Sketching HIStory #1

Introduction -The Life Preserver Lesson

Once upon a time, I was once a drowning man. I was floundering in a sea that I had no hope of keeping a float indefinitely. I was in real danger. Then, someone threw me a life preserver. Now, that was enough to keep me afloat and ultimately save my life… for eternity.

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Of course, I was speaking metaphorically just like the parables told by Jesus Christ. His parables were always relatable to his audience and had in-depth life changing lessons. His words after were always, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” [Mark 4:9 NLT] In essence, the parables, when so desired, can be pondered by those (even) with no scholarly achievements.

So, in my parable, I just wanted to emphasize that in the past, my life was a real mess. Oh sure, on the outside, I presented myself as a ‘happy-go-lucky’ handicap. But it was mostly an act. Don’t get me wrong. I was enjoying life and at the same time I was like ‘going nowhere’. Well, originally, I was heading in one direction but I didn’t realize, at that time, was heading to eternal damnation. Then someone threw me a life preserver.

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It was around 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait which triggered a coalation of several nations who banded together to kick him out. Of course, my wife and I were anxiously watching all this with the only source of TV news we can get in english. (We were living in Manila.) In those days, there were no CNN, cable TV and no internet yet. Anyway, it was when the news started to report that Saddam will use nuclear weapons triggering WW3, I started to think of my own mortality . I remembered asking, if I died that day and I stood before God, will He let me in? It was then I realized that I deserved not to be let in. Like the drowning man, I was very afraid. You see, as a Roman Catholic, it was drummed into us that if Heaven was denied, HELL had to be the only other place I could go and in my heart, I knew I deserved it. I cried out in prayer. It was then a life preserver was cast into the sea to keep me afloat. Now, do you know who threw me that life preserver? … and why?

Well, the answer to that is the reason why I’m writing this blog…

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Sketching HIStory is my effort to tell the story of God. It is a story that saved my life. It is a story I told many times. It is a story that needs telling and is meant to save us all. Why? Jesus said it best, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” [John 17:3]

Once upon a time, someone threw me a life preserver. That task was passed on to us who believed (Matthew 28:18-20). For myself, that was back in the early 90s. Since I have been incapacitated by my current medical condition, I confess that I have been remiss of the privilege that was given me. But lately people I knew (and also a lot of people I didn’t know) have passed away and I have been convicted with the same question of whether they even knew the Lord the way He wants. The emotion, for me, would be like watching someone drowning and yet I did not throw him a line. I express the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Now, I may not be able to preach and teach like in the ol’ days. But I can still tell stories in both my writings and drawings. I pray and hope you would join me as I impart His story and sketch my way through the Bible.

In my next post, I will continue the Introduction with the story of about how God can be really known on The Road to Emmaus told by Jesus himself some 2000 years ago. See you then.

Sketching Ireland #22

Back to Dublin – Circle Complete

google-map-dublin.jpgWe are coming to end of my vicarious vacation to Ireland. The final road trip (using Street view) from Belfast to Dublin was quite scenic. I wish I could have stopped and explore more, but I must confess that I wanted to finish Sketching Ireland so that I could start my next blog project. Don’t worry, I managed to save a number of photos for later sketching subjects. Meanwhile, I went straight to Dublin.

Golfing in Dublin

During my extensive road trip through Ireland, practically every place I have seen had at least 1 or 2 golf courses. Golf being a big thing here, I was not too surprised to find 17 golf courses in Dublin.

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This is great news for those of you who want to come to Dublin for a golfing vacation. I’m not golfer like my dad, but the golf course at Howth looks challenging enough for a satisfying game.

Mending Fishnets

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Howth, by the way, is a beautiful peninsula on the northeast side of the city. Originally a small rural fishing village, Howth has grown to become a busy and comparatively affluent suburb of Dublin, with a mix of suburban residential development, wild hillside and heathland, golf courses, cliff and coastal paths, a small quarry and a busy commercial fishing port. It was on the wharf that I found some fishermen checking and mending their nets.

