Artists get an eyeful of Ireland on trip


Sue Mancha has taught watercolor painting from her Manchester studio for years.

But imagine her surprise when she was asked to demonstrate her techniques to a group of students in Ireland.

The invitation came during a nine-day artists' getaway in Ireland organized by Mrs. Mancha and Westminster travel agent and photographer Gordon Wickes.

Their 11-member group spent May 14 to 22 on the Ring of Kerry, a roller-coaster auto route that hugs mountainsides rising 3,000 feet above a rugged ocean coastline in southwestern Ireland.

Among the group were Westminster painter Fran Nyce, Hanover artist Joy Staub and a full complement of "patrons of the arts," Mrs. Mancha said.

The demonstration began when Irish artist Eleanor Harbison, represented in British and Irish galleries, opened her studio of six students to Mrs. Mancha.

"Eleanor had picked a bunch of flowers from her garden, plopped them in a vase, and said, 'Go to it,' " recalled Mrs. Mancha.

"There was one lady from northern Ireland, Marjorie, who was probably in her 70s, a beginning watercolor student. I swear she watched over my shoulder. She was breathing in my ear. It wasn't distracting, but I've never had that experience before."

That intensity of observation was not an indication of the pace of Irish life, however.

"Irish time is different. It's slower. And to tell you the truth, I love living that speed," Mrs. Mancha said.

"John Murphy, who was born in the [stone] cabin we stayed in [named John's House], drove up on his motorcycle from taking care of the sheep and said, 'I'm late.' So he turned off his motorcycle and talked for about an hour. That's what we mean by Irish time. I'm nothing if not verbose, but I think I met my match."

The local group visited several artists' studios. They also toured Burren College of Art, which was designed to integrate with the environment. Several American students were attending summer classes there.

Group members also visited the gallery and home of artist Marguerite Ann Muller, her son and her artist daughter, Joanne Yealen.

The home was designed as a medieval-style mansion with a separate floor for the families of the mother, daughter and son, plus grandchildren.

"The people we met were so accommodating and very interested in what we were doing," Mrs. Mancha recalled. "People doing art over there, I would say, are tough. Fran and I found that art supplies are expensive and scarce. Mail order and large craft shops don't exist. When I got home, I sent [them] a half-dozen mail-order catalogs for new things they maybe wouldn't know any other way."

The Irish landscape was in full bloom during the visit.

"There were wild fuchsia in hedgerows, tiny yellow primroses and bluebells, and the sheep were always around, running with the lambs. And it is very green over there, yet the mountains are absolutely denuded -- not a stick -- and it's been that way for centuries," remembered Mrs. Mancha, who snapped a dozen rolls of film until the rewind crank fell off her camera.

"The quality of light over there is so incredible," she said. "The clouds are a different color; I've never seen skies like that. It was so clean, the water was clean, the air was clean. When they say you can count the scales on the fishes at the bottom of the bay, they mean it."

Mrs. Mancha's attention to landscape features was appreciated by at least one nonartist fellow traveler, who, Mrs. Mancha said, mentioned that she had learned to focus upon the landscape with a more personal vision during the trip.

The group traveled to the palm trees and Italian gardens on Garmish Island, to the Dingle Peninsula with its colorful boats and fishing nets, and spent three nights inside Ballinacken Castle.

A visit to the butcher or fishmonger often began their meals of traditional Irish food, which included mushrooms for breakfast.

They found twinges of ancient Celtic design in jewelry and knitwear.

"And we went to pubs and listened to singers. I fell in love with Bailey's coffee -- that was the culture I needed," Mrs. Mancha said.

The group plans to reunite Saturday to share photographs and artworks. There's talk of a gallery exhibit a year from now.

Mr. Wickes, who drove, cooked, and booked visits, has the urge to return to Ireland this fall. Mrs. Mancha's artists' tour plans to return in two years.

"It's a fascinating place, and we saw just a little bit of it," Mrs. Mancha said. "I'm not done with that country yet. I want to go back so bad, I can't explain it."


At 10 a.m. today, you can meet Jerdine Nolen, children's author at the North Carroll Public Library. She will read her recent book, "Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm," discuss writing and sign autographs.

Children and adults are invited. The visit by Mrs. Nolen is supported in part by a grant from the Uhrig Foundation. Registration is required.

Information: 374-1212.

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