“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the things you did. Sail away from the safe harbour, explore, dream.” — Mark Twain
In recent times, much has been made of the impossibility of earning a living through art. You may win prizes for your work, it may even achieve some commercial success, yet it remains an in-viable means of sustaining oneself in a profit-centric world. Most artists must find gainful employment in order to pay the bills. And if you commit to being a full-time artist, you are also committing to poverty in most cases. So, it begs the question, why do it?
Recently, I visited artist Kevin Mallon in his studio in County Monaghan. Kevin attended the Lynn University in Florida where he studied Media and Communications, before completing an MA in film production. He then spent three years working for a T.V. production company. From an outside perspective, it would seem that Kevin had achieved the dream. We tend to view anyone from a small town that is working in the film industry in America as having made it! It seems glamorous, screaming ‘I’ve succeeded.’ Yet, at the age of twenty-seven, Kevin threw it all in and returned to his hometown where he set up his studio.
“It wasn’t making me happy,” he tells me, “It was my intent to always keep painting an integral part of my life, however as time goes on your energy gets more and more invested in other areas. I was working on bringing other people’s projects to fruition and completely neglecting my own artistic contribution. Nothing else gives me satisfaction and purpose. Honing my technique and seeing my work progress over the past three years has been extremely rewarding.”
Many wouldn’t take the risk; staying in jobs that they hate for the security of a steady income. It takes bravery and determination to change course in this way.
“Learning to block out the noise and have faith in what you are creating are important lessons on the road to progression. I recently found a self-portrait I had drawn at age nine, and it was a nice reminder of my early connection to art.”
For the past two years, Kevin has been working with acrylics, and his work has a psychedelic flavour. This wasn’t necessarily the most lucrative move; most galleries have a conservative format and shy away from exhibiting unknown artists whose work doesn’t fit into the mainstream. However, this is not his primary concern.
“Like everything else, it’s a business and galleries will pick what they think will sell. That’s fair enough, but you can’t let the ‘artworld’ dissuade you from what you’re doing. There’s a place for every kind of art, and if it has truth to it, that’s what’s important. I paint what interests me and don’t particularly want to let commercial ideas get in the way of me finding my voice and style.”
Kevin has recently taken a new direction with his work transitioning from acrylics to oils.
“I did what I wanted to do with the last phase, and now I’m ready to develop my techniques in another area. The two are so different, it’s really stripping back to basics and learning all over again. I love the use of mixed media and I will continue to use them but there are certain techniques oils offer that I can’t ignore.”
It’s clear that Kevin is passionate about his work, he is increasingly animated when discussing his upcoming projects. His next series of paintings will be a new departure for him, although, somewhat surprisingly, he had difficulty in finding a model for his work.
“When you’re trying to work from internet images the in-authenticity can come across. I purposely stayed away from classical figure painting because of this. The timing of finding someone suitable and my transition to oils worked out really well.”
Unlike literary and musical composition, painting does not allow for mistakes. There needs to be a certain level of fluidity; you can’t delete what you’ve put down on a canvass. For this reason, an art project can turn out vastly different from how it began.
“The initial concept is integral, the piece changes constantly and you might find different ways to bring it to life than you expected. It might take me a year of changes before I am satisfied with a piece, within that year you change and grow and generally this is reflected in the piece. So long as the changes are honestly reflected I am generally happy. The overall concept remains the same but the way it is communicated changes.”
A side project of Kevin’s involves producing clothes featuring his designs under the label, Ogma Dagda; not only a practical means of supporting himself, but a novel way of sharing his work with the world.
While modern artists have inspired Kevin’s work of the past two years, he plans a visit to the Sistine Chapel to view renaissance art up close. This is in keeping with his assertion that “talent is just pursued interest” and he is clearly determined to explore where his work may lead him. By allowing the work to dictate its own pace, he is in a way embracing the spirit of art itself.
The pictures featured are just an example of Kevin’s work over the past few years. For further information, check out http://globalstreetart.com/ogma-dagda. Alternatively, Kevin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kevin wearing a t-shirt from his Ogma Dagda label.