Monday, April 25, 2016

Interview with Charlie McBride in the Galway Advertiser

This is an interview I gave to the Galway Advertiser in the run up to my exhibition at the Townhall Theatre in Galway in March this year.


'I got stuck in Achill in a good way'

Artist Padraig McCaul discusses his Town Hall exhibition

On The Edge Of The Atlantic features 25 new paintings inspired by the beauty of the landscape and coastline of Ireland's west coast. McCaul presents the Irish landscape in a series of colour filled, evocotive, images, where broad strokes are preferred to fine detail and where simple, uncluttered, compositions allow room for the viewer to get lost in the painting. This is his first solo exhibiton in Galway.
'Under a Passing Cloud' | Oil on Canvas

“I came quite late to painting,” Padraig, erstwhile member of The Harvest Ministers tells me. “My interest was always in music, I studied music in Maynooth as part of an arts degree and for the next 20 years music was my main passion with the band. It’s only in the last 15 years that I started delving into painting, it was almost a substitute for when once the band stopped taking it very seriously, we weren’t playing nearly as often as we had been, I took up the brush and began painting.”

McCaul was much enamoured by landscape painting from France; “I love French painting, artists like Cezanne, I love the colours French artists used,” he admits. “When I started painting I was looking for colourful landscapes, that’s what I was drawn to for some reason and I was into Italian and French paintings. When I started painting Irish landscapes I began bringing in all the colours that I would expect to see in French and Italian landscapes. Then you realise over time that the colours are there anyway in the Irish landscape. For whatever reason a lot of Irish artists seem reticent about putting those strong colours into their paintings in the way you would see them in European paintings.”

'Into the Sea' | Oil on Canvas
Notwithstanding his love of French and Italian painting, Padraig also sees himself within the tradition of the many great Irish artists who have depicted Achill and the west: “I see myself very much as coming from the tradition of Paul Henry and Roderic O’Conor.” he says. “There are elements in my paintings where I can see a direct influence from the likes of them, the colours, the strength. I don’t see vibrancy in a lot of Irish landscapes, sometimes they are almost too true to life. I use primary colours, blues and reds and crimsons, to elicit emotion. They are not just there to describe the landscape, I’m using them to stir an emotional response. “My paintings are based on the Irish landscape but what I am really trying to get across is the feeling of it,” he continues. “I can paint a mountain 10 times and every time will be different, that’s not what matters, it’s how you convey the movement and the energy and the light around it. 
"You are creating more than just the image of a mountain, you’re creating what it feels like to be standing in a field looking at it when it is rainy or windy or warm, it is all those extra feelings that have nothing to do with the visual, that is what the painting should be about. You bring a viewer into a painting, the image is what draws them initially but there is more, you can get to the root of different feelings. The strong colours you see in continental paintings I use as a way of stirring that emotive response, they are not just there because the colours work well together.”

'To the Sea' | Oil on Canvas

Padraig expands on his connection to Achill: “I got stuck in Achill in a good way. When I first started painting I thought this is great I can travel and go anywhere, but when I came to Achill for the first time it stopped me in my tracks. It has everything that a landscape artist would want, there is the sea, the mountains, the rolling bog, and the sky and the light that changes every hour of the day.
"There is no reason to go beyond it, there is so much here to inspire painting. Because I live here now, I take the light and the atmosphere and everything about it is replicated all the way down the west to west Cork. If you can capture the atmosphere of Achill in a painting that really captures the atmosphere of all of the west of Ireland.”

McCaul is represented by the Doorway Gallery in Dublin and his paintings are in many international collections; “From the first time I started exhibiting I seemed to get a really good reaction from people who felt a connection to the paintings," he says. “I have been painting full time for 10 years now and always had a very strong response to the work and that subsequently translated into sales and galleries. I have been working with the same gallery for the last 10 years in Dublin, also another five or six regional galleries around the country. Thankfully the response has been really strong throughout that time”.

How did he connect with Margaret Nolan for this Town Hall show? “I first connected with Margaret via Facebook, it is great!” he replies with a laugh. “I knew Margaret years ago when I was coming out of college in Maynooth she was in NCAD. We hadn’t touched base in years and then Facebook is a way of reconnecting with people and through that she told me she was running shows in the Town Hall, she asked me last year to contribute to exhibiting in windows for Cúirt, and those paintings got a great response and she invited me to do a show in the Town Hall, so it is a lovely way of getting my work seen in Galway, it is my first time having a show there.”

'On the Dingle Peninsula | Oil on Canvas
And what about The Harvest Ministers? “We put out an anthology two years ago on 12" Vinyl and download - 'You Can See Everything From Here' - and played a couple of shows promoting that and that was a nice way to put a full stop after my name with the band. ( Will (Merriman) has continued writing and recording and there's a new Harvest Ministers' due out this year.

"I’d put the sax and guitar away but I brought the sax out again to play with the Mayo Concert Orchestra which was incredible for me to find and that allows me to get back into playing music again, I’ve been playing with them for the past two years and I play some local sessions here in Achill.”

Friday, March 27, 2015

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

INTERVIEW | Artist Padraig McCaul - The Mayo News

Bringing in the people

On Keel Beach, Achill
published by The Mayo News, June 2014

Ciara Moynihan

Achill-based landscape artist Padraig McCaul turned 50 this year. So far his lifetime, he’s worn many different hats. Arts student. Accountancy student. Clothing retailer. IT professional. Band member of The Harvest Ministers. Husband and dad. Artist.  Some hats he tried on, didn’t like the fit and put away; others he continues to wear with pride.

The old stressful life in retail and IT now is a distant memory. Now, he’s a full-time artist, producing his own work and giving classes. For many years, McCaul’s landscapes were  unpopulated – buildings might appear, but never people. That’s changed now too.

Originally from Dún Laoghaire in Dublin, McCaul now lives on Achill with his wife, Anne, and their three children, six-year-old twins Claire and Rory and three-year-old Tom. His family have become part of his work, and along with the island, they too now are inspiration and motivation.

‘Island Life’, an exhibition of McCaul’s work, opened in The Western Light Art Gallery, Keel, Achill, on Sunday. In it, viewers will find McCaul’s distinctive landscapes, some peopled, some not. All are Achill.
Atlantic Cliffs, Achill; 60x60cms; Oil on Canvas

The move west
“Friends of mine used to come to Achill camping  every year, and when I started painting – about 15 years ago – they said, ‘you’ve got to come over to here’,” McCaul tells The Mayo News.

“I’d never been before. I came over for the first time maybe 12 years ago. I came over on my own. I’d spent two months in San Francisco with work and it was quite a stressful job over there … When I came home I said, I’m going to take a week off – I need a break from this. So I used that time to come over to Achill.
“I booked myself into the Bervie Guesthouse, and I just had the most incredible four days. I’d never been struck by a place … I was just gobsmacked. It was June – glorious sunshine, blue skies. I was just blown away. Completely and utterly captivated. Every day I was looking at different parts, and I just fell in love with the place.  

“I started coming back regularly over the years, painting. Then we got a house on Achill, about seven years ago. I got married eight years ago, and we’d come and go between Dublin and Achill.”
The west constantly tugged, and eventually, the McCauls decided to stay. “When the twins were ready to go to school … we said we’d come down to Achill and see how it works out. And it’s been brilliant; absolutely great.

“The kids started school here in Saula and our little guy, Tom, started in naíonra this year. Because we got to know a lot of people over the years from coming down, it’s just been a lovely transition. We’ve been very warmly welcomed into the community.”

'Facing the Atlantic', 50x50cms
Love of the landscape  Since moving to Achill, the island has formed the bulk of what McCaul paints. Words such as ‘desolate’, ‘stark’, ‘quiet’, ‘provocative’ have been used to describe McCaul’s work. While the qualities are certainly there, the paintings are not depressing.
“It [the landscape of the west] can seem pretty desolate and wild, and sometimes I want to get some of that into a painting, but all of my paintings have to have warmth. Warmth draws people in. Some of the work would be that broody, dark, sort of west-of-Ireland skies … but even with those pieces, I’ll try to make sure there’s life or warmth in the painting somewhere.”

He cites French artist Claude Idlas as an influence. “Very simple shapes, lovely strong, blocky colours – primary colours, primary yellows and blues and reds, and various shades and hues of them  … happy paintings. When I started painting I wanted to get across something like that as well.”
McCaul found ways to use the same colours, but ‘to make them believable’ in an Irish landscape. “With a lot of traditional Irish landscape [art], the colours might be true to what you see on a fairly dull day, but they just don’t convey any sense of warmth.

“I use the colours to get the right feeling. That feeling, say, of standing on the beach all on your own. That’s one of my first memories of Achill. I couldn’t sleep, so I got up at about six in the morning and went for a walk on the beach. A beautiful summer’s morning – no one there, tide out. It was just this idyllic morning. The sound of the sea, the breeze, the cliffs. And I was sketching it – but how do you get across that amazing sense of feeling, that sense of being there on your own, listening to the water, the early-morning birds and the wind? I think colours are a way of doing that.

“There’s a lot of movement in my work too. All the work is done with a palette knife. The initial painting is painted with a brush in outline … everything else I do with a knife, constantly moving and blending the paint around the canvas. So even though there might be a simple composition with three or four main elements, there’s a huge amount of movement in subtle colour changes. Every block of colour has a lot going on within it.”

'On Keel Beach', 60x60cms
Peopling scenes
McCaul’s work has recently begun to move away from ‘strict landscape’, and he has started to introduce figures.
“All my paintings were always about landscape,” McCaul explains. “Even when I put buildings into them, the buildings were simply there to draw your attention. They were always kept very simple – no doors, no windows, no man-made elements other than the shape of the building. The idea is to draw the viewer in, but there’s nothing there to hold you – you continue on into the landscape. The buildings are effectively part of the landscape.”

The appearance of figures is linked to one of McCaul’s other hats – the hat of the musician. “I was prompted by Will [William Merriman], who I play with in The Harvest Ministers. We just released an anthology of the best of what we’ve done over the last 20 years. We’ve released six albums and various singles over time, particularly in the ’90s. Will asked me to do something for the album cover, and he specifically wanted me to put some people in the painting. And I was like, ‘Will, I don’t do people!’”
Merriman wouldn’t take no for an answer, however, so McCaul gave it a go – and he discovered a new element to incorporate into his landscape art.
'The Paddling Pool' - 40x40cms

“I was looking for a way to put people or figures into the paintings that allowed me to use them in the same way that I use the buildings – as focal points, where I could put lots of colour and lots of texture but very little detail. So I started putting in very simple spherical heads and a body and two legs and that’s it. Everything else – all the character – is in the colour, and maybe the slight of a figure’s stance. You can put a lot of expression and character into that.

And the figures themselves? Well, they were there all along, under another of McCaul’s favourite hats. They are the members of his own family.
“The paintings are much more personal, because they’re about my own family – but they’re still landscape paintings. Even though the people might be the central figures, like the buildings, they’re not there to hold you – they’re there to draw you in and bring you to the rest of the painting. They’re a way to bring the landscape out.” 
'Under the Shelter of Slievemore' , 60x60cms

The focal points might be kept simple, but there’s one detail likely to resonate with local viewers: the occasional appearance of a Mayo jersey. “Ah,” McCaul laughs, “That’s ’cause unfortunately my kids, the three of them, have switched over to Mayo. So we’ve got three Mayo supporters in the house. My little guy, Rory, started playing football about two years ago, and he’s really gone completely Mayo mad. We go into McHale Park for the home games. I tried to push Dublin at them, but they’re not interested…!

“It’s amazing the way you can tell a story in a painting just by including one or two tiny details, like a jersey or a football – but still leave enough room for whoever’s looking at the painting to put themselves into it or take more from it.”

Padraig McCaul’s exhibition, ‘Island Life’, is running at The Western Light Art Gallery, Keel, Achill, throughout the summer. For more information on the artist, his work and his classes, visit

Monday, May 5, 2014

Art in Action....on Achill Island 2014

I've just spent the last 3 days demonstrating and exhibiting at Art in Action, at Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. And it's been a blast!

Art in Action - Farmleigh House, 2014
This was the first time I have ever attended Art in Action, let alone take part in it. But when I was invited last year to take part in the 2014 event I jumped at the chance, having heard about it through some friends and other artists. The concept is very simple - bring together a diverse collection of painters, craft workers, ceramicists, sculptors, in fact all types of artists, and have them share what they do with the general public.

So I set up temporary studio in the Craftworkers marquee and painted for the 3 days. 
Art in Action 2014
What a great way to spend the weekend:) This was a real family event, with both children's and adults art classes being held each day - painting, potting, all sorts of crafts. It was just a great festival of art! And it's got me all fired up for my first painting workshop of 2014 which takes place on Achill Island next weekend, May 10th and 11th.

 There are still some places left - but if even a 10th of the people that said they wanted to come to Achill for one of my workshops show up then I'm in trouble! The full list of dates for my 2014 workshops on Achill Island are:

May - 10th/11th
Art in Action, on Achill Island!
June - 7th/8th ( *This looks like it might be fully booked, pending confirmation from 2 people. So please check with me first)
July - 29th/30th/31st - This is being run as part of the Scoil Acla Summer School.
August - 4/5/6/7
August - 11/12/13/14
August - 18/19/20/21

Full details of the workshops can be found at

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Unique Limited Edition Print 'FAMILY' Now Available

'Family' Limited Edition Print with Oil Over-Painting

My new Limited Edition Print FAMILY  is now available to order.

Printed on Hanemuele German Etching Paper, each print is individually hand finished, the figures being over-painted in Oil, making each copy a one-off, unique piece.  The edition is limited to 25 and comes mounted and framed.

Image Size: 11.5" x 11.5"
Edition Size: 25
Framed Size: 40x40cms
Price: €295 (Including shipping)

The print will be available at my upcoming exhibition Family Album which runs in the Dun Laoghaire Art Gallery from April 3rd to 19th. View the full exhibition here...

For further details please contact me at or ph:086 8801733

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What's the difference between Miles Davis and Miles Davis?

About 10 years it seems....

I've never been a big Jazz fan. The only jazz album I've ever owned until recently is Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, which by any standard is probably one of the best ever recorded. Sketches from Spain is another I bought around the same time, but that has always sounded more like an orchestral piece to me so I don't really count that. But I fell in love with Kind of Blue the first time I heard it. The music and the playing on it are just amazing.

Well it's been on the iPod a lot in the studio lately, and it led me to search out some more from Miles. So after downloading a couple of 'Best of' albums ('The Real Miles Davis' is a great one) I finally went and bought Bitches Brew. None of the tracks on this album tend to feature on any of the 'Best Of' albums, and yet it is routinely cited as one of the top three Miles Davis albums (Kind of Blue is always in the list too). And if you listen to it you can see why.

There is only 10 years between them (Kind of Blue was released in 1959 and Bitches Brew in 1969) but the difference in style and sound is unreal and could be measured in light years! There is something primal about the tracks on Bitches Brew,  it's like music in free fall, made up on the spot, and sounds nothing like the beautiful, melodic music of Kind of Blue. But it's a brilliant album too, it just gets in on you and is great music to work to. And it's by Miles Davis - the same guy that made Kind of Blue!

It's been on non-stop in the studio for the last month. I'm not sure if it's having any influence on the new paintings I've been working on, but you'll have a chance to see the results at my upcoming exhibition, Family Album, which opens in Dublin at Dun Laoghaire Art Gallery on April 3rd. There's still plenty of work to be done before then but here is  sneak preview of one of the new ones...
'Family'  Oil on Canvas, 50x50cms

Monday, October 21, 2013

3 New Limited Editions Now Available for the Autumn Exhibitions..

Winner of my new print competition, Marion Bockman, with her prize!
Earlier in the year I ran a competition to help me choose which painting to create my next Limited Edition from. And here's Marion, winner of the competition with her prize - one of the first copies of the new 'Homeland' print!

As well as 'Homeland' I have produced 2 other new prints, 'West Cork Homestead' and 'Tom', all of which will be available at my exhibition in Whites of Wexford, as well as at Art Source in the RDS in November and Craft Fair in the RDS in Dublin.

That brings my collection of Limited Editions to 15. The full collection can be seen

'West Cork Homestead', 18x18ins Limited Edition Archival Print

'Tom', 10x10ins Limited Edition Archival Print