A Stroke of Genius

This month’s lime light will be shone upon the multitalented and inspiring artist Lorna Watkins from Grange, Sligo. I couldn’t wait to share with you the flourishing journey of Sligo’s amazing artists and delve into the mind of such a strong, creative and powerful woman.

Anyone who knows Lorna will agree she is a bubbly, positive and fun loving person to be around. When she agreed to this chat she kindly said she would collect me in town. She pulled up in her car and with my excitement I jumped in and thought - My God, she’s changed a lot!!! Fortunately I had just jumped into the wrong car. Come on we’ve all done it.

On the way to her house we stopped at Yeats grave. You will have to excuse me for not leaving flowers but instead we got scones from the Drumcliffe tea rooms, had a laugh with the owner Jill Barber and visited the glorious Lisadell beach, where Lorna and her kids often camped on holiday. This fun loving and excitingly gifted young woman is a blessing to be in the company of. We all go through tough times in life but to come out the other end of it stronger and more alive than ever is nothing short of admirable.

I always thought artists worked at nothing but art for a living and must be broke most the time. Ridiculous I know, but I assumed they accepted that way of life. In some cases they realise they need a more stable income, get a day job and inevitably let their dreams slide. Shows how much I know!!! As the bold and brave Lorna Watkins did things very differently.

She left college to make high end ball gowns in Carlow, before she made soaps and successfully sold them to over sixty shops in America among other countries. While at the soap making she didn’t take a holiday in five years. (I hope you all remember this every time you wash your hands). After this she got a day job that was only meant for three months and she ended up staying there ten years. She just recently made the daring decision to focus on her practice and give it everything she’s got saying “Art is like oxygen to me, I can’t not do it, it’s unhealthy”.

Over her years in college she studied photography, painting, weaving and metal work in Kilkenny. She also turned her hand to ceramics, tapestry and discovered her love for life drawing in Edinburgh. Finally specifying in textiles in The National College of Art and Design. Clearly Lorna is a lady of endless talents.

In her upcoming exhibition a section of her work focuses on self-portraits. These are blurred to portray a more universal female, as Lorna says she is a normal woman – a mother, a lover, a daughter, a creator. She also models for an art class regularly which helps her find out the models perspective on things. Lorna philosophically says “I’m not just looking - I’m seeing”.

Lorna shares her home studio with another two fantastic artists. The studio is amazing and resembles the remains of a creative explosion. They joke about being competitive and inspiring each other to work harder in the studio to achieve their own goals. They say a lot of thinking goes on while staring at their walls. You may question why your own thinking isn’t this productive?

Lorna at Work 

While I was taking photos of some of her work hanging on the studio wall, asking her questions the only way a Monaghan woman can – interrogation, she shocked the life out of me!! She was showing me a certain painting which looked finished, then grabbed a chalk and drew another over it. It was so compulsive that even her daughter asked “Is that what you wanted to do Mummy?” and Lorna replied with “Well it was that second darling”. I was laughing and still surprised as I thought artists were very protective and extremely careful about their work. But then again Lorna is unique and has her own style of working.

She loves working with wax as the speed and texture of it keeps it fresh and exciting. She can lay it on and off, and dig right into it. She may do some pieces and leave them for a while, so that when she comes back to it she brings something completely different every time. She said she had a portrait half finished last year and then painted over it, encasing a past life within. To create a finished appearance she embodies lots of layers.

A special piece in Lorna’s present exhibition titled “Keep Safe” may leave a lasting impression to the gallery visitors. Lorna marries her work from her diary and poetry to match the paintings. She deals with loss and the mother in her work. I won’t give away all her secrets but she decided to cut her and her daughters hair and visit weaver Francis Crowe in Roscommon. She assembled three balls of spun hair in a box found in an antique shop and set it in wax.

A selection of pieces titled “Keep Safe”.

Lorna took part in the Coney Island group exhibition late 2014 and the positive response from visitors has encouraged her to produce her first ever solo show. In January 2015 ‘Sanctum’ meaning a sacred place of total privacy, was released in Bray, Co. Dublin. The audience not only admired Lorna’s pieces, but most of the visitors personally connected with her work and could not leave without buying some of these life infused creations.

Please remain calm, you will get a chance to see her most recent solo show in Solas Art Gallery, located above The Four Seasons Garden Centre, Main Street, Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim. This exhibition is titled “Body of Proof” and will be running from 10am- 6pm until February 28th 2015.

We all go through tough times in life but to come out the other end of it stronger and more alive than ever is nothing short of admirable. I am proud to know someone that no matter what challenges life threw at them, gave up their day job to follow their dreams and made it work. To be able to say I know someone who’s done this and is now happier than ever before in her life is inspiring.

Solas Art Gallery (Photo)

Hopefully this will encourage anyone reading to know IT IS POSSIBLE to do what you want in life!! I would always rather try achieve at something I love, than fail at something I hate.

Written by Niamh Marron.