Hi, friends! Today's artist interview is with Contemporary Irish Artist, Leah Beggs. Leah creates abstract landscape paintings, inspired by the bucolic Irish countryside. I love the dreamy and ethereal quality of Leah's work. I hope you do too!
Please tell us a little bit about where you live. What is it like being an artist there?
I live in a small village called Oughterard on the west coat of Ireland, close to Galway city. I’ve been here for over ten years now and I think it’s safe to say I’m settled. I’m from Dublin originally so it’s a very different way of life compared to city living. There are pros and cons to being an artist here. Pro’s being that it’s fantastic to live in such a beautiful location particularly as it inspires and informs my art as an abstract landscape painter, Cons being you are a little bit disconnected from the larger art world. Galway city though is a very creative place. It’s bursting at the seams with musicians, artists and theatre types!
Have you always known that you're an artist? When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How has your art career evolved?
I was definitely an arty kid and come from a long line of creative women but had never really thought about being an artist as a career choice. I wanted to be a Vet but when it came to picking College courses somehow fine art made the list and being a Vet wasn’t on the horizon at all. Interestingly my 8 yr. old daughter has expressed interest in being a Vet. Maybe I can live vicariously through her!!
My art career has evolved slowly; I think it’s the nature of the beast! It wasn’t until I became a mother and gave up my full time job that it changed trajectory. At a time when I thought I’d have no time and having dependents, the time I spent being creative suddenly became much more focused and therapeutic to me. Whilst I was painting and creating along the way it wasn’t until I started showing my work in both the Kenny Gallery in Galway and Solomon Fine Art in Dublin that things started to take off a little bit. Being represented bya gallery is a real fortune and I appreciate all they do for me but I think in this digital age it’s also important to promote yourself online, be it through instagram , websites, social media etc.
Are you a full time artist or do you also have a day job/side hustle? If you do have a day job, does it tie in with your art practice?
I worked as an interior designer for a while, and painted in my spare time. Once I had my kids I gave up full time work, although it planned to be a temporary measure. I started painting during the day when my kids were very young and realized now was the time to try and make it a full time thing. It’s a struggle, and can be a lonely existence, but I strive to keep going, as it’s something I truly love doing.
Can you talk a bit about your process? How has your work evolved over time? What are you working on right now? What's new or different about it?
The essence of my work deals with an emotive response to fleeting glimpses of the landscape, with particular attention to the quality of light and how it affects the mood of the landscape. I find the energy and power of nature a strong stimulus and whilst I identify as a landscape painter, my paintings are not specifically about a place, but rather memories of places I’ve been, or moments in time, escaping, lost in a moment. When I paint I am immersed in the painterly experience, and as such the resulting work is meditative for both the artist and observer and allows you to be momentarily lost in it
I think moving from a city to rural countryside has definitely changed my style of painting. It has also evolved as I’ve become more confident in what I do. I recently finished a new body of work that had a different colour palette to its predecessors. This was a big change for me and now I know I don’t have to stick with blue!
Are there certain themes that show up in your work over and over again?
Clouds, rainfall and storms! Living on the Atlantic seaboard means you are very exposed to all sorts of wild and wonderful weather. I’m constantly amazed by the sky here. I had an artist friend from California visit recently and something she said stuck with me…she said that she loved to look out the window first thing in the morning whilst she was here and be excited about the weather that day, whatever it was going to be, because in California it’s just sunshine all the time and doesn’t change!
What is your studio practice like? Do you have any rituals or routines that help you get into the creative zone? Do you ever get creative blocks? How do you get unstuck?
My studio practice needs work! I’m a terrible procrastinator. It’s very easy to get distracted by other things, especially when your studio is at home. I usually start my day with a walk or a run with the dog. It’s a great time to empty my head, but also fill it with plan for the day. I then get in to the studio and once I physically start painting, I get on a roll. I get creative blocks all the time but I think you just need to keep doing the work, even if it’s bad work, eventually you get unstuck! I find if I have to do any administrative stuff done, I can get sucked into a black hole of paperwork, so I try to get it out of the way first thing. It always takes a lot longer than I had planned.
I am a total bibliophile and I just love your artist books! Can you talk a bit about what that series means to you? Any plans to make more books? (I hope so!)
The artist book thing happened sort of by accident. I meet once a week with a bunch of creative women here in the town where I live. It’s mainly a skill sharing session but the odd time we run workshops. Last year we got an artist bookmaker, Andi McGarry to run a daylong workshop in artist books. I loved it and found it really interesting. There happened to be 2 artist book exhibitions on that year that I submitted my books into. I guess I just ran with it. I haven’t planned to make any more, but I’m always playing around with paper so I’m sure it’s something I will dip into again!
Let's talk about work/life balance. How do you balance family life, studio time, business and time for yourself?
Now that I have technically have less time to be creative I am much more precious about protecting my time and probably use time more wisely. I think it’s really important to be organized, and to make sure to have time for yourself. I took up playing the bódhran (an Irish drum) a couple of years ago. So once a week I head into Galway city for my class and then take a walk along the seaside promenade after to clear the head. It’s my 'me time' evening, away from home and doing something out of the ordinary.
Who (or what) are your biggest creative influences?
I just love looking at other abstract painters work. I love the possibilities of paint and what can be achieved on a canvas. I always adored Richard Diebenkorn’s work and I had the chance to gosee some of his Ocean Park paintings in the flesh in London a couple of years ago and I was blown away by them. You could feel the sunshine and light radiating off them. I just thought to myself how did he do that with just paint?!!
What does being an artist mean to you?
I’m at my happiest when I’m creating; it’s a very therapeutic experience for me.
If you could give your 20 year old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Believe in yourself and what you do. And possibly be a bit more clued into networking in the art world!!
Awesome, thanks so much, Leah! For more information about Leah Beggs, please visit her website or you can follow her on Instagram and Facebook. You can shop for her artwork on Etsy or see her work in person at Solomon Fine Art and The Kenny Gallery.
Do you have any questions or comments for Leah? Add them to the comments below!