First, thank you for accepting our invite for this interview.
Let's start, when did you feel like your artistic career was getting the attention it deserved?
I've never really thought about recognition as a factor in what I do. There are, of course, benefits to recognition - chief of which is that more people are willing to invest in the work and so you have greater freedom in pursuing your calling.
I create art, in the first place, because I have to. If I don't, I get anxious. I sell it so I can continue to do so. The work explores my own experience and it's great that others connect with that and see their own lives in the drawings and paintings.
How do you navigate between your love for the arts and science as well as your interests in IT and digital photography?
I think for art to be worthwhile it has to come from the heart. Expression is always most powerful when it's honest. So, when it comes to the various media that I use it's not a conscious decision.
I've found too that the medium dictates how I approach things. Photography is great for recording what's on the outside, whereas painting or drawing can present emotion with a greater strength.
I've spent a large part of my life as a scientist so I approach things with that ethos in balance with my creative subconscious. Science is a journey, a form of description and a way to measure things factually as well as to pose questions on how the world works and my art does that in parallel. I explore how the mind works and describe that.
The conscious part of the brain can describe synapses, nerves and frontal lobes but is that really how the mind thinks of itself? How does the feeling of bronchitis present itself to the subconscious? Emotions are not logical and I investigate them using a scientific approach to creative thought. An example is my blind left eye. I know logically it's due to scarring on the retina but I feel as if a part of my head is missing. Drawing that blindness and how it feels involves art and science.
The limitations of science are that you observe what exists, the genius of art is you can create the impossible and the unknown. I've been given a special gift in that I'm an artist with a scientific training and I'm conscious that what I imagine and what I understand are parallel rivers that can intersect and drift apart.
Your color palette and combination is fantastic. What ignites your color choices?
Thanks, I really love bright bold colours. Part of that relates to my blindness where I'm aware no colour, other than a cloudy milk white, exists. When I'm creating something, my brain will subconsciously choose the colours I work with. I suppose as my work is about expression the colours reinforce that. Life would be a very drab place without the spectrum to add excitement. Colour is an exciting and vibrant ingredient of art.
Why do you prefer to also use pen and ink among the variety of media you pick for your works?
I love pen & ink as it's so immediate and I'm really comfortable with it. As part of my scientific training I studied graphic techniques which is a discipline that was central to scientific description in the 19th century and I've found that that training has stayed with me. Part of the approach calls for clarity and legibility. I think that's why so many of my pieces are deceptively simple yet are complex when you explore them. It's a school of art that is devoted to accurate description and directness. Ink can be an unforgiving medium - make a mistake and the image is ruined. Oddly (and fortunately) that rarely happens. But because the work is from the heart even mistakes create portals to new understanding. My approach is to constantly question and experiment and recently I've combined ink with gouache paint. I love the bold colour and opacity of the medium. Having said that watercolour and oils appeal to me too!
Who makes up the community of collectors that are drawn to your work?
At first thought I'm not sure that my collectors have much in common other than being very pleasant to engage with. I'm very grateful for their interest and their support. When someone invests in one of my pieces I usually write them a letter explaining what the work means to me and being clear that that is just one interpretation. As my inspiration is from my subconscious I'm aware that people react to the pieces very differently depending on their own experience. I'm very pleased too that my work is finding new homes in locations as far apart as the Czech Republic and Peru. Every time I ship a piece I hope that it will find a new home and give its owner pleasure. I suppose if I had to find a common link I think it's fair to say that those who collect my work are independent minded and know what they like.
What does it mean to you to be the most followed artist in Ireland? How did you get there?
It's great to have the support of so many people on social media. I didn't know what to expect when I first started sharing my work so it has been a very encouraging experience. I tend to upload images regularly, say a little about them and engage with people who engage with me. I've had great conversations with people and discovered lots of exciting artists and galleries. Social media is fantastic as it allows you to find out what's going on in the wider art world. It's worth pointing out that social media is a common leveler. It's an unregulated forum for the world's opinions. There are, of course, some negative voices but the majority of people are positive and life-affirming. I have a voracious appetite when it comes to learning and social media allows you to connect with the thoughts of astronauts and land ladies.
In addition to your paintings, you love photography and have a series with pictures from cities around the world. What are your favorite cities to capture the best moments with your camera?
Photography, for me, is not about a location. It's really about a feeling. It's totally illogical but I find that the images I take whilst in a good mood tend to strike a chord. I usually travel on my own and want to get beneath the skin of a place. Friendly cities work best for me. Amsterdam and Berlin are great in that regard. The images I take chart how I feel at that time. A photographic image is more than just a reproduction of an event or place - its also a story, a composition and a view point.
What are some of the lessons or truths you have discovered about yourself through your art?
The biggest discovery I've made is about memory. I have lousy memory. I can read a book and know I really liked it but not remember the plot. I can read it again a month later and still be surprised by the ending. Through my art, however, I've rediscovered much of what I learnt in science and ideas that I came across years ago. It seems my subconscious has an excellent memory. My brain acts as a sponge to everything I've experienced. It's been really comforting to realise that the things I've learnt are stored in my subconscious waiting to appear at the end of a pen or paintbrush.
Nature, science, art, photography, travel make up some of your passions. Do you have any time left for other hobbies?
I'm a big believer in taking time to smell the roses. Some people knit, others garden and then there are those who jog or read. In the 21st century, employers expect us to be always 'on'. The human body or mind can't cope with that. We need to take time out to relax and creation or exercise are vital parts of keeping sane. Years ago, I used to teach kids math and my heart would sink when they'd tell me that they were no good at math. Then I'd discover they knew gambling odds and just exactly how many fractions of an ounce of cannabis they were ferrying between customers. You don't know what you can do until you try or in the case of those kids that you are doing it already. I'd encourage everyone to draw and paint, it's a basic human action. OK not everyone can be Michelangelo but they can tell the story of their own lives. Art is a seriously untapped therapy that's available to anyone with a scrap piece of paper and a pen. Creating a mark or placing characters in order clarifies the mind and charts how we feel.
What are some of the happiest thoughts that have fueled your daily life and work in recent days?
Creation, for me, is expression. How I feel is how and what I draw. My work is intuitive and visceral. If you read the interviews of Francis Bacon or the reported comments of Picasso they constantly assert that the personal is the subject and I can relate to that. They approached their work with startling honesty and so we relate to the elemental in that work. When I draw or paint I've often found that the images are hidden to my conscious and I don't understand them. Later, with the benefit of time, my conscious digests them and I understand how I felt and what I was telling myself. The subconscious is a deep substratum heaving with emotion and memory, repository of my entire experience - the artworks reflect that world and allow me to understand how and why I feel.