OK, I have set up a portrait studio/gallery in Greystones, which opened last year. I am focusing on seascapes and portraits.
My mission statement is to paint good quality portraits of people in Greystones and beyond – children, retirements, weddings, births, memorial portraits for prosperity.
A painting that can be handed down through the family generations. Also, I intend to study the coast and the sea shore all around us – again, to adorn the family home.
I grew up in Kilmacud. I studied art in Dublin, and also in Berlin. I have been painting and earning my living from art for 25 years. My earliest memory of drawing is my father teaching me how to draw a face when I was 3 or 4. Also, I remember copying a seascape my mother’s father had painted – he was an artist too. These both sparked my lifelong love, and study, of the portait and of the sea.
I had immediate success with the art critics whilst still in college, and got many a good write-up in The Irish Times. I have been well represented by galleries in Dublin. Now, the Duke gallery and the Sandford gallery – at the moment I am preparing a show through the Duke for the Luan gallery – a municipal gallery for 2016, of portraits of the 1916 rebels.
Throughout my career I have met and sold art – mostly portraits – to many, many celebrities. Too many to mention, Louis Walsh being one, Gerald Keane, Amanda Bunker… the list goes on. I have also exhibited worldwide – Paris, London, New York, Beijing, Manchester. Throughout my childhood, we came regularly to Greystones beach to picnic and swim. I have always loved Greystones, and while travelling extensively in Europe for many years, it was the obvious place for me, my wife and children to settle down in. I love my new gallery, my new chapter in my career, and I am looking forward to many, many years of painting here for the Greystones community.
BOOKS ON A TABLE (2005) by Tom Byrne This painting was a homage to three portrait painters that have influenced me over the years. In it are Louis le Broqui, Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud, I suppose three of the greatest or most famous portrait artists known – and, yes, they influenced me in a major way for years. I love their portraits and my early style of portraiture would reflect major influences by them; not so much now, as my style has changed a bit to a more formalised portrait, becoming more realistic. Still, I do experiment with portraits now and again.
SEAMUS HEANEY (2013) by Tom Byrne I put this painting in because it is similar to the work of Belfast-born portait artist Colin Davidson. It’s a large scale portrait I did for a museum exhibition I had last year in Dublin. This painting, although 7 x 4 feet, was actually one of the smallest portraits in the show. They were all portraits of our Nobel Prize winning poets and writers. I loved doing the show – it was a huge success, and had record attendence in the museum for that year. The painting now adorns the outside of my portrait studio in greystones, and, yes, the painting is the original oil on canvas hanging outside the gallery on the main street. And, yes, I am mad.
SUNRISE SEASCAPE GREYSTONES (2010) by Tom Byrne Again, I picked this seascape of the mens in Greystones to show the similarity between my work and [Irish Expressionist landscape painter] Donald Teskey – the only difference is that he paints the west coast, and I paint the east coast. I paint mostly around the local area; I know it like the back of my hand. I have been going to this beach since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. The first seascape I did was of Blackrock, when I was about 14 or 15. I love the concentration and peace I felt whilst I was painting it. I mostly paint in my studio now, but soon I plant to paint out in the plain air again. This painting was part of a pair of large-scale 100cm x 100cm paintings, one of the Wicklow coast and one of the Greystones coast (this one), both now sold. But, don’t despair, I have others in my gallery!
BOY IN A YARD (1954) by Louis le Brocquy I used to go on the mitch from school when I was a kid and go to the art museums in Dublin. This painting really made an impression on me. The composition, the colour, the concept – it reminded me of when I would be at home in my back garden as a child, my mother telling me to go out and play. I would just stand out in the yard. The painting haunted me for years. Later in life, I got the opportunity to do a portrait of the artist himself, Louis, but he was very old, and couldn’t sit for me when he was too sick. Still, over the years, I did many a portrait of him that were very satisfying. I also exhibited with him regularly in a gallery in Dublin.
SEAMUS HEANEY (2013) by Colin Davidson I love Colin’s work, and a lot of his interests in subject matter coincide with mine. Probably that’s why I like his work. This painting is part of a series of large scale portaits he did of Irish poets, just as I did. Just a coincidence, but for a while, I thought Colin was copying me. But, of course, he wasn’t. I met him once, and he agreed to sit for me for a portait. I’m looking forward to that. So far, we haven’t had time to do it, but we’re friends on Facebook, and we see each other from time to time.
OFFSHORE (2007) by Donald Teskey I love Donald’s work. He studies the west coast of Ireland, among other things. He has been painting seascapes for decades, as have I. I love his heavy use of the palette knife technique on this painting, very masterful, and it’s lovely to see a world class Irish artist practising his craft. Again, I met Teskey at an exhibition, but I was too shy to say hi. Later, I heard that he’s very friendly and approachable. Ah well. I follow Donald’s career. I love his handling of paint and his mastery of the medium. He also practises print, mostly seascapes, in the Black Church Print Studio in Dublin. Will have to hang out there more often.
FOOTNOTE You know, I still love art – my art and other people’s. I’m still learning, still discovering new artists that move me. For example, William Wray [American cartoonist and landscape painter] is my latest craze. I love his work. My advise to any young artist starting out on his artistic journey would be to make sure that you have plenty of fun painting. And stick with it.
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