Today is the 7 year anniversary of the very first time I shared some of my encaustic work with the public. I consider today my ART BIRTHDAY... and how grateful am I to have such a thing!
Almost ten years ago I had my beautiful second "light of my life" baby boy Isaac, a beautiful brother for our stunning wee Sam and the completion of our little happy family unit.... unfortunately, I was also made redundant and suffered a mini stroke within the space of 6 weeks...it brought me back to painting....
I had previously stopped all creative activity in my life at 18years of age...I was hospitalised with a blood condition called ITP for near on 3 yrs and after a lot of heartache and medical intervention and the failings of several hardcore drug regimes I finally had a spleenectomy as a result...
At aged 16 After my junior certificate school examinations my parents allowed me travel on two busses a morning across the county and the city to attend Marino College in Fairview..we were living in Kildare at the time but Marino had an extended leaving cert program that incorporated (get this!!) drama, art, photography, broadcasting....it sounded to my young ears like 'FAME' that american hit programne from the 80,s with Leroy (who I fancied terribly) and the dude with the hair and the piano ( remember him??) My parents were cool about it. After all GAY BYRNES daughter went there. Lol!
I loved Marino, it really stirred in me a desire for a true creative outlet in my life, we did scriptwriting, lifedrawing (clothed-we were minors) photography shoots, lunch time pic-nics in the park across the road with cans of cola and a pack of fags....happy happy days! I even got to do my work experience in TempleBar Studios and Galleries..TWICE...it looked way different back then...but my art teacher was the rather fabulous Margaret Tuffy...I was smitten and ambitious and hungry and each day I walked into that building I buzzed!
Near the end of my two jam packed years in Marino I was struggling with the decisions ahead. Fine art or photography? I decided to stay on in Marino under the tutelage of the marvelous photographer Frank Barr and spend a year with the camera, before applying to NCAD to study fine art!
It never happened.. NCAD!
Shortly after completing the photography programne I was hospitalised with a blood condition called ITP...an autoimmune condition which sees your own body attack your platelets. This is basically your clotting mechanism, every day for 3 years my platelets were rock bottom ... risk of haemorrhage was ever present, if I crossed my legs they bruised. I remember having a completely black bruised chin for a week because I ate an apple....
My in-hospital routine was daily platelet transfusions and immunotherapy. It wasn't much fun but I found it where I could and used to hang out in the old hospital smoking rooms with the old codgers and what we used to call their handbags. (most of the chaps were prostate and cancer patients and often would have to walk around with a catheter bag- the humour was often very black and downright hilarious- humour is always my first line of defence and I do blame these chaps x).
I was 22 before my life resumed. My friends were graduating college starting new jobs launching themselves into real adult life.. and here I was frail, exhausted, confused eldest girl of a large family and feeling immense personal pressure to get a career and a job started, to move on, to adult! In no time at all I had completed a legal secretarial course and was working as a law clerk for solicitors within the court system...my brother somehow managed to get me work experience with Jim Fitzpatrick a fantastic guy with so much varied and interesting life experience, somebody who had had his own health issues and overcome them with a great deal of bounce and good humour, and no "poor me, why me" selfpity he was an inspiration to me. He still is.
Life moved on and I settled into having administration roles, wages, living a 9 to 5 life. I was living with girlfriends in harold's cross having a right old time when I met my future husband and within a couple of years are we living in France together, few more years England, later again we married in Cyprus and returned to Ireland to start our family and build our home at home.
it was only on our return to Ireland that I started to pick up a paint brush again, for some reason I bought a set of watercolours, I dabbled, painting little finches and birds, flowers. It was a nice relaxing past time and yet I always saw it as just that! A past time. My new life was unidentifiable from the one I had imagined as a child...but there was no deep strong stir in me for that creative outlet. YET!
Roll onto 2009, still dabbling with the paint brushes, I had discovered encaustic iron work...a gorgeous craft with an iron and wax and card, were you could build layers of wax into optical illusions that looked like images, landscapes, abstracts...I started to experiment a little I was quite excited about this new medium. But again this was a past time... My hobby..
All that changed with my redundancy the birth of my child and my mini stroke... Something in me decided that life was too short and too fleeting not to do the things that I wanted to do... I had to get out of my own way ...to try and grasp the nettle as they say, but more than that it became my therapy, my council and gave me a place to go, and say and feel what would not necessarily be socially acceptable to shout from the rooftops... And for the first time in years I saw that I didnt have to become a victim of my health circumstances, I was in control of my own destiny!
Now don't get me wrong the work was crap, and I was terrified, I was learning from zero up, and in a bid to control some of what I was feeling I was back to painting birds and flowers and trying to stay away from exposing any raw emotion... But the practice of sitting still and focusing and experimenting with colour and texture and layers and giving myself that headspace was incredibly cathartic.
I was beginning to share some of these little pieces of work on the internet on Facebook, and through social media.. friends and family were super supportive and in NO RIGHT MIND, when I was asked if I was interested in a stall at a local Christmas market I snapped at the chance. I was terrified but exhilarated... I was all ego and no skill whatsoever but I framed up those babies and went with my very warm sweater on, my scarf and my sister Nyree by my side and sold a lot of those early pieces....
Looking back now I feel I had no right to be there, but if I hadn't have taken the bull by the horns THEN I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing NOW.. I wouldn't have given space to my life in the pursuit of creativity.
In more recent years my health has been suffering again. This past 3 years has seen me with a lot of ups and downs suffering from chronic fatigue, endometriosis, thyroid problems, fibromyalgia.... Most recently with the help of an autoimmune protocol diet keto and paleo (read - super boring!) I feel my energy restore...after taking much of the spring and summer off this year to concentrate on reviving my physical self.. I'm feeling strong...
I have dyed my hair pink to remind me I'm alive and well enough to care about such things...
I am shifting things around in the studio.. there is a great itch in me to get going again...2017 was a good year for me... good work..great shows...a two location Solo...but I was mentally and physically exhausted and what it took out of me and away from the family to do so, was immence!
This coming year I want to further develop the body of print works I've been dabbling with, extend on the techniques that I'm using... 2019 feels full of expectation & opportunity, and I am starting the year in KERRY, in Cill Railaig on a residency I have been awarded... The most wonderful way to launch yourself into a new year.... And I'm full of optimism for 2019.
And so today I am SEVEN, and I wonder if this is the REAL first of my seven year cycles... Regardless it is giving me a moment to consider what has happened before, what might happen again and how I might approach it... Life will always throw us curve balls. I'm not naturally an optimist, more of a realist with a touch of 'glass half empty' tendency on a bad day, but if life is a cycle I shall continue to pedal along doing my best, and I am super grateful for the opportunity.
Thank you for supporting me along the way.
Contemporary Visual Artist working in mixed media/encaustic based in the drumlins of Co.Monaghan. Ireland.