still life painting of lemons

Introducing Dublin artist James Rooney

Where did you grow up?

Churchtown, Dublin, as well as a few teenage years in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.

When did you first become interested in art?

Always had an interest, and a little talent, from an early age, but drifted away in my late teens before gradually coming back to it in my mid 30s.


How did you pursue your desire to be a painter?

It started more as an interior design project. In my 30’s I lived in a Victorian house with high ceilings and a lot of wall space screaming out for something interesting, but I couldn’t afford the type of paintings that I liked, so I decided to try to create something myself. Large, abstract pieces to fit specific spaces. I had varying degrees of success, but gradually started enjoying it, getting better and just kept going. Much as I liked some of those early pieces at the time, they are now all painted over, or given/sold to friends and family.


What is the artistic lifestyle like? Take us through a typical day.

I’m a freelance graphic designer by profession, working from home. Work pays the bills so that needs to take precedence. However, when things aren’t too busy, I’ll move to the other side of the room – the less organised side – and get creative. Ideally, I’d have 3 or 4 pieces at various stages of development on the go, so I can work on whatever suits the mood. Music plays a big part and depending on what I’m working on it could be anything from vintage jazz to reggae and everything in between. 


Do you paint every day, or only when the inspiration hits you?

As mentioned above, I like to have a few things on the go, but I’ll always be taking notes and photos, or saving images from the internet for future inspiration, so when the time comes to start something new I have plenty of ideas to browse through before diving in. I go through phases where I might not paint for 2 or 3 weeks and other times when I’m so caught up it in I forget to eat, or an entire weekend disappears before I know it. I have learnt that on the occasions when I paint because I feel I should, rather than being inspired to do so is not a good idea. Its not enjoyable and the results are usually less than satisfactory.


Choose one of your paintings and explain your inspiration behind it. 

3 Lemons, above – not the type of thing I would normally do and probably the first time I set out with a definite plan of what I was trying to achieve. Usually it’s a rough idea which can and usually does take off in a totally different direction as the work progresses. However, with this one, I was determined to stick to the plan and keep it as clean and faithful to the sketch as possible. Lemons as a subject matter have come up in my work a few times in the past, albeit in more abstract depictions. The lemon for me represents purification and in some cultures it represents love, friendship & longevity  The Dutch masters of the 16th & 17th centuries were particularly fond of them and a huge number of still lifes from the period feature them. 


Where is your favourite place to paint?

My studio/office at the front of the house is quiet and peaceful, but the light is gone by late morning. The back of the house is very bright with a wonderful garden to either gaze at or work in, but with 4 other people in the house, all adults at this stage, it can be a bit too busy at times. A combination of the 2 usually fits the bill.


Which artists have most inspired you and why?

JMW Turner – The mood and atmosphere in his skies & seas keep me gazing for hours.Louis le Brocquy – Wonderful energy in his work. Current Irish artists I admire include Guggi, Ken Browne.


What are you working on at the moment?

A few things at the early to mid stages.An abstract portrait of Chet Baker, the jazz trumpeter, acrylics and oils on board, which could go either way as its a bit of a departure for me in terms of style and content. A few still lifes of fruit & flowers are 80% there. 

 Do you have any current or upcoming exhibitions?

Was planning to do a solo show this Summer, but obviously in the current situation thats all up in the air .Hopefully when things get back to normal I’ll get something organised.


At which location (or who) would you love the opportunity to paint?

2-3 months in the south of France, late Spring, early Summer, with nothing on the agenda but painting and eating local produce. Been in the area a few times, but never painted there. The light is always so appealing, as is the climate.


You can view James’ art collection on ArtClick from HERE

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