Today I rode out into the countryside to a Tree of Life to photograph it before the buds grew into too many leaves, too thick to see the branches giving it shape. I’ll put the photographs aside to use as inspiration for a painting I’ll make in the winter.

You may ask why I don’t paint it on the spot. Simple. That field, on which the grass and small flowers look so smooth, is in fact incredibly rough under the grass, so there’s nowhere level to put up an easel, and that is if you don’t first turn or break an ankle just walking the half-mile or so up the length of the field. But that isn’t the worst. The tree stands on the edge of a valley, and the wind howls over that field; it’s uncomfortable and cold. And it is most definitely not an alla prima painting, so a studio job it is.

So many amazing vistas in Ireland, so little time to paint them.

Andre Jute is a novelist and painter — and a cyclist — who lives in West Cork.

Cycling in Bandon: The International Expert Report

This is not even an attempt at humor. This is dead serious.
And if you don’t take it seriously, you could die.

MY TOWN, MY TOWN

An international traffic consultancy, which had better remain anonymous, wonders why children don’t cycle to school in my home town. In the next pigeonhole of their report they show this photograph of North Main Street. Behind the photographer, up further, steeper, busier hills, there are four schools… On the other end of this road, the only road across the only bridge, there are four more schools… These international consultants tell us they made “a site visit”, that is, they came to look. (That must be their helicopter top right, giving a new meaning to “a flying visit”.) Still they wonder why children don’t cycle to school! cycling_in_bandon

You don’t have to be an idiot to be an “international consultant”, but it certainly helps!

Andre Jute is a novelist and painter — and a cyclist — who lives in West Cork.

Great bicycling memories: Dusk over a valley in West Cork

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A Plein Air Painting Expedition by Bicycle: a photo essay by Andre Jute

A Plein Air Painting Expedition by Bicycle
a photo essay by Andre Jute

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This looks like something I could paint!

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There’s even an appreciative audience. In the bicycle basket the complete kit of easel, black bag with paints and tools, and shooting stick to sit on.

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Set up is quick. Once the easel is set up and the canvas clamped, the repurposed leather messenger bag is just hung open on the easel and the shooting stick opened to lean against or sit on. The paints in the bag are oil bars, which is pigments in wax. I don’t use a palette with oil bars, just holding the oil bars in my hand and digging out as much as I want with a silicon colour shaper, which saves on cleaning brushes. The entire process is solvent free, odorless, non-toxic.

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The painting I made.

For more on Andre’s bicycles, see Bicycling.
For more on Andre’s painting see Painting

Text & images copyright © Andre Jute 2014

A book so luscious, it is good enough to eat

West Cork: a Place Apart is a book that haunts me, and it isn’t about some far-off, distant place, it is about the place where I live.

Jo Kerrigan is a local West Cork girl who went away and made an international reputation, then returned to write for the Irish Examiner and the Evening Echo and make all our lives better. “Winding green lanes and chuckling streams, mysterious lake dwellings and secret valleys, drowned forests and misty mountains: this, surely, is the region JRR Tolkien had in mind when he created Middle Earth.”

That’s prose you want to lick, because it is so true. I live among all this beauty, look out on it from my front door, from my study window, and cycle in it daily — but Jo makes it new for me.

Cover of West Cork: a place apart
Richard Mills arrived in West Cork from France when he was sixteen, and became the Examiner’s distinguished photographer. He is an international prize winner in several disciplines for his photographs of the landscape, flaura, fauna and people of West Cork. If there is a scene of Ireland that haunts your memory, chances are it was planted there by a photograph Richard took. I shan’t stick my neck out and pretend to know what makes a photograph by Richard Mills better: he has a different way of seeing that grabs hold of you, and creates an image so poignant it won’t let go again. You look at a photograph by Richard of a landscape you know, you look up at the view, and it is a new scene, with a different light shining on it. It’s a form of artistic magic.

A book of lovingly selected photographs by Richard Mills is already an occasion for the cognoscenti, but enriched by Jo’s equally evocative prose, it becomes so enticing, you want to get close enough to wrap yourself around it. West Cork: a Place Apart is a book so luscious, it is good enough to eat.