I’m one of the 3rd generation of artists working and exhibiting at Brushwood Studios in Parknasilla Woods, Co. Kerry. The Studios were established in 1978.
I work mostly in oil paint on canvas, with occasional segues into ink or watercolour. Stylistically, I combine elements of figurative, landscape and abstract art in my pieces. I’m currently heavily influenced by the history of the Kerry landscape including ruins and archeological subjects and folklore. For the last year I’ve been working almost exclusively on large canvas (4-5 ft square.)
My personal workspace is a wooden structure with large, removable, doors surrounded by trees. I prefer to work outside or as near to it as possible. I always start my oil painting backgrounds outdoors on dry, windy days in order to blow the paint across the canvas and create a lace like effect, and dry them outside flat on the grass. Sometimes I’ll also use the effect of rain on the canvas and its reaction to the linseed oil in the background of the painting also.
The work I’m most proud of provokes an emotional response, not just in me, but also for the viewer. What that response is, exactly, will depend on the viewer themselves. But I hope my work leaves an enduring positive impression on those who look at it or live with it.
I love my job. I hope people looking at my work experience even a fraction of the joy I get in the act of creating it.
As an artist, what are the key challenges that you face on a daily basis?
I suppose the same as any artist faces, finding the balance between creating art in the studio while also running a business, promotion and things like facilitating art workshops and lessons.
There is a phenomenon that affects self employed people in general, particularly women, in that their work time is easily encroached on by others, there isn’t as much respect for the work a self employed person does at home, even thought its just as vital as if they went to an office every day.
With artists its particularly bad because there’s almost always an external demand for free time, materials and work in, for example, community based activities, and collaborations (usually unpaid) which wouldn’t be expected of other professions.
In Ireland the art scene is very small and cliquey, as a result there is a lot of nepotism and gatekeeping. It’s not easy to get your work ‘out there’ unless you know the right people, live in the right place, attended the right institutions and have a lot of money. So one has to find creative ways around that. Particularly down in Kerry.
What inspires you most about Kerry?
I suppose the obvious answer would be the landscape, which is a huge factor for me. But equally I would say the people, the stories and the culture tied to the landscape. There’s a gentle anarchy in the Kerry culture. We don’t like fitting in, we don’t like being told what to do. We don’t make a revolutionary fuss about things but we aren’t naturally obedient. Even the landscape is unkempt and not manicured or orderly. I love that.
What is your top tip for fellow artists?
Put your own practice first, always. Collaboration with a few trusted associates and the synergy from that can work well, but don’t spread yourself too thin. Not that you cant learn a lot from other people, but remember that your own inspiration creates your best work. So ignore any naysayers and don’t take even constructive criticism too seriously, especially if those giving it don’t have practical knowledge of your process. Don’t be constrained by a style, subject or trend. Create in ways that make you happy.