A year ago I would have not believed you if you had told me that I’d have my own little online shop and be sharing my paintings with the world. Really. A lot can happen in a year.
Roll on a few seasons, and some late night encounters with creativity, and out popped a series of creatures whose spirits and personalities somehow spoke to me. I have enjoyed creating them so much and I am also enjoying sharing them.
Alongside the originals there is also a limited edition print of a little red squirrel (only 25 will ever be made), printed in The Copper House Gallery. The paper and quality of the print is just amazingly gorgeous, and the colours so vivid and fresh. Size 15.5 inches x 11.5 inches. The original is also available. See below.
I also have a series of beautifully frames paintings – if you are interested in purchasing one of these, please get in touch directly to arrange delivery/ pick-up. Prices of these range from €225 to €275 euro each (delivery will be additional).
They’ll make lovely gifts, for yourself or a loved one…
Sometimes things take you by surprise and tell you something about yourself which had long laid hidden. That something can be a good thing; a thing that was with you all along but you had unintentionally ignored, or even chosen to ignore. Or even it was just time passing which took you away from it, further and further until it became a dot on a distant horizon, hazy and doubtful.
If you had said to me 11 months ago that I would be having an exhibition of illustrations I would have laughed. Me? Sure I haven’t drawn in years.
I used to, back then, somewhere along that hazy horizon zone of time. But I had forgotten. I had forgotten the feeling of inky hands and the organic, unpredicable relationship between paint and water. I had forgotten the gentle undulating feeling of textured watercolour paper or the way you need to carefully navigate a nib from an inkwell. I didn’t remember that I had once so enjoyed the feeling of the exact moment when the pen touches a surface with the intention to draw. Or how time can slip away; hours feeling like glimpses. Or the concentration it takes. Or the sense of having to let the image speak to you. Or what it takes to know when to stop. I had forgotten.
Twenty years later a knowing has returned. It is a surprise to me this, a big one. Yet it is as if a familiar friend has come back with new stories to tell and images to conjure of distant lands. Or even deeper, now that I am painting, I feel fuller again, more me. It is like a chunk of myself was missing and now that it is here, things are starting to make sense again and I am understanding my programming in a new light. I am finding a certain capacity for calmness, and an exhilaration which I knew existed but I had suspected someone had locked away and permanently misplaced the key.
It wasn’t so hard to unlock after all. It just meant following an urge, showing up to a blank page and allowing my hand to remember. It has somehow been there all along. I had just been intent on forgetting.
Things can happen quickly. Time has done that funny dance, distorting what you think might be possible. So 11 months on, my first solo exhibition has been mounted. It is small but attended to with love and gratitude. Plus it serves as a whopping reminder that you never ever know what is coming. Sometimes we just need to show up to the blank page and let the remembering remember.
If you would like to see or purchase the drawings and are in the area on West Waterford head on down to Blackwater Garden Centre Cafe, outside Dungarvan- hosted by the delightful and welcoming Anne McKenna. (Huge thanks to Anne for enabling this and welcoming me and my artwork with such warmth and openness. She serve lovely tea and cakes too 🙂
‘Yes, of course I will do that’, I said, receiving the phone call.
I put down the phone and immediately wondered, ‘Why on earth did I just say yes to that?’
In the past, ‘yes’ has been a brilliant tool for enabling opportunities but on this occasion it nearly pushed me right over an edge; the edge of my comfort zone.
‘Yes’ felt scary, big, and I didn’t feel ready for it.
It? Well it was an opportunity to paint at a festival alongside a musical score by Jim Moginie (formerly of Midnight Oil) with his electric guitar orchestra to a piece called ‘The Colour Wheel’. The idea is beautiful- live performance, live audience and painting in response to the music. However, whether I could actualise that beauty was an entirely different conversation…
My challenge was that I had never done anything like this before. In saying ‘yes’ the critical voice raised a very loud roar, bringing up so many of my vulnerabilities. ‘Me? Painting in front of an audience? In response to music? With everyone looking at me? What if the painting just looks like mud? What it someone starts to heckle? What it I f**k it up? What if… ‘
I have known these voices before; they visit frequently. Thankfully, with experience, I have learned to name them and have figured out that we can reposition to critic too: ‘This is fear speaking, how can I help you?’
Fear can teach us many things. When we lean into it, fear can expand our capacity to act by gradually, gradually, pushing our comfort zone into new territories and calling us to investigate our edges further.
On this occasion the fear was dense. About five days before the festival I was on the brink of ringing up Cornelia, the event organiser, to say that I was not able to do it. I had started to make excuses in my head. One of those excuses even went so far as, ‘Well, I’m only five foot tall- how on earth will I be able to paint at scale?’ Seriously! Fear really can make the most comical of augments.
Luckily I realised that indeed this was fear speaking. So, I asked myself, ‘What can I do to minimise the fear and bring it back to ‘yes’?’
Two main solutions presented themselves. Firstly, the idea of boundaries– ‘Simplify and reduce your options; create restrictions’. And secondly, an understanding that this is not going to be an exercise in perfection but an experiment with process.
I rang an artist friend for advice too (thank you Eimear). Her kind words of friendship were a balm.
So, with the solutions in mind, and Eimear’s friendly cheerleading, I decided to limit my colour palate and choose a motif to work with- in this case circles (since the piece was called the colour wheel). In setting some ground rules for myself, suddenly came freedom. ‘With those parameters, what can I do? What patterns can emerge? And how can I push the motif to create something new?’
Over the next few evenings I experimented a bit at home- first making small quick drawings in my sketchbook, then larger colour experiments to test my palate, and then creating large scale drawings while playing Jim’s music in the background. On the third evening a pattern or idea began to emerge, one which I knew I could transfer to the real event, and a sense of the possible emerged again. We were back to yes.
As in art, so in life.
The whole experience served a huge reminder to me: when we place some boundaries and restrictions, creativity can flourish and freedom arises.
It seems contradictory to limit ourselves to liberate ourselves, but somehow it works.
It was a reminder too of why I continue my own practices- that daily route back to my yoga mat, whether I am in the mood or not, if only for a few minutes. The practice is a boundary to create the freedom and is an enabler for creativity to flow. Practice, you come to realise, does not make perfect. But practice does lead to a place beyond it all, where there is no such thing as perfect, which is in fact perfect in and of itself. This is the circle of things.
So there I was on Sunday, painting in front of an audience. What I produced was no masterpiece, in my mind it was far from ‘perfect’, but it was me showing up with all my vulnerable and stepping right up to the edge of my comfort zone. In doing so I stepped across it and will, I hope, have forever expanded it, with fear and imperfection at my five foot nothing side.
I’ll raise my hand and confess that I don’t love what I created but I loved the experience, and I love too that I did not let fear take me over. Rather I let fear have its own rightful place, as an aid and an ally.
Plus I got collected that day by a rock star. And I’m pretty cool with that too! Merci Jim.
(Special thanks to Jim Moginie and Cornelia Mc Carthy for facilitating this experience- my edges are grateful and my comfort zone is relishing in its new found sense of space!)