MADONNA has used his portrait of her for her Rebel Heart tour, Tyra Banks of America’s Next Top Model has commissioned work from him, and various other celebrities, including JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame, have lauded his work.
He is Vincent Devine from Offaly, a 32-year- old visual artist, who is the artist-in-residence at the Kingsley Hotel in Cork.
Vincent, who is represented by The Gallery, Kinsale, is exhibiting his intricate paintings