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Kildownet Castle stands at the side of the road near Kildownet village, in County Mayo, Ireland. It stands at the shoreline of Achill Island, at an inlet of Clew Bay, and has a dramatic view of the mountains of the mainland of Mayo across the water.

It was built in the 1400's, one of a series of fortified tower houses along Achill Sound, built by Granuaille "Grace" O'Malley, the infamous Irish pirate queen.

I visited on a wet, blustery March day. It was an unscheduled stop, during a day long ramble on Achill Island. We saw the small parking pull-aside near the castle, and got out to stretch our legs and enjoy the clearing sky. The air was sharp and the colors were rich and deep. I only took two photos of the area, but the composition was good and the subject matter compelling.

I started with a cradled panel of natural birch layered with a mahogany veneer. It is a solid support, coated with a specialized, absorbent panel gesso. The panel gesso was created to emulate traditional chalk gesso while maintaining the ease of use of acrylic gesso. This panel gesso has a short drying time and easy application. It can also be sanded and this creates a smooth, vellum surface which I like for drawing. It can also be tinted, as I have here, with dry pigments.

I used a French Golden Ochre dry pigment to tint the gesso a soft gold, replicating the colors of a stormy sky, clearing at the horizon. Using sketches and my own reference photos, I laid out the foreground with earth-toned colored pencils. The gesso allows for a 'scratch back' technique, creating the crisp lines of grass in the foreground and the cracks in the stone walls. Dark pencil, without color, builds up the grey of the distant mountains.

While unframed, this 8x10 panel is lightly varnished and can be hung flush to the wall with the wire strung across the back, using small eye bolts in the cradle. (see picture) Do not use any dampness at all when wiping dust from the surface. It is suggested that the piece be framed under glass.

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Kildownet Castle