Mary Brooking
Maine artist

Paint Ireland
A chairda,

(Google it... and there may be more Gaelic coming your way... 😊)

After returning from Ireland last spring, I immediately began dreaming about an art retreat there.
Now, it’s coming together.

If you'd rather read the Cliff Notes version:
1. August 31 - September 5
2. Sherkin Island, off the coast of County Cork
3. $1500 per person
4. A separate art tour is being planned following the retreat - you can join either one or both.

Now, if you have a smidgeon of interest in the trip, please read on and follow the links to see why I am so excited about Sherkin Island! I'm looking for perhaps 10 people for the painting retreat part of the trip, and the tour part will accommodate 14. PLEASE CONTACT ME for more information or to register. This page will be updated as plans develop.

In anticipation,

In March of 2019 I spent 10 days in Ireland visiting my son at University of Ireland in Galway. I’d been to England, Scotland, and Wales before – England and Scotland multiple times – but never Ireland, and I wondered how I had committed that travesty. My imagination had conjured Ireland as rolling and green, friendly and wildly musical – and reality did not disappoint me. While there I also learned that Ireland is a country that values all of the arts, good food, and the natural world. It is also quite simple and easy to get to from the US.

I fell in love with the land and the people we met, and thought immediately of leading a painting retreat to this wonderful place. Several friends and students were interested in joining me.

Over the next several months, I searched for ways to advance the plan. Synchronicity was definitely afoot, and along the way I found people to help me whenever I needed advice or direction. One is Ann Quinlan of Spiral Journeys, who is planning her own art-themed tour concurrent with my retreat. And not just any touristy-tour – a Hidden Ireland tour - because Ann, being Irish-born although she resides in the US now, knows amazing places where commercial tours don’t go. She has a private bus driver and can get lodgings in castles and estates, and she knows a great deal about Irish art and history, including some Irish artists who are her friends. More on Ann’s vision of her tour later.

Next, a man I’d never met emailed me about buying one of my calendars. He lives in Belfast, Maine, not Ireland – but after emailing about the calendar several times, he wished me Merry Christmas in Gaelic! – at which point it dawned on me that his name, Declan O’Connor, sounded just about as Irish as you can get. I wrote back about my trip to Ireland and my hope, or maybe dream, to lead a painting retreat there. Declan replied immediately, with a link. “Check this out,” he wrote. “This is my brother Michael and his wife, and they run a retreat center on Sherkin Island off the coast of County Cork.”

The link, which I followed very promptly, led me to a wonderful island only 12 minutes from the coast at Baltimore, Cork, by ferry, populated by many artists! It reminds me of Monhegan in quite a few respects. Accommodations at the center are simple and fairly modest. However, the house can easily accommodate a nice number for a retreat, in single and double rooms with ensuite or shared baths, and three meals per day are provided to participants.
After leaving the island, people may either fly home, strike out on their own, or (if you have registered) join Ann’s Hidden Ireland tour for a nice cushy stay at some fantastic property, and some fascinating forays into the rich culture of Ireland, perhaps including a museum or two, an archeological site, and an artist’s studio. I will leave to Ann to flesh out this part, including projected costs.

Again, some people will want to take only either the first or second part of the tour, and others will elect to attend both. You make the call based on your time, resources, and interest. Naturally, we will need reservations and payment in full before the trip takes place.
Participants will be expected to fly from Logan Airport (Boston) into Shannon in Ireland on a particular flight to be determined. A bus will meet the flight and bring everyone to the Sherkin ferry. Flight cost is not included in the price of the retreat. 

Over the following five days, our routine will settle comfortably into a pattern everyone can opt into or out of to their own liking: 
Painting demo for an hour or so
Remainder of the morning - time to keep painting together or separately while the light is good, or photograph, or write poetry - whatever you want to do with your own creative time 
Afternoons - free to explore, with a few scheduled options, like studio visits to meet other artists, or exploring on other nearby islands. Sherkin is only about 3 miles wide, and there’s a mini-bus available for a couple dollars per ride until the last ferry leaves at 8:30 – so participants would be encouraged to strike out on their own and find fun afternoon things to do! 
Late afternoon/early evening - gather together at the lodging again and share stories, art work, and perhaps a glass of wine 
After dinner – time to relax at the center, or perhaps walk to a local pub to hear some local music. Note: the center is not located super close to the hotel or pubs, and the bus stops running at 8:30, so be prepared to walk in the dark – flashlight, good shoes, companionship – or leave early!

On the final afternoon everyone who wants to can share their week’s work and inspirations. I’ll offer a formal painting critique to any participant who wants it. 

Costs for the Sherkin Island retreat, $1500 per person includes art instruction, food and lodging (exclusive of airfare).

CHECK OUT THESE LINKS! - this is a documentary about a music festival that was held on the island. – this is just sweet and funny – island life!

I have had the pleasure of meeting with Kathy and Michael O’Connor of Sherkin Island, at Continuum, because they are housesitting in Maine this winter. (Remember what I said about synchronicity!) They are lovely, down-to-earth people with several years of experience hosting different sorts of retreat groups, including artists. 

What we’re planning is a two-part trip consisting of the painting retreat at Sherkin Island for the first five days; and then a five-to-seven-day Hidden Ireland art tour. Some people will prefer to do one or the other, and some will want to do both. The Sherkin Island part is planned for August 31-September 5 (when daily high temperatures on the island are probably going to be in the 60s), and the Hidden Ireland part will immediately follow.
With regret, I must tell you what you already know: our Ireland trip will not happen in 2021 due to the pandemic and the measures we must all take to mitigate it through physical distancing. 
I am leaving the page here, because thoughts about happier times in the future are good for us all.