The Peace Tree

dublin-tree-sculpture-w.jpgFor my final sketch, I was exploring a long beach area not too far from Howth when I came upon a very unusual tree. Now, you know how much I love sketching trees and this is one tree that I had to draw. For more info about this tree, below is an article from The Journal dot Ie.

At the north-east corner of St Anne’s Park, Raheny, where Clontarf Road and Watermill Road meet, is a 10-metre tall tree.

Unmissable to anyone who passes by, what was once a dying Macrocarpa (more commonly known as Monterey cypress) has been transformed into a canvas for dozens of sculptures of wildlife.

Known as the Peace Tree and Tree of Life, the landmark came about when it was decided by Dublin City Council that the iconic tree had to be taken down for safety reasons, Dublin Inquirer reported at the time.

However, rather than getting rid of it entirely, the council hired award-winning UK sculptor Tommy Craggs to transform the tree, believed to be 200-years-old, into an eye-catching feature. Inspired by the wildlife of the park itself and nearby Bull Island, there’s something new to discover from every angle.

From an octopus spread across the base to a proud swan perched at the top, every inch of the tree has been transformed into a type of fauna. Despite appearing as though they were created with a chisel, the detailed animals were crafted with a chainsaw.

Work on the tree began in 2015, but the final three metres were not completed until June this year. Upon completion, the tree was finished with oil.

While the masterpiece can be viewed from the car while driving along Clontarf Road, it’s more than worth pulling in order to fully appreciate its true beauty.

Dublin is a city of many landmarks and attractions. Unfortunately, I am not able to sketch them all, but as I said before I’ll present more sketches down the line.

So end my Sketching Ireland vacation 2019. I hope my blog inspire you to really visit Ireland and then contact me to share your experience. Fare thee well, Emerald Isle.

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Sketching Ireland #21

Belfast, Titanic & Narnia

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Well folks, Belfast is the second to the last stop of our itinerary tour of Ireland. My vicarious vacation is almost over. Since, Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, I felt that I didn’t need to provide my usual detailed route instructions on how to get there. From the Dark Hedges, get on any major thorough fare going south and just follow the signs.

Now, the itinerary suggested that you should take advantage of some accommodating and knowledgeable locals who run the Black Taxi Tours. They will drive you around the city in their cabs. This is a great way to start a trip and help get your bearings, as well as learn about the history of the city through the different areas. They’ll take you to the most bombed hotel in Europe, see the Belfast Murals and the Peace Wall depicting the region’s past and present political and religious divisions. The other site to visit would be the Stormont, a vast government estate where you take a tour around the impressive Parliament building. For a cool time, the Cathedral Quarter is the place to go drinking under a bunch of upside down yellow umbrellas.

For my sketch subjects, I chose three popular locales one of which has an eagle’s eye view of the city.

Cave Hill Park

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Cave Hill is a basaltic hill overlooking Belfast. It forms part of the southeastern border of the Antrim Plateau. It is distinguished by its ‘Napoleon’s Nose’, a basaltic outcrop which resembles the profile of the emperor Napoleon. The hill’s famous profile is visible from almost everywhere in Belfast and its famous Napoleon’s Nose and McArt’s Fort have become synonymous with Belfast.

I added the guy, the dog and the hang-gliders for effect.

Titanic Belfast

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Rising like an incredible shimmering ship near the waters of Belfast Lough, Titanic Belfast has been named the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction at the World Travel Awards. This majestic building stands on the very site where Titanic was built, and boasts nine galleries covering everything from Belfast’s shipbuilding heritage to the discovery of the wreck. I felt that the sketch was incomplete without James Cameron in it.

CS Lewis Square

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CS Lewis, a British writer and lay theologian, was born in Belfast, Ireland, on 29 November 1898. He is best known for his works of fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain. Of course, because of the hit film of The Chronicles of Narnia, the characters of which are celebrated in a £2.5 million public park on the Newtownards Road, Belfast. The CS Lewis Square is part of the new Connswater Greenway regeneration project – an ambitious plan to totally transform some neglected parts of Belfast.

