NOTE: [ The Painting Tour finished on Friday 23rd September, 12 weeks to the day after it started and approximately 3,000 km later. More and more photographs, paintings, and words, about the tour are being added to site. What follows below is an explanation of what the tour would be – from the perspective of before the tour began. ]

I paint pictures. It’s what I do for a living. I get around on a bicycle. When I was younger and taller I got around a lot, cycling across America and Europe for no other reason than I thought it’d be a nice way to see them. I also spend a lot of time online, having been blogging for 10 years and now being in my 5th year of twitter.

  • Twitter – @eolai
  • FaceBook – eolai
  • Email – eolai@irishkc.com

After spending nearly a decade living in the US I’m now back home in Ireland 3 and a half years, but a life of painting in a studio means I haven’t seen as much of my country as I used to when I was younger. So I’ve decided to try combining painting, the cycling, and social media, and use them to re-aquaint myself with the whole country.

My plan is to cycle around the country visiting all 32 counties, using social media (Twitter primarily but also My blog, and FaceBook if I must) to solicit people to host me for a night in return for a painting.

Starting on Friday July 1, 2011, I envisage the whole trip to take 2 months or possibly a little bit more. While loosely planning to go around the island in a clockwise direction, the location of people who volunteer to host will determine the detail of the route.

The main challenge is not in cycling, as the need to leave several hours a day for painting means I’m planning relatively short  cycles of about 35 miles a day. (When I cycled across America and Europe I regularly cycled 100+ miles in a day, and although I’m now spectacularly unfit by those standards, the shorter trips I should be able to get fit for relatively easily). No the main challenge is in getting the paintings done and in knitting together a route that includes all 32 counties.

I’ve loved being online these last few years and enjoyed meeting hundreds of people – through meetups and painting sale handovers. But I imagine the world of social media may not be around for ever so this trip is a way to meet many that I enjoy online or people very close to them, and immerse myself in whatever my country feels like throwing at me.

I plan to blog the trip’s progress, post photos and paintings, and show a map of where I am and where hosts are. To date I’ve only casually mentioned the trip a few times on twitter and already I have more than 30 people all over Ireland who have volunteered as hosts. I have had to turn some people down because I already have hosts in their area. And as the route takes shape, and as I’m actually cycling it, I’ll have less flexibility to get to everybody who might volunteer.

Because I’ve chosen this life of painting I’ll be starting the trip penniless. For days when there are no hosts I’m hoping to paint a picture I can offer for sale via Twitter & Facebook with a view to funding that night’s stop.

A typical day I imagine being just 3 or 4 hours cycling, 4 or 5 hours painting whatever the host has told me they’d like a painting of, and then the evening with the host. And if it should rain? I’ll improvise. But it’s not going to rain is it?

The paintings will vary from being on canvas to being on board in a variety of sizes not exceeding 16″ x 12″ but bigger is possible if say for example somebody wanted a painting of their house and had a larger canvas waiting for me rather than me having to carry it around the country.

On day one I’m heading from Dublin into North Kildare, and the last day will be from Navan to Dublin, but the 60 or so days in between will be a mixture of me making it up as I go along and people volunteering to feed & shelter me for a night.

All going well, and even if it doesn’t, I expect I’ll end up back home in Dublin in September with a million memories to paint for years to come and having met a lot of wonderful people. With some luck I will have cycled in all 32 counties, painted in all 32 counties, and drunk tea in all 32 counties.

There is an FAQ for more specific questions I’m getting asked a lot.

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