q&a with joseph mahon

Q&A with Joseph Mahon

Our latest Q&A is with self taught Irish artist Joseph Mahon. After living in London for many years Joseph returned to his native County Carlow in 2000.


When did you first become interested in art?

I remember loving painting as a small child, when I first went to school at 4. All through primary school I loved to draw and colour things, especially school projects. 

How did you pursue your desire to be a painter?

With no formal art training I set about teaching myself about art and art history. Along with the usual novels that most people buy, I also bought art books, especially art instruction books, to teach myself. Watercolour, acrylic, and oil painting books, anything I could lay my hands on. I subscribed to The Artist magazine to keep up with the art world and  opportunities. I entered art competitions, such as Royal Watercolour Society open competition, once or twice the Royal academy summer show. I continued to paint in my spare time, mostly in watercolour. Since returning to Ireland I started painting with oil paints again. With the internet explosions near recent years I decided to try and promote my work online. I set up a blogging account, joined Facebook and Instagram and several art sites. 

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

From 10 am to 1pm I organise online promotion strategy, emails or prepare my blog. Business stuff usually, Facebook, Instagram etc. I go to my studio space most days about 7 pm, whether I am in the mood for painting or not. I always try to do some drawing or painting or even just doodle. If I am working on a piece, I would do so in the early afternoon and continue through the day. The radio or music are my companions Lyric FM or my collection of CDs. I finish up by 11 PM.

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

Yes, I paint most everyday, or at least draw or sketch out ideas. I find that when I do not, due to other engagements and suchlike I feel I have missed out. It’s such a routine that it’s part of who I am. My inspiration is not always instant. An idea can come from a film, tv or seeing something on a walk or in town. It might be two years later I will put that idea on to a canvas or paper or it could be instant. 

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

Mountain view 2. Acrylic on birch panel 12×16 ins. I have been experimenting with acrylics for some time. I love the way pure colour can be laid down and over painted in a short time as it dries so fast. A problem as well as a boon. I find it a difficult medium, as colour shifts from wet to dry are so annoying. This painting was inspired by a trek I did on The Blackstairs range of mountains, a view that many people would never see, unless they went on the trek. It’s experimental in that it’s mostly juxtaposition of colours, technique I am trying out, which I may try with oil paint.

What is your favourite place to paint?

I have a dedicated space in a wooden chalet in the garden, which I share with my wife. So I can happily leave things in a mess and return the next day without having to tidy up. It’s small but it’s just right.

Which artists have most inspired you and why?

There are so many. The Impressionists, Monet, Gauguin, Van Gogh, The old Masters, Rembrandt, Vermeer, more contemporary artists E Seago, Paul Henry, Rowland Hilder all had a huge impact on me. As I grew older I discovered other wonderful artists Arthur Maderson, Kyffin Williams, Joshua Meyer, Ann Gale to name but a few. The latter two artists use impasto oil technique, which appeals to my style. With the internet there are thousands of new artists to be discovered. I particularly like using a palette knife, so Kyffin Williams is a major influence. My love of Impressionism and pure colour makes me want to constantly experiment with techniques.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently into acrylics and experimenting with impasto effects using a palette knife. I find acrylics are great for working out a composition, which one can then paint in oil paint. If an acrylic painting does not work, it’s easily painted over. With oil paint it’s a different matter. So, I am currently in an experimental phase.

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

I would one day like to go to Venice. I know it’s been painted by many others before, but it’s a must for me. I am also attracted to see New York to see the city life and peopleSomewhere sunny with bright light. I love colour. Spain, France anywhere with bright light. 

image ‘Mountain view 2’ by Joseph Mahon
Joseph’s collection on ArtClick is available to view here
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