You could say my Irish experience began way back when I was just a teenager. I read stories about Ireland, looked at photography books about Ireland, and was routinely given books about Ireland for my birthday.
Move ahead, many years, to 2011. I decided the way to get to Ireland was to find some painting pals there. I did the only logical thing to do in 2011 — I Googled it and found the website, Plein Eire. The site had just begun, and I helped me start talking to the other, mostly Irish, artists on the site. I soon heard about their relatively new plein air festival, Art In The Open, which had started in 2007 (more about the artform of “en plein air“). Held each summer, in 2011 it would run July 29 to August 1, and I started hatching a plan to attend!
The Largest Plein Air Painting Festival in Europe
This year’s event was going to be the largest to date, with 122 artists from around the world, and billed as the “largest plein air painting festival in Europe.” It was to be packed with extras, such as three paint-outs (on-location painting sessions) before and after the festival, BBQs, figure drawing, workshops, and always lots of good craic! The paint-outs would meet at a different location each day, ranging from lighthouses, local fishing villages, beaches, and local towns. The festival itself was held in Wexford in the southeast of Ireland, along the coast.
I arrived in Wexford, via bus from Dublin, on my own, dragging my bag with painting things in it behind me and a pack on my back. I had a room in a local B & B, which had several rooms partially sponsored by local businesses, a real bonus.
Time with the Locals
On the first full day in Wexford, I walked to Spectrum Art Supplies, owned by Tony Robertson, who had come up with the idea of a festival four years before. I thought I’d have a leisurely walk around the town to see what was where. Once in the store though, I found I had a lift in 5 minutes to Kilmore Quay for a paint out! With help, I retrieved my painting things and headed, with Neil the driver, a local painter, as well as Antti, an artist from Finland, to Kilmore Quay. It turned into a chilly, blustery, typically Irish day — wet, but wonderful.
So began a week’s worth of wonderful painting, wonderful new friendships, and experiences. The festival itself had everyone painting in Enniscorthy and Wexford. On Monday, August 1, a bank holiday, there were workshops given by three wonderful international artists, with the day culminating in an art opening and exhibition of 250 paintings.
Our first main evening was taken up with a fantastic BBQ at Wexford’s T. Morris pub with burgers, Guinness, and lots of great craic! There was a group playing instruments that surprisingly for me were performing Bob Dylan tunes! I walked over to tell them that I played the same ones on guitar at home, and I was handed an instrument! Despite having broken my left hand before leaving the states, I was determined to make the most of this experience. What fun! To get to play everything from Dylan, to trad Irish music with a great group of people! What a night!
There is no way to include all the experiences I had in Ireland and at Art In The Open, but I will say that I feel as if I have a whole new family of friends, who will stay in my heart forever. Here’s a 10 minute video, that will give you a glimpse into Art In The Open:
For more information on the event, to see more photos, or to receive information on next year’s festival:
This article was submitted by painter Elaine Hurst. You can visit her website to learn more about artwork at www.elainehurst.com. You may recognize her as one of the first artists featured in our Artist’s Eye series.