Hello Siobhan! Congratulations again on winning the "Seasons" International Art Competition. What led to the inspiration behind your painting ’The Gearagh Month by Month'?
I live near a very special place called The Gearagh (An Ghaoraidh in Irish) which means wooded river. It's a beautiful nature reserve, undiscovered by many, located 26 miles west of Cork City in Ireland.
It’s a European protected habitat and a wetland of international importance. It's the only alluvial forest west of the River Rhine, in Europe. It was formed at the end of the Ice Age when the meltwater from the great glacier which originated in Gougane Barra gushed out from the confines of the upper Lee Valley. The abrupt change in velocity resulted in the deposition of great quantities of rock and soil which formed islands separated by numerous streams. It was on these that the woodlands developed.
Sadly, several hundred acres were clear-felled in the 1950s as a hydro-electric scheme was developed downstream.
Thankfully mother nature has a way of taking back which was once hers and much of the flora and fauna that had formerly occupied the ancient forest have reemerged.
I moved to the area in 2012 and began to explore the reserve. I had this magnetic desire to paint it. I was still working as a graphic designer then (I had my own design business) and was painting in my spare time.
The internal voice prompting me to paint The Gearagh was so overwhelming that when an invite came to be part of a group exhibition in 2017 I instinctively knew what I wanted paint. Painting landscapes was an unusual choice for me because the majority of my work at the time was predominantly of animals.
The success of that exhibition prompted me to continue my work documenting The Gearagh and its’ beauty, an endless source of inspiration. There is something about this marshland that is calm and serene. I feel at peace there.
My obsession continued into 2020. Using pastel I wanted to witness the changing nature of the landscape throughout the months and seasons in the Gearagh. This is where this collection of 'The Gearagh Month by Month' was born.
I chose one single vista and I visited it every month at the same time every morning of a full moon. Of course when deciding on the full moon as a calendar date it hadn’t dawned on me that there are in fact 13 full moons in the year! (Two in October). Therefore, I ended up with 13 pastel paintings depicting the same scene.
2. As this was a yearlong process, did that change your perception fo the piece/how you work and engage with your art?
The process was a valuable lesson in 'letting go' during a time where everything seemed out of control. The world was on a cusp of great change as news of restrictions and lockdowns set in mid March.
In the past I could spend hours procrastinating over 'the ideal’ scene. There was freedom in not having to make a decision. I would turn up every month and take what I was given; mist, rain, fog, sun, I had to surrender. Therefore, letting Mother Nature decide on the scene for me was very liberating.
Over the 12 months of 2020 I got to know the scene on an intimate basis and I loved recorded the passing of time through changes in light.
The work showed me that there is nothing more constant than change even if most of us fail to notice it.
Change is probably the one thing most of us dread, fear and try to resist however it is one of the certainties of life, of living.
3. How was the experience of applying for the competition and the resulting process like for you?
I had just finished the collection when I came across ‘Seasons' competition call-out in January this year. I immediately thought 'The Gearagh Month by Month' was the perfect fit.
The application process was so straightforward. Each stage from entry to online exhibition to the final 20 was organised so professionally and seamlessly by The Artist Lounge team. When my entry was chosen as one of the final 20 I was completely blown away.
As I had no expectations of getting that far I hadn’t thought out the logistics of sending the artwork to the gallery. Living in Ireland brought its own challenges in relation to shipping to the UK along with the framing. Any questions I asked were answered in-depth and clearly by the team at The King House Gallery - I knew my work was in safe hands. Due to travel restrictions I was unable to travel from Ireland but between social media updates and emails I was always kept in the loop which I am very grateful.
4. What inspires you and defines your artistic style?
One of the many reasons I love being an artist is that my ‘job’ is to highlight the beauty of the world around us. I get to look for it, create it and share it. Those who are familiar with my work know I’m obsessed with capturing the light as it moves across the landscape. Most of my inspiration comes from being in nature. What I consider beautiful others might just pass it by and I enjoy creating work that shows a place in a whole new light. My time spent gardening, reading books on spirituality and self improvement, journaling, meditation and music are all part of the artistic process.
5. What are your future artistic plans/ what are you working on right now?
Until recently, here in Ireland, we've had 5k restrictions so getting to locations I enjoy within the county were out of reach. Thankfully we’ve been able to travel a bit more now and I have been drawn to the sea and local woodlands, both of which I've missed. I’ve been reacquainting myself with these landscapes and I plan to do a series of ‘missed’ landscapes in pastel. I’m also working on a watercolour series of native Irish wildlife, which includes the Irish hare, red squirrel, red deer to name but a few.
6. Is there anything you’ve learnt that has helped you as an artist that you could share and /or advice you would like to give to your younger self?
Throughout my life I have resisted to create the work that lies inside me. There’s a book that I read last year called 'Just Do The Work' by Steven Prescott and it has changed the way I look at resistance. He explains that resistance is a sign that you are dreaming big and that you’re on the right track.
"The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel” - Steven Pressfield, Do the Work
I’ve learned that when you really listen to yourself and when I say ‘yourself’ I mean that tiny but persistent voice inside of you, when you really listen to that voice and take action life will reward you in ways that will amaze you.
Siobhan, we thank you very much for your participation in the competition and for sharing your thoughts with us! We can't wait to see more of your work, and we wish you all the best in your very promising art career.