Book Picture Ballydehob and the Miniature Art Gallery

On this same trip, we happened to come across “The Miniature Art Gallery” at Ballydehob. Its fittingly small sign was flapping in the wind. An elderly gentleman was teaching art to a dozen or so small children within. The man had a wild shock of white hair that seemed to have been last combed by a violent wind. In a calming voice, he said he’d be with us shortly as he was just finishing his class for the day. I looked around the small room, which was perhaps 15 feet by 20 feet. Small, single paintings, at eye level and at respectable intervals, wrapped around the entire room, such that each painting commanded its own space. I looked at each painting but was drawn back to a painting of a ship being tossed about in a choppy sea under roiling clouds. I was deep in thought when the old man spoke quietly near my left ear saying that the painting had “captured my eye”. I agreed that I found the painting very appealing. He then explained the artist’s technique of using the various movements of sails and seas such that my eye always was brought back to the safety of the deck. A long discussion of techniques was finally ended when I asked one naïve question too many which was, “Why are the paintings so small?” He said, “You are from California, no doubt, where the paintings have to match the sofa or the rug. In Europe, many people live in small apartments and they buy something with which they can decorate their small private spaces. The paintings mean something to them. They derive personal satisfaction from them and they are not just for decoration.” "How much?” was my next question and the price of 120 punts settled the question. I promised the man, I would return the following year and buy the painting if he still had it. To make a long story short, I did return and I did buy the painting but at a craft shop in Skibereen. I just happened to come across it next to small sign that said, “The miniature paintings are from The Miniature Art Gallery in Ballydehob. To purchase, please speak with the proprietor.” I had already been to Ballydehob but the gallery had been closed. The proprietor said that the old man from the miniature art gallery had “just disappeared”. That few minutes with the old gentleman had helped me decide to paint small to appeal to people’s private nature and not their public wall space needs.

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