but getting a bit blowy.

A real gale blowing so no boat trip, but blue and sunny.

Well at last, I finally feel that the County of Kerry is dressed in her sparkling Sunday best and all set for me to take a trip to Valencia Island. I set off in bright sunshine but within five minutes the light had changed dramatically. I stopped briefly at the beach to take some photos of the dark clouds settling on the mountains.

Now it was bucketing down with rain and I needed my headlights. But by the time I got to Portmagee it was fine again although the road was wet from the torrential downpour.

I crossed the road bridge onto the Island and went towards Bray head from which there are fantastic views of the Skelligs. It was blissfully quiet until five or six huge Italian Camper Vans turned up and interrupted my reverie! The nearest promontory out into the sea, is detached from the mainland but I could see sheep grazing on it. I couldn’t work out how they could have got there. Perhaps the mainland and the island are connected at low tide, I can’t imagine they take them over by boat for the summer! Next I drove up to the quarry from which there were again spectacular views of the mountains in the distance. On the way I passed a fairly recently abandoned house, damaged inside, with the staircase falling into the living area and smashed windows with torn curtains and the paint peeling off the window frames. The light was so strong the shadows were creating their own drawings on the wall and in the stable the stalls were divided up by huge thin slabs of stone. There was a diary on the windowsill with its pages glued together by the damp and a pretty teacup and saucer and plate, left as if someone had intended to return. Inside there was what would once have been a beautiful wooden box bench, now stained and rotting in the salt air. It seemed very sad. I headed back via the pretty little harbour, where tourists can put their cars on a shuttle ferry to go back to the mainland just for the fun of it. I drove back to Portmagee along the beach road; much quicker! I didn’t stop again; I wasn’t really in the mood. With weather like this Cill Rialaig seemed the only place to be and I really wanted to get to the top of Bolus Head while it wasn’t hidden by the mist.


I set off up the hill to Bolus Head in brilliant sunshine: sumptuous deep pink foxgloves, the sky a piercing azure blue, the sea a dark indigo, almost black and the wind blowing loud in my ears. Scrubby land, just thistles and grasses and overgrown dry stonewalls, no trees, except an incongruous bank of firs which had been planted above a yellow stone house. Everywhere there were wooden posts and barbed wire and a rock perched precariously above me. When will that fall? In the field above the sea there were the sheep with shocking pink identifying marks, it would be hard to lose them even in the mist, and a few cows. On the way up I found more crumbling buildings and a recently renovated one with a huge painted phone number on the concrete wall at the gable end with the message ‘For rent / sale’. It seemed tempting in today’s sunshine. Perhaps I could come back here and rent it for six months or a year.

I did some drawings of the low stonewall field divisions before the light dramatically changed. There had been clouds in the blue sky as I set off, now suddenly it was grey and moody again. I got to the top but headed straight back down again. I drew my route as I went, past gates without fences leading nowhere and boulders painted beautifully by the myriad colours of the lichens growing on them. A piece of old wood boarded up a hole in a fence and lambs wool caught in the barbed wire looked like washing left out to dry. As I came in sight of the cottages the light changed again but the warmth and brightness had gone out of the day and it was heading towards evening.

Sudden tumultuous rain. I am glad I am back in the studio!


2 Responses to “A day of dramatically changing light”

  1. liuka Says:

    Fiona ,what a brilliant account of this long and accomplished day. This is absolutely amazing. Interesting photos! And I love you drawings being so gentle, but sharp, both intriguing and simple. How do you do that? Probably there is something in the air. I am at home in Dublin now but I remember only too well what a strange and wonderful place it is. This residency gave me a lot and I’m not sure I could ever give something in return. It’s not like I have to , but to keep the balance, you know. It’s a pity I didn’t drive and I didn’t see all this. Basically, I was stuck around the village, it had its own merits thought, think some cows might remember me marching up and down in my blue raincoat! – but what a view I missed. Anyway I am very glad I was in Cill Railaig and we met. Thanks for giving me a lift, it was so kind of you. Liu

  2. fiona Says:

    Hi Liuka
    It was great to meet you too and fortuitous that I saw you walking back up to Cill Rialaig and realised that you were one of the artists. We had a good walk that evening too up behind the hill and some good talk about art. I needed that. I was even listening to Lyric fm just to hear a human voice but which I have now grown to love even though I never listen to the radio at home. I hope you are getting some good work done now you are back in Dublin. Keep reading the blog, keep drawing and keep in touch!
    f x

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