Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A trip to Ireland and Scotland with the girls – 9

The Royal Mile
Watercolour and crayon
©2017 Charlene Brown

We were very lucky in our hotel selection in Edinburgh, discovering when we arrived that we had a great view of the Scott Monument (BTW, almost everyone knows at least two quotes by Sir Walter Scott – ‘Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive!’ and ‘Breathes there a man with soul so dead, Who never to himself hath said, This is my own, my native land!’ – although some of us may have thought they were Shakespeare…)  And the Scott Monument was just far enough to our left so as not to obscure any of the Royal Mile!

I thought this painting was so close to the real thing, that I tried right-clicking on it and searching Google for the image. The ‘visually similar images’ Google found were Pecs in Hungary, New York City, Wroclaw in Poland, Pacific City (in the Crackdown3 computer game, I think), Philadelphia, Atlanta, Quebec City and Buenos Aires.

Below is a picture of us on Victoria Street, below Edinburgh Castle.  This colorful location was the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books.  Google thinks it looks like Copenhagen, Liverpool, Dublin, Istanbul, London and (Yes!) Victoria Street in Edinburgh.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A trip to Ireland and Scotland with the girls – 8

Giant's Causeway
Watercolour and crayon
©2017 Charlene Brown

If you’re familiar with the Giant's Causeway, which heads out from the coast of Northern Ireland towards Scotland, you’ll know you can’t actually see all these aspects of the formation from just one spot. So I’ve painted it from several spots, as is my custom.

I’ve included as many of the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns as seemed appropriate, and added the little puddles from the latest rainfall in the concave tops of many of them. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides. The tallest are about 12 metres high and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres thick in places. They are result of an ancient volcanic eruption,  or the remains of an unsuccessful road-building project started by Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) – depending on who is telling you the story.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Living the dream in a warm place

I think everyone wishes at some point that they could live on a houseboat in some nice warm place. Here’s a bunch of people living the dream in Victoria Harbour.

We try not to be too smug about our climate here – but every February we get going on the annual flower count.  It’s always in the millions way before the rest of Canada has seen its first crocus. Sorry.

And – not only do we have warm winters, we don't need air conditioning in the summers.  The low-carbon economy everyone's trying for is pretty easy to maintain here.

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, below), 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.