EIMEAR MAGUIRE BRINGING US CLOSER TO THE NATURE
Updated: Aug 12, 2018
My guest today is a lovely lady, who runs Dolly Birds Art Studio in Belfast! We had a great Skype interview and she ‘walked’ me around her studio! I really hope, I will be able to visit Eimear’s studio in the future, but for now, enjoy her story and incredibly intricate work!
Can you please tell me about your journey of becoming an artist?
I was very lucky, as I come from a very creative family. I suppose, for me becoming an artist was all I ever wanted to be and all I ever wanted to do, for as long as I can remember.
My daddy made a career out of making bodhrán, which is an Irish drum, but he also painted and created sculptures. We used to be around him and we were always seeing him being creative and being able to make a living out of it. For us sitting on the sofa with him in the evening and drawing was normal. I can’t remember ever wanting to be anything other than an artist when I was younger. I was really lucky to have that encouragement from my parents too. My whole family is very creative, so it has always been encouraged. My sister is an architect, my younger sister is an art teacher, but she also paints a lot and she’s married an artist too.
When did you start your business?
I started this in 2013, coming on to 5 years now, which feels like an awfully long time. However, I had to stop for a bit in between. My husband is a chef and has opened his own restaurant two years ago. It has been really intense, so two years ago I had to stop for about a year and a half, while he opened a restaurant. We both needed to focus on that. I also have two kids, so I am a full-time mother. It’s all leveled out now, so I have been able to focus on Dolly Birds again.
How did you come up with the concept of your studio?
Well, Belfast is a city within mountains. Mountains go around the city on one side. I’m lucky to live right beside them. So every morning I will be out in the mountains and that’s why I decided to paint birds. I also spent a lot of time in the countryside as a child, and my daddy always told me about the birds and taught me how to tell the birds apart.
At the same time, I started this business at home. I really just started off painting on our dining table, so it had to be something that was a small scale, just to be practical. So the birds made a lot of sense in every way. It was something that I loved and I wanted to paint, but also something that practically worked for me.
Is it just you in the studio at the moment or do you have someone working with you?
Yes- at the moment it is just me. There will be times throughout the year when I bring people in just to give me a hand. For example, if I get large orders through. It is relatively easy to do though, sometimes it would be a friend or a sibling or someone from the shared studio. I can always bring people in to give me a hand. However, the aim is (this is what I am working towards) to be able to employ someone fulltime; to help me to get orders out and do all the things that I'm not great at - like all the admin stuff (giggles).
I think it is the same for every artist, when you start a new painting you think that it will be the best painting you have ever created!
Is your studio located in a bigger shared studio facility?
Yes. I think it used to be an office building, which was empty for a while. Architectural practice Oscar and Oscar took it over some time ago. Then I came along and then other artists started to join us. Now all spaces are taken. There are 11 different artisans in here, we even have a baker!
What is your typical day in the studio like?
It is never a typical day and that’s why I love so much what I do. You never really know what the week is going to bring.
However, every morning starts the same way. I walk in the mountains for 20 minutes, maybe half an hour. Some days I take a bit longer and spend an hour there. I feel like, I really can justify that because that is where I am getting all of my inspiration.
When I get into my studio it all starts with a long list, so I just tick it off as I go along.
I can go for weeks when I'm only painting all the time and then there will be some weeks, where I’m working on admin stuff or getting orders ready. It depends on what orders I have.
How do you choose what birds to paint?
Sometimes I feel a connection to certain birds. Maybe it is the first time I have seen a bird or maybe I keep seeing the same bird over and over again. When I paint birds, I like to paint them as I see them. At the moment there is one painting, which is not finished, it needs a little bit of work and that’s a Jay. I haven’t seen the Jay before and then I saw a flock of them. I was so excited!
I was actually in the bushes in the park on the mountain because they are very shy. The warden came around to see if I was okey, so I had to explain that I am bird watching.
I like to watch birds and see what their personality is, and how they behave. So, when I paint them I feel like I’m pertaining that.
Do you sketch or take photographs while you bird watching?
Yes, it is both and I also look at books. People, who know, what I do send me photographs of birds. Sometimes people reach out to me on Instagram or Facebook and send me photos or even books!
Some birds I paint are not necessarily from one image. It might be a lot of different parts of images. I put them together, so I can get the composition that I am happy with.
Do you paint anything else other than birds?
Before I started painting birds, a lot of my paintings were abstract. However, I had a break from painting for about 6 years. I was working as a community artist. This kind of job takes away all of your creative energy and you have nothing left for yourself.
When I started painting again I wanted to paint something realistic. I think I wanted to prove to myself that I could paint.
At the moment, I am doing some botanical work. I have a series of three; there is Monstera, Rubber Leaf and a Banana Leaf. Last week I started a Furn.
The series started because a girl from a local plant shop commissioned me to paint a Monstera. Now I have increased the series and I would like to get another three botanical paintings completed. The three paintings that I have got at the moment went to Kew Gardens. It is interesting, how this series developed and started the life of its own.
Sometime I do some lino or mono printing or abstract painting, just to keep creative thinking going
Do you need a specific setting to start painting?
It is funny you ask that! Recently I watched a video of an artist, who had a little studio in the garden. He would go there with a flask of tea. Before painting, he would put a blanket over himself, pour his tea and have all his pencils around him. He would sharpen all pencils and then he was ready to start. And that’s exactly what I do.
Almost every night I will do a little bit of painting from home. I find it really relaxing and I really enjoy it, even if it is half an hour. On Friday and Saturday nights, I can paint for about three hours until 2 or 3 am. Once you get into it, you don’t want to stop!
You have to make a little comfortable nest for yourself. I like having all my tools around me, all my brushes, so I can switch to different sizes easily. I also prepare a pallet with all the colours that I need. I have the second pallet with the colours I think I might need. Once all of that is ready, then I start painting and relax into it.
With each painting I want to see that I have discovered something new and that I am progressing and getting better
All photographs for this interview were kindly provided by Eimear
You can see more of Dolly Birds work here