Central in the park is a majestic bronze sculpture of Aslan, CS Lewis’ sacred depiction of the Lion of Judah. Of course, I had to include the little brash character of the sword wielding mouse, Reepicheep.

In my next post, we will be completing our itinerary tour of Ireland by heading back to where we started.

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Sketching Ireland #20

Made by Giants, A Flimsy Bridge and Harry Potter

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From the Dunluce Castle, we followed the coast on the Causeway Rd (A2) to the 9th leg of our itinerary tour in Northern Ireland. It was just a short jaunt but our vicarious (street-view) drive through scenic ocean coasts, wind swept grassy fields and sleepy fishing villages was more than satisfying. After we passed the touristy village of Bushmill, we arrived at our destination, a World Heritage Site.

Giant’s Causeway

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We had to park at the visitor centre and walked on an easy well paved trail that wound its way down a cliff. Visitors are then treated to about half a mile’s trek with panoramic scenes of the Atlantic crashing on rocks. We then came upon a small crowd of tourist carefully and gingerly walking out on a sliver of land that stuck out on the sea. They were walking on a causeway of an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, some of which had six to eight sides. My first thought was that the finger of land… that causeway… was mostly man-made and somewhat incomplete. As I looked out to the horizon, I could almost make out the English coast and wandered if a causeway could be constructed to bridge it. My thoughts was I really doubted it. So, who built the causeway? To my astonishment, the causeway was not made by any man, but the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption that pushed those stones up onto the surface.

Do you know why it’s called the Giant’s Causeway? According to legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool), from the Fenian Cycle of Gaelic mythology, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet.

Carrick-a-Rede

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Not too far from the Giant’s Causeway is our next stop that is guaranteed to give you a fun and thrilling experience. We got back on the Causeway Rd until we turned left on Whitepark Rd. Four miles later, we came into Ballintoy, another tourist village with several bed & breakfast’s. From there, we drove Knocksoghey Ln then turn off onto Rope Bridge Ln. This narrow lane led us to a parking lot at the base of a cliff. Again, we had to walk on a trail that followed the edge of the ciffs until we came upon the tiny rock island of Carrick-a-Rede which means “rock of the casting” and a precarious rope bridge.

Carrick-a-Rede has the most famous rope bridge on the Emerald Isle. The bridge was first erected by salmon fishermen in 1755. In the old days, they would go on the island to lay their nets to catch Atlantic salmon. The rope bridge was the only way for them to bring their catch to market. Today, the bridge is used by thousands of tourists, but not me! With my vertigo, I would not dare. Hahaha…

The Dark Hedges

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For our third destination, we head in-land until we get to the Dark Hedges. The Dark Hedges is an avenue of beech trees along Bregagh Road between Armoy and Stranocum in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The trees form an atmospheric tunnel that has been used as a location in HBO’s popular television series Game of Thrones, which has resulted in the avenue becoming a popular tourist attraction.

In about 1775 James Stuart built a new house, named Gracehill House after his wife Grace Lynd. Over 150 beech trees were planted along the entrance road to the estate, to create an imposing approach.

According to legend, the hedges are visited by a ghost called the Grey Lady, who travels the road and flits across it from tree to tree. She is claimed to be either the spirit of James Stuart’s daughter (named “Cross Peggy”) or one of the house’s maids who died mysteriously, or a spirit from an abandoned graveyard beneath the fields, who on Halloween is joined on her visitation by other spirits from the graveyard. [contents from internet site]

When I started my sketch of this wooded avenue, I almost wanted to sketch in some of the characters of Game of Thrones. Because it looked so magical, I drew in the characters of Harry Potter instead.

In my next post, we’re going to Belfast.

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Sketching Ireland #19

Half the Length of Ireland

From Galway, we head for our 9th leg of our itinerary tour of Ireland. Get ready for an extremely long ride. I’d say about 220 miles to Northern Ireland, about half the length of the island.

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By the way, Northern Ireland is actually part of the United Kingdom. Fortunately, there are no border gates or tolls to enter that is technically another country. I wonder when Brexit happens if it will still be the same. We’ll see when it comes. Since, we are going half way across the country, we will make some stops.

Anyway, leaving Galway, we got on the M6 heading east. About 35 miles later, we came into the town of Ballinasloe. This town is suppose to be all about horses. So, of course, this town is also the venue for an international horse fair.

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The Ballinasloe Horse Fair is a horse fair which is held annually at Ballinasloe, the second largest town in County Galway, in the western part of Ireland. It is believed to be Europe’s oldest and largest Horse Fair, dating back to the 18th century. This annual event attracts up to 100,000 visitors from all over the world, with many returning to the town year after year. This festival is one of the most important social and economic events in the life of the town. The town is also renowned for horse and pony riding, show jumping and other equestrian activities which take place throughout the year.

The fair lasts nine days and starts on the Saturday before the first Tuesday in October, when a parade through the town is held. It continues during the next week and includes a beauty contest (the Queen of the Fair), tug-of-war competitions, dog shows, artistic and cultural events, singing competitions and fairground attractions as well as the titular horse fair. The latter event includes sale-and-purchase, racing and show-jumping and these are concentrated on a 6-acre site on Society Street – the fair green. Events culminate during the second week-end; the Saturday of which is known as “Country Fair Day”. Traditionally, this was the day in the fair with the highest attendance from local rural residents. [from Wikipedia]

After Ballinasloe, we stayed on the M6 until we got into Athlone. There, we transfered onto the N55 going north to our next stop. Forty miles later, we arrived at the town of Cavan. But that is not our stop. Five miles west of it is the Killykeen Forest Park. It is a 600 wooded acre recreation park with picnic tables and a lake with islands. This park offers hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, bird-watching and an opportunity to fly a remote controlled drone. And while flying, we found another ruin castle in the middle of a lake.

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Cloughoughter Castle is a ruined circular castle on a small island in Lough Oughter in the midst of the Killykeen Forest Park. Left in ruins, the castle became a frequent subject of art in the 18th and 19th centuries. Its visual impact was described in a travelogue published The Dublin University Magazine in 1852: It stands on a small island, scarce three hundred feet in diameter, just sufficient to contain the castle and a small margin of rock around it. The island stands in very deep water; the shores are a mile distant, wild, yet thickly wooded. The castle is a beautiful ruin, round, massive, hoary, save where mantled with rich Irish ivy. The walls are immensely thick, with embrasures and coved windows, round which “ruin greenly dwells.”

Of course, there is nothing like seeing this beautiful castle in the air by a video taken by a drone.

Getting back on the road, we head north for another 50 miles or so. Now, for those of you who’ll follow my route, I have to provide this next set of instructions. I’ll try to keep it from being too boring. Meanwhile, please use the Google Map to follow the route. [Click HERE for map.]

From Cavan, take the R212 a short way until you can get onto the N3. Go north until Butlers Bridge then turn right onto the N54. This is where it will get interesting and a little bit of confusing. While on the N54, you’ll be going in and out of North Ireland (UK) for a short distance. (FYI: Everytime you enter UK area, N54 turns into A3.) This will happen twice before you’re back in Ireland again for a long while until you get into Monaghan. There, you’ll get on to the N12 for 4 miles until the border.

The N12 turned into the A3 and we went another 12 or so miles arriving at our third stop, Armagh UK. Armagh was considered the educational centre since the time of Saint Patrick, and thus it has been referred to as “the city of saints and scholars”. I wish I could have showed you more but I really wanted to get up north. However, I did find a ruin of a friary in the city’s largest public park.

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Armagh Franciscan Friary was founded by Archbishop Patrick O’ Scannail in 1263/64. It had prominent patrons in the city and the Franciscans played an important part in the city’s religious life until the Friary was suppressed in 1542 with the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII.

Some religious life continued, but the buildings were involved in welfare later in the 16th Century and were ruined by 1600. Two empty graves and two tomb recesses near the east end are reminders of the important patrons buried in the Friary Church, including Gormlaith O’Donnell, wife of Domhnail O’Neill in 1353. It is the longest monastery in Ireland. The Friary is located at the south-east edge of Armagh and can be found at the entrance to the Palace Demesne. [by Wikipedia]

The final drive will take us 75-80 miles all the way to the northern coast. We stayed on the A29 which eventually took us into Portush. Two miles down the coast, is our fourth stop, the Dunluce Castle, but not the actual 9th leg of our tour.

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Dunluce Castle is a ruined medieval castle located on the edge of a basalt outcropping and is accessible via a bridge connecting it to the mainland. The castle is surrounded by extremely steep drops on either side, which may have been an important factor to the early Christians and Vikings who were drawn to this place where an early Irish fort once stood. Near by is the newly discovered Dunluce town. In 2011, major archaeological excavations found significant remains of the “lost town of Dunluce”, which was razed to the ground in the Irish uprising of 1641. The town was built around 1608. It may have contained the most revolutionary housing in Europe when it was built in the early 17th century, including indoor toilets which had only started to be introduced around Europe at the time, and a complex street network based on a grid system. 95% of the town is still to be discovered.

In my next post, we go to the 9th leg which will include 3 sites before we go into Belfast.

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Sketching Ireland #18

A City But Not Really a City Feel

We are now coming into the 8th leg of our itinerary tour (vicarious vacation) of Ireland.

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From the Burren National Park Visitor Centre, we worked our way north until we finally hit the N67. The N67 hugs the coast of a large lengthy bay of which Google map provided no name. Since, the city of Galway sits on the northside of the bay, I unofficially dubbed it, Galway Bay. Anyway, driving on the N67 was vicariously pleasant with the Galway Bay always to tour left. There was one part, just after the village of Kinvarra, the water was right up to the highway. A low stone wall was the only barrier that kept us from driving into the water. I liked it. Now, I started to wonder that with this short stretch of water being a sheltered harbor, there has to be castle protecting it. And sure enough, there it was, Dunguaire Castle. Click HERE to see it in Street-view mode. Sixteen miles later, we drove into Galway.

According to another blog writer, Roaming Irishman, “Galway is without a doubt, my favourite city in Ireland. It has an atmosphere unlike anywhere else on the island. It’s got a ‘city but not really a city’ feel, with friendly locals making it a special place to be. When any tourists coming to Ireland ask for advice on where to go, I always say Galway. It’s a city and county with so much charm about it. It is the perfect place to use as an introduction to, or even as a base for exploring, the west coast of Ireland. A very different city to Dublin, a visit to Galway must be on your itinerary.”

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My first sketch is a fountain sculpture in the Eyre Square Park, downtown Galway. The sculpture depicts the sails of a old styled fishing boat called a ‘hooker’.

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Not too far from the park is High Street. It is a long four block brick laid street lined with retail shops, restaurants, cafes and street performers. While there visit any tourist shop and get yourself a Claddagh ring.

gallway-claddagh-ring-w.jpgThe Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring which represents love, loyalty, and friendship (the hands represent friendship, the heart represents love, and the crown represents loyalty). The design and customs associated with it originated in the Irish fishing village of the same name in Galway. The ring, as currently known, was first produced in the 17th century. There are many legends about the origins of the ring, particularly concerning Richard Joyce, a silversmith from Galway circa 1700, who is said to have invented the Claddagh design as we know it. Legend has it that Joyce was captured and enslaved by Algerian Corsairs around 1675 while on a passage to the West Indies; he was sold into slavery to a Moorish goldsmith who taught him the craft. King William III sent an ambassador to Algeria to demand the release of any and all British subjects who were enslaved in that country, which at the time would have included Richard Joyce. After fourteen years, Joyce was released and returned to Galway and brought along with him the ring he had fashioned while in captivity: what we’ve come to know as the Claddagh. [Wikipedia]

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My last sketch, I titled it, ‘Old Man by the Sea’. This old Irish fella was sitting on a rock at the tip of a pier at the mouth of the River Correb spilling out onto the unofficial Galway Bay. In the original photograph, he was staring out mostly on an empty bay except for some swimming pelicans or maybe even swans. So, I included in my sketch, a sailing hooker (a Galway fishing boat) and a pelican on the foreground.

In my next post, we take a very very long drive to Northern Ireland.

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Sketching Ireland #17

Cliffs and an Off World Experience

Lately, I have been posting detailed instructions on my route. This stems from my love of maps. In my family, during our cross country days, I was more or less the navigator. Give me a reliable map, I rarely get lost. Anyway, though I appreciate detailed road instructions, it occurred to me that you the readers may find it a little tedious. So, I will endeavor to keep it short. However, Sketching Ireland is also a travel blog and I hope it would be useful for any of you who want to go on an Irish road trip. Meanwhile, click on this Google Map link and follow my route.

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Now, our next leg of our tour are to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren National Park. We left Dingle taking the N86, first heading East to the town of Tralee. But just before Tralee, in the fishing village of Blennerville, as we crossed a long bridge, we found a neat windmill. I opted to save this sketching subject for later projects. From Tralee, we got on the N69 and headed north. This drive was very long to the next leg and unfortunately, most of it was somewhat tedious. Since, I’m on this road virtually, I can cheat (haha) and jump from point to point. For those of you who’ll actually drive on it, I suggest you make a number of stops. One stop could be into the town of Listowel on the N69. Chow down then visit the Lartigue Museum where you can take a ride on a 19th century style steam engined monorail. Also, if you’re fortunate, you can enjoy watching a 19th century horse race. After Listowel, I went another 10 miles north on the N69 where I ran into a natural road block at Tarbert, a 2 mile wide estuary and the closest bridge is about 20 or so miles east at Limerick. Thank goodness for ferries.

We crossed the estuary where we got on the N67 and went north. This drive was not as boring since we hugged the coast most of the way. From where we crossed the estuary, it was about 30 miles to the Cliffs of Moher. About 20 miles in, I came upon a place called the Spanish Point. What I read was that back in 1588, several surviving ships of the Spanish Armada (that failed to invade England during Queen Elizabeth’s reign) made landfall here. They found a friendly shore and many Spaniards stayed. Now, 10 miles on we hit the coastal village of Lahinch and went on the R478 that took us straight to the Cliffs of Moher.

Here are some comments. “The Cliffs of Moher absolutely take your breath away. Their sheer size and length are hard to comprehend unless you’re actually there in person.”

“Scenic cliffs stretching 700 feet over the rugged Atlantic coast.”

“Rain or sunshine you will not want to miss walking the Cliffs of Moher. It is a great walk from end to end. The views are incredible (hope your not afraid of heights) and with every step, you’ll see something new to take a picture of.”

For my sketch subjects, I first drew a young girl sitting on the edge of the cliff. Of course, the visitor center there discourage anyone from getting close to the very edge. I also sketched an artistic sculpture that represents the cliff’s many attractions. Even the birds enjoyed it. I collected more photos for much later drawing projects.

After enjoying the cliffs, we got back on the R478 going east. The R478 eventually turned into the R476 which took us into the Burren National Park.

The Burren National Park is a place of great natural beauty. There are various marked trails in the Park that take you through many fascinating and beautiful habitats, such as calcareous grasslands, woodlands and limestone pavement.

The Burren, which comes from the Irish word “An Bhoireann” meaning a place of stone, is the largest expanse of Limestone Pavement anywhere in the world. It is written that the Burren with its innate sense of spiritual peace has an extraordinary array of flora and wildlife, megalithic tombs and monuments that are even older than Egypt’s pyramids. This is a region which was largely sculpted over the last two million years by God and his glaciers, through the exposure and submergence of its landscape to ice, ocean and the plate movements of the earth.

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In the center of the park, on a very high mount, is an odd spiral formation that many have described as being alien. So, just for fun, I sketched out this out-worldly scene but also included the space-suited form of Matt Damon from the 2015 science fiction hit film, The Martian.

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For my next sketch subject, I found north of the park, the Burren Perfumery which is a family owned business hidden away in the heart of the Burren hills. They are a small, west of Ireland-based company making cosmetics and perfumes inspired by the landscape around them. Outside their quaint shop is a man-shaped topiary laying in an old rusted bath tub. I had to draw it.

In my next post, we go into Galway which is just north of the park.

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