Throughout my life, I have tried all sorts of painting styles but creating portraits is by far my favourite. Capturing a moment, a facial expression, telling a story with someones eyes. It's all about the eyes. If I get that wrong, the painting just doesn't work. Because of my work as an actor I have this natural ability to read people on a deeper level to most. I study them. Their body language, their facial expressions. On screen, I capture a character and bring them to life. On canvas, I do the exact same.
I have a particular passion for painting iconic sporting moments and I know this all comes from the kid in me who simply idolised my sporting heroes. I would study them to every last detail, their appearance, their body language, their apparel. I used to dream of becoming a professional footballer and walking out in front of 76,000 fans at Old Trafford. I used to dream of facing the Irish flag during our national anthem while representing our great little nation at the World Cup finals. Sadly, that never happened for me but I have no reason to complain. Through my work as an actor and as an artist, I have lived out many other dreams in a million different ways. I have met my heroes. I have had dinner in the presence of Muhammad Ali. I have met Mike Tyson so many times he knows me by name. I have been a personally invited guest to a World Premiere by Robert De Niro. I have worked on a Martin Scorsese produced movie and I have shared a stage with Al Pacino. I have created portraits for many of my favourite footballers and boxers. I am a genuine and passionate sports fan and I have been gifted so many wonderful signed items that I will treasure for ever.
When I am asked to create a portrait for a customer, it becomes quiet a personal experience for me. It's not just a job. I have to study that person in order to create them. I don't just research images. I watch interviews with them. I pick up on little character traits they may have. Every fine detail analysed. Sometimes you have a customer that simply sees you as someone doing a job for them. They shake your hand and say 'Thank you' and that's it. And that's absolutely fine. As long as they are happy, I am happy but in a lot of cases, and this is what I love, you see the most incredible reaction when they see their painting in person for the first time. That moment is worth its weight in gold for me! In that moment it makes the countless hours of work worth it. In that moment, it makes my incredibly strict eye for perfection worth it and I am already buzzing to start my next painting.
I use mostly black and white with selected colour that really puts emphasis on something in particular that strongly relates to the subject. Key features that are made 'pop' when in colour.
In most cases, I select one strong image with real significance. A career defining moment or personal milestone. Or an iconic pose. For example, I recently asked legendary Irish footballer John O'Shea if he had any particular image in mind and he put a lot of trust in me when he simply said, "something memorable". With that trust also comes pressure. Pressure to choose the right moment. Pressure to truly capture it and bring it back to life. Pressure I absolutely thrive on! John has had an incredibly successful career for both club and country but having recently retired from international football, I felt it had to be an iconic moment from his days in a green shirt and for me, that iconic moment was his equalising goal in the 94th minute in a crucial Euro 2016 qualifier away World Champions Germany. It really doesn't get much bigger than that... oh, and did I mention it was his 100th cap for Ireland. Stuff of dreams!
I receive so many heartfelt messages from customers that mean more to me than I could ever justify with words. Some paintings I have created are of stars that are sadly no longer with us and to have their family contact me weeks, months even a year later to once again thank me for something that really brightens up their day every time they walk passed it in their home- it's difficult to express how that really makes me feel. I have developed some fantastic and very surprising friendships through my art. That comes from a special connection on a personal level. Recreating that special moment or special someone. I feel truly honoured to be handed that task and to be entrusted with that responsibility.
Sometimes I'm under pressure with a backlog of orders but never have I thought, "Oh, I don't have time for this". Truth is, I absolutely love painting! I find it very relaxing and it's often a great escape from other pressures or stresses. I'm like a kid when I take out a new blank canvas, paint and brushes at the ready and with a vision in my mind, I challenge myself to portray that vision on the canvas in front of me. Sometimes my plan might change slightly as I'm painting but such is life. I just adapt and go with with it and I cannot wait to reveal each one to the world!
I don't aspire to be an all time great painter. Truth is, I consider myself an actor first and foremost. I also paint. I also record voice over. I'm also a credited executive movie producer and I'm even attempting to delve into the world of script writing. But what do all these things have in common? They are all 'Art'. They are all 'Me'. My greatest strength is my creativity and my creativity knows no boundaries.
A quote by Maya Angelou is one I always loved and always live by;
"You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have".