Artistic License: Lucy Doyle

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Vibrant unseen works by the popular Wicklow-based artist launches this week at The Doorway Gallery …

Is there a theme running through your new paintings?

I am working on a collection of paintings with a solo show in mind for 2021. I tend to have a solo show every two years so that I can concentrate on each painting making sure they are completely resolved. I usually come up with a mood or feel factor for a collection of paintings, and this time it’s called “Viridian” which is a beautiful translucent green pigment.  

The idea came to me, in a strange sort of roundabout way, with Marian Keyes the author, who over the past ten years or so has continued to support me as she loves my work. She knows my style, my sizes and keeps an eye on what I am working on, for which I am forever grateful. Marian has such a generous, sensitive and creative soul, I really admire and love her. So early last year she contacted me looking to see if I had any large compositions available or on the go. The gallery that represents me was out of them but I had some very white and blank canvases of that size already waiting in my studio, as I had planned my summer ahead. It was one of those occasions which worked out well for both of us. Marian sensitively stipulated nothing except the size and a preference for lots of green. Again that was such a lucky coincidence as I had recently realised that I hadn’t worked with greens for a long time, my last show was called “Blue Moon” so my headspace was somewhere completely different. That was the excuse I needed to justify the cost of ordering a huge tube of viridian green paint from my favourite paint maker and “Viridian” was born. That said, not all the paintings are green, “Indigo Sleep” is as described. That’s what they call artistic licence. 

Florals have always been a focal point and you are fortunate to have inspiration on your doorstep with your garden. Have you any favourite flowers you like to paint?  

I am very lucky in that I have a lovely, generous husband who kindly let me take over his vegetable patch on which to plant my dahlias. We live quite high up in sheep country so the soil is naturally about a half a centimetre deep and the bed rock seems very near the surface. Nick has spent decades creating a good soil by adding compost etc so that now we can get a spade in. In truth, I think it was the constant war with pigeons, caterpillars, cats and wireworms. I just provided the excuse he was looking for to pack it in and retreat to his poly tunnel. Over the years I have added lupins, ornamental poppies, delphiniums, in fact it’s a bit of a hotchpotch and there are times when I can look at it and love all the colours working together but then something completely discordant blooms and ruins the balance, so I have to continually remind myself that I have grown these flowers for cutting and bringing into the studio to paint. My first love was and still is dahlias: my first dahlias were grown in pots around the house, one year a fierce wind blew a whole lot of red dahlias over and so I painted them, and that was it, I never looked back. They have such pure, clean, glowing colours, they can grow to great heights, they have abundant flowers and leaves, and they come in a great variety of shapes and sizes; they just never cease to amaze me. When they are all flowering in late summer, the garden looks like one big firework display – they always bring a smile to my face, even the seed heads are great to paint. The soil in my garden is very stony and free-draining so I don’t have to lift the dahlias at the end of the season, they just stay in the soil all winter, so that makes it very easy for me to grow them. 

 

How have you been finding lockdown?

Right now, it still feels so bizarre and surreal to be living through this extraordinary time in global history. I feel so deeply for all those people personally touched by this new virus that has caught us all out. Apart from the worry and concern for the health and welfare of the country and world I live in, my daily life has been very little impacted.  Nothing really has changed in my work pattern as I paint from home, my husband is now retired and my children are grown-up and have families of their own. I live in rural Wicklow, so I am used to a quiet life, I have my studio and workshop a few yards from my back door. The studio is a glorified wooden hut but it is my sanctuary and it’s all I need. I use the house for my office and for working out ideas, the studio is just for the messy business of painting, it should really have a hazardous warning sign on the door. Or maybe just a WET PAINT sign hanging on the door handle! The workshop is where I do all my own framing, so I am always at one or the other. My observed subject matter is the immediate world around me and I invent the figures in my compositions from my imagination. 

I always have a work plan that I set out to do, so I know more or less what I am going to paint in the coming months and years ahead. What I did do though, as a direct reaction to lockdown, was to embark on a large canvas that I might not have worked on until later in the summer. This was a deliberate act on my part to give me peace of mind for the hours I knew I would have to concentrate on the painting. Pure escapism on my part! The painting was planned before lockdown, but seemed so pertinent to the times; a reclining female form in an outdoor, shaded, woodland setting, dipping her hand in a pool of water. It has a dream-like quality of cocooning and safety; it gave me peace of mind. I also upped my presence on Instagram by putting out and sharing daily images of my colourful work to try and build positivity and joy, as a distraction.

Do you work on individual commissions and portraits? 

No, I haven’t gone down the portraiture path, it’s an art form in its own right and not one I have taken. I don’t work well under outside pressure – I work in my own time with my own personal challenges that I set myself. I am always working on a body of work that would consist of flower paintings, still life, interiors and figures. I work in a variety of sizes the smallest would be 25x25cm, the largest 152x152cm, though I have worked larger.  My paintings are always available for anyone to see and purchase at any time, I paint around 20 a year. I will work towards a solo show so keep back paintings for this event, and then they would be kept and shown at the gallery permanently, in my case The Doorway Gallery, Dublin. I am always happy to help people and keep them up to date. I use Instagram as an art diary to this end, keeping all my followers informed.

Need to Know: Lucy Doyle will be participating in a live question and answer session on Thursday June 11 at 6pm, organised by The Doorway Gallery, 24 South Frederick Street, Dublin 2. To participate visit: www.facebook.com/doorwaygallerydublin/

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