Do you remember the first painting that you ever made?

 

I can’t remember my first painting, but the first painting that was in any way significant for me was one I painted when I was starting into my final year of university.

I studied Fine & Applied art, though I didn’t have a huge amount of experience painting. Most of my work at that time had been sculptural-I did a lot of body casting, using plaster, and resin. My boyfriend was always pestering me to paint something for his walls so I did! It was a colourful abstract portrait done with a palette knife.

Where did you go from that painting? When did you realise that painting was something you were good at, or enjoyed, and when did you really decide that there was a career in it for you?

From there I made a series of these paintings, some good, some not so good! I remember bringing them into college and showing them to my tutors – one tutor told me they looked like amateur paintings and that I should “move on from them”. I was annoyed and determined to prove her wrong! I worked hard on more paintings, entering them into exhibitions, eventually winning an award. I realised fairly quickly that I didn’t actually enjoy painting in that style, and that I had painted those paintings for the outcome rather than the process. After that I stopped making art for nearly two years. It’s hugely important to me to enjoy the process of making art, even if it is stressful sometimes.

Do you remember the first painting that you ever made?

 

I can’t remember my first painting, but the first painting that was in any way significant for me was one I painted when I was starting into my final year of university.

I studied Fine & Applied art, though I didn’t have a huge amount of experience painting. Most of my work at that time had been sculptural-I did a lot of body casting, using plaster, and resin. My boyfriend was always pestering me to paint something for his walls so I did! It was a colourful abstract portrait done with a palette knife.

Where did you go from that painting? When did you realise that painting was something you were good at, or enjoyed, and when did you really decide that there was a career in it for you?

From there I made a series of these paintings, some good, some not so good! I remember bringing them into college and showing them to my tutors – one tutor told me they looked like amateur paintings and that I should “move on from them”. I was annoyed and determined to prove her wrong! I worked hard on more paintings, entering them into exhibitions, eventually winning an award. I realised fairly quickly that I didn’t actually enjoy painting in that style, and that I had painted those paintings for the outcome rather than the process. After that I stopped making art for nearly two years. It’s hugely important to me to enjoy the process of making art, even if it is stressful sometimes.

 

The diaspora of young Irish people leaving Ireland is well documented, and you yourself moved to Australia for a year before returning to Ireland. How did a change of scene help your creative process, and what made you return to Ireland?

 

Having graduated, I moved to Australia in 2014, and was looking forward to a change of scene.

 

We lived in rural Victoria, but often went into Melbourne where we visited exhibitions and galleries. I found Aboriginal art really intriguing. So much of their art is based on the land and it struck a chord with me about how I felt about my own land at home in Ireland. I didn’t appreciate it until I wasn’t there anymore!

 

There was one exhibition in particular that inspired me to start making art again. The artist used enamel paint on huge canvases, abstract works with lots of dots and paint splatters and I felt it almost formed a landscape of it’s own. I thought the enamel paint had similar characteristics to resin, a material I already loved working with. Something just clicked in me that day and my ideas came together to form the basis of how I paint today.

 

Although Australia has absolutely outstanding scenery, I never really settled or felt at home there, and everything felt a little alien to me.  

 

It was the every day things like the plants and trees, or the birds being different. In summer everything died off and turned brown, while in Ireland I’m so used to green! Although I never considered myself a home-bird, Ireland is home and always will be. It is where I’m happy and content, even with the occasionally miserable weather!

Do you spend a lot of time outside and what is it exactly about the Irish seaside that influences you? Where do draw inspiration from for your paintings?

 

Now I’m back in Ireland, I live on Killiney hill outside Dublin, and my studio overlooks Killiney Bay. On one side there’s hills and forest and on the other there is the sea, so I’m constantly inspired by nature! Every day looks different and the landscape changes so dramatically through the seasons. I was brought up in the countryside of Co. Donegal and I have fantastic memories of growing up there- the summers spent in Dunfanaghy at the seaside. When I think of a beach or sea scene my mind automatically pictures the beach there. So when I paint seascapes, I have a happy mix of nostalgia from my childhood and an appreciation for my current surroundings.

 

Talk us through your process for creating your paintings. Do you need to be in a certain mindset to create before you can paint?

 

Absolutely! There have been loads of times that I have started paintings and ended up scrapping them because I was wasn’t in the right mindset, if I was under pressure to complete it or if my mind was simply elsewhere. I have learned my lesson now, in that I don’t paint as often as I used to, but the quality is better when I do.

 

Although it sounds obvious, the way I paint is very hands on. I lay the piece flat and move around it as I work. Paintings aren’t just viewed from one angle, so I build up layers upon layers of resin and paint, some parts of each layer are clear and transparent so the finished painting ends up almost sculptural. The viewer can see deep into the painting through the different layers.

What is your perception of the art scene in Ireland?

 

I think for artists now, it’s a really exciting time to be part of the creative scene inIreland. As I’m based in Dublin, I see so many different, dynamic artists right on my doorstep. From my own experiences I’ve found that there are loads of opportunities around Ireland, however, they tend to be much more accessible to artists living around the city. It’s a lot harder for artists living rurally to access those opportunities in the same way, which is such a shame! I would love to go back home to Donegal and live in the countryside, but for now, Dublin is where I need to be!

 

What do you get out of painting, and  what would you like your viewers to take from your art?

 

Personally, I get lots of different things from painting- messy for one thing! I get a sense of satisfaction as well from painting, though I do get disappointed when it doesn’t go my way.

 

When I look out the window of my studio at the view over Killiney Bay, I get the sense that painting is what I’m supposed to do, it just feels right! On a surface level, I want the viewer to feel as though they are moving through the landscape of the painting, and for them to become immersed in the layers of the painting. I love to hear what other people get from my paintings; it helps me develop as an artist.

People will always find their own meaning in someone else’s story, which is a great thing. What I would really like to achieve from my paintings is to encourage the viewer consider their own surroundings and essentially to reconnect with their own environment just as I have.

Written by:

Simon Worthington

Photographed by:

Jenny McConnell