In 2002, I decided to follow my passion and paint full time. Having worked as an architect and a lecturer my artwork was all about sense of place and community. Solo exhibitions were shown at the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, Kildare Co. Council Offices, Trinity College Dublin and The Courthouse Gallery, Ennistymon, Co. Clare, and awards include Kildare and Clare Co. Council Artists Awards, Trinity College Visual & Performing Arts Award, the Tyrone Guthrie International Exchange with Djerassi Artists Residence California and the Tom and Johanna Baruch Fellowship.
Three years ago I decided I would love a dog of my own, and that the family dog, PepR, a labrador stray needed a companion. We always had dogs, and I loved the line and gentleness of Whippets and Lurchers, even though I had never owned one. I contacted the K.W.W.S.P.C.A., and PepR and I set off to meet some of their Lurchers who needed rehoming. There was instant, mutual dislike between PepR and the first dog, then benevolent disdain from the elegant Daisy…I was wondering if I was making a mistake? Love At First Sight erupted between PepR and Leo the Lunatic – who arrived late, having locked his carer out of her car in the lashing rain. He dashed around the garden, skidding under PepR’s tummy, every inch of him covered in a brown fluff rather than hair. He was not the prettiest dog- but PepR was absolutely delighted and so Leo came to stay.
Fast forward two years; Leo is now ‘Joey’ and a completely gorgeous, jet black, sleek dog, who simply demands to be painted. I show a series of ink studies of him at the Guru Teahouse in Ennistymon. A print donated to the K.W.W.S.P.C.A. fundraising auction leads to an invitation to a have solo exhibition, ‘Dog Days’ at Athy Community Arts Centre in October 2014. The exhibition is opened by Clem Ryan, KFM, who seems genuinely delighted with the gift of a portrait of his dog, Mise, or ‘Ms. Jacqueline Russell’. The exhibition goes well. Interestingly, the main question I am asked is ‘Will you paint my dog? and ‘Can you paint cats?, horses? sheep?.’ (The answer is Yes.)
Encouraged, I bring my work to LEO, Kildare, who enable me to attend Pet Expo at the R.D.S. in November. At Pet Expo I display the recently completed portrait of Ozzy, my ‘poster dog’. One visitor goes by “There’s Ozzy- he plays with my dog Penny in the park“. Another visitor says “That’s a Collooney Whippet.” I am delighted. My portraits are true representations of the animals- and as individual as the pets I am painting.