Finn MacCool’s Boot

Upon arrival at Ballinglen you receive your loaner pair of Wellington boots. We’re located in scenic craggy hills and cliffs on the ocean coast, and the terrain is full of peat bogs. One of my interests in dealing with the landscape here involves a character in Joyce’s novel “Finnegans Wake.” Finn MacCool is a geological avatar for the hero of the novel. He is an invented mythological giant that sleeps in the landscape of Dublin and dreams of Irish history and mythology. If I am losing you here, hang in there, I’ll have a post in the near future that goes into more detail about the “Wake,” MacCool, and how it relates to my work with landscape. Those familiar with my work will note that shoes play an important role in my Land as Language, Hogue project. So, it makes sense to explore the Wellington as a vocabulary object. In this sketch, I placed the boot in a perspective as if we were viewing the foot of a sleeping giant.

Ireland Color Palette Process

I’ll assume that pictures are worth a whole lot of words here and keep my comments brief. I created a composite of some of the key photographs that I have shot in the last ten days and tried to find some of the key colors for mixing a starter palette. I mixed to a middle key – as opposed to high key or low key – in terms of tonal value with the idea that these could be tinted or shaded from this state. Many variations occur in the process of working on actual pieces.


I know that my drawing students are working in pen and ink so I thought I should join in the fun five hours or so away. I have never seen this kind of vacuum attachment and I spent many hours over the summer in Portland’s Vacuum Cleaner Museum. I guess I was mostly interested in the vintage vacs, and I missed some of the latest and greatest. I am not sure this is the best pose for this object – you might see an alternate version somewhere along the line.

There are many new sketches, especially of landscape schematics. I will post some of those next.

Tea Strainer

I encountered this object while moving into my studio yesterday morning. I haven’t thought much about it yet. Sometimes I choose objects on instinct and for their formal proportions. Often, these choices become critical serendipitous contributions to the paintings.

Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin

As it turned out, my first full day in Dublin was an Irish Bank Holiday and a Monday. This usually means most institutions and businesses are closed. I went to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) anyway since it is near Phoenix Park – one of my other destinations. At first I assumed it was closed and wandered the grounds. The Museum has adapted a 17th-century Royal Hospital building into galleries. This building includes a large inner courtyard and is surrounded by a formal garden, meadow, and medieval burial grounds. The grounds alone made the long walk across Dublin worthwhile. I was able to produce a drawing of one of the craggy tree trunks in the garden before a steady rain began. Seeking some shelter in the courtyard, I discovered that the Museum was opened! The exhibition that most interested me was multi-media work by Thai artist and filmmaker, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. This exhibit included a three-room video installation of dramatic, strangely ambiguous interior spaces and playfully absurd domestic action.

Also of interest is IMMA’s active residency program. The individual studios seem generous from the outside and there are programs to help connect the resident artists with the community.

For more info go to IMMA’s website:

The First Ireland Schematic

On a short walk from my cottage to the Ballinglen studio, trying to take advantage of the final minutes of daylight, I did a quick sketch of the northern landscape. The schematic evolved later back at the cottage, but the original landscape sketch is still there. Two entities are weaving in on each other. Subconsciously, my thoughts on Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” are emerging. One of the avatars for Joyce’s main character in the Wake is literally the landscape of Dublin and the other is the River Liffey, which runs through the city emptying out into the Dublin Bay. I’ll share more on this in a later post.

I was also thinking about the passing from day to night. Enroute to Ireland, looking out the window while in passage from Dallas to Madrid – flying essentially toward the next morning – I noticed, almost as if someone had flicked a switch, the change from a night sky to morning sky.

First Object Sketch

This Irish/UK plug adapter is one of the first objects to catch my eye upon arriving at my cottage at Ballinglen. Generally, I don’t like to say too much about my object vocabulary choices, but this plug seemed to call out to me from a corner as being specific to this place (something I would not find in the US). I impose my own ideas on to these objects. The idea for me is that the plug adapter is channeling and managing this different system of energy (even with its own mini fuse!). It is reaching for the sky, arms waving.

First Sketch: Micro Macro Landscape

For my students and friends, it probably won’t come as a surprise that one of my first observations here is a relationship between small and large landscape. My impression of this relationship is made stronger upon driving up to North Mayo County from Dublin (I was barely able to look at the landscape, driving the narrow roads in Ireland demands full attention). This idea – which may or may not be confirmed by further observation – is that the character of the smaller details echoes the character of the largest. My first sketch is from a tree trunk in the gardens surrounding the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin (more about that in a future post). My attempt here is to capture the ambiguity of scale by focusing in on this tree trunk. It seemed to demand a very linear approach. My drawing session was cut short by a downpour, something I am told to expect here in Ireland.

An Invitation

Consider this an invitation to join me in my latest adventure. This electronic acre of the webosphere will be a place to peek into my studio adventures in Ireland. I will post sketches and schematics as they materialize, and provide some background to their origins.

A key method behind my painting of late has been mining details of a place, in this case Ireland. Drawing from literal and emotional interpretations of history and mythology, interactions with Irish people, and responses to strange local fictions, I’ll look for a rich new visual vocabulary and graphic/schematic interpretations of landscape. All this and the possibility that whole new methodologies will emerge.

It is my intent that this journey is a shared one and the evolution(s) that occur will be an example of how international interactions can have great impact.

The Ballinglen Arts Foundation, the Lighton International Artists Exchange Program coordinated by the Kansas City Artists Coalition, and the College of Arts and Science at Kansas State University, particularly the Department of Art, have made this all possible. Sincere thanks to all these institutions.