I get inspired to paint from all types of media, be it photography, video, music, and work from other artists past and present. I also get inspiration from meeting people every day. From shape and form. Sometimes I may see someone in a certain light and think they would be great to paint. And it may be a split-second thought but I try to remember things like this and reimagine it when I sit down and decide what to paint. I think with portrait painting, the face, of course, is the most important thing in the painting to get right. Everything else rests on this.
The proportions of people’s features have to be exactly correct or else they look either strange and distorted or they look like someone else entirely. This is where research it very important. If artist are working off a singular photo of someone this can be quite detrimental to the likeness trying to be achieved. Some people just don’t look like themselves in a photograph. I think everyone is familiar with this feeling. That is where a portrait painting of someone can really shine.
I am also fascinated with caricatures. I take elements from the art of caricature and apply them, more subtly to my own portraits. Caricaturists purposely exaggerate the prominent features and expressions on the subjects face. This is where the subject’s real personality comes out. There are various different degrees to which each caricaturist will take this. But these aspects are very clear to be seen, and often people are as recognisable in caricature format as they are in a typical portrait. I have studied the art of caricature and learned from some of the best. However I prefer to take only some elements of caricature and apply them to my paintings. It just means the viewer may have to look a bit closer and longer but the personality can still shine out as much as a caricature. Whether it is the lines in someone’s face, the slight enlarging of the eyes, or wry smile usually evident on someone’s face, all these little touches help to create an interesting and eye catching portrait.
I believe that every portrait painting shows a mood. And I try to convey this in my portraits. I constantly look back and the work of past masters and their use of colour. This helps me keep my skin tones correct and also techniques such as sufmato and chiaroscuro can produce great results that still have the same results today as they did 500 years ago.
As an artist you are always striving to be different, you look at the past, learn the techniques and try to add something else original and make it yours. When I was starting off as an artist I was told by the owner of a prominent gallery in Dubln that I need to be original and have my own unique mode of expression that would differentiate me from the pack and catch people’s eye. This is when I came up with the ‘In-III’ idea. It was basically another way of showing emotion in the subject’s face. I usually contrast the two outside images with the one in the middle to emphasis the expression and feeling in the inner face. This works better with certain people and certain expressions but I really enjoy doing these paintings and they have now become my signature technique.
When watching movies or watching concert footage I sometimes get the urge to paint. This has always been a string source of inspiration for me. Actors and musicians have an amazing sense of energy and passion that I feel can be captured often in one single image. I try to find the image while I am watching the movie/concert. I have always painted from my life’s passions and these are part of that. I have been a huge U2 fan from an early age, and that is evident from the amount of U2 paintings I have produced over the years. When I am painting I will listen to that artist’s music. It helps me focus and drives me to work for hours on end. I often spend up to 12 hours a day working on some paintings. The hours fly by when I am listening to the music. I am a huge music fan but can’t play any instruments. Maybe painting musicians playing music is the closest I can get to creating music.
I also look at the techniques of contemporary artists and try to apply these to my paintings. Artists such as Daniel E, Greene, Chuck Close, and Sebastian Kruger constantly provide me with ideas to take and run with and make my own. I would hope that my work will provide that service to young artists in the future.
I constantly look for inspiration for my paintings. I think every good artist can never turn it off. You can’t. It’s just something within you. It never leaves you. And it’s a great thing. I can honestly say I have never been bored in my spare time in my life. I constantly have ideas to put on paper.