BUSY LISNASKEA artist Kevin McHugh has a lot on his easel.
A full-time artist, Kevin mixes painting portraits with unique powerhouse murals and teaching – and has just been nominated for an award for his blog.
The 40-year-old explained that he comes from an artistic family – and began painting at a young age. But it wasn’t until two years ago that he began working as an artist full-time.
“I had been doing it for myself, I was always afraid to go into it full-time because I thought I would lose the love for it. I avoided it for years because I loved it so much and thought if it becomes a job will that change the feeling or focus, but I’m glad to say it hasn’t.”
But what does he enjoy so much about painting?
“I love that feeling when you know it’s done, when you know a painting’s finished. I approach every blank canvas with fear and trepidation,” he laughed.
“I go ‘how do I do this?’ – it’s almost as if you’re starting from scratch every time, like you haven’t learned anything – until you put paint on the canvas and then muscle memory kicks in and you know what to do.”
Kevin has been working on a series of famous musicians, including Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as pictured, and noted that a painting of that kind takes up around three days of heavy work.
“I have to take several steps back to see what I’ve painted. I’d a painting of John Lydon that I sat for six months wondering what was wrong with it. There was something wrong with it but I couldn’t figure out what it was – it sat on the easel in the kitchen for months.”
Another unique facet of Kevin’s work are his ‘powerhouse murals’, as he explained.
“The powerhouse murals came from Sliabh Beagh arts: They rang me up one day and asked if I’d like to get involved.
“There was a beer advertisement at that time which was the only thing I had to go on. I looked it up on the internet, there was too much online so I just said ‘We’ll figure this out’. I learned a lot about different tap fittings!”
So, approaching owners of farmhouses and such, Kevin managed to get a few takers.
“Mostly they wanted to run me off the street,” he laughed.
“Half were no, some were a curious yes. And there was the rare one that said ‘work away’ do whatever you want. One fella and his wife got into it from the start and brought friends round. And everyday I went back he’d tell me who had been to see it.”
He went on: “It was mostly a new skill. It involved the same skills of composition and building up a picture – they all applied – but the tools were different. When I’m doing a painting I’m adding on to a blank canvas whereas with the mural I’m taking away. So if you take away too much the chances are you’ve ruined it.”
And, as for the award nomination, with Blog Awards Ireland, Kevin explained:
“I’m nominated in the arts category. I don’t really know anything about it – I just found out about it. Eventually it’ll be judged and the last ten will be voted for by the public.
“I don’t rally know why I was nominated – I’d write them very personally It’s probably stuff that I’d be embarrassed to tell an actual human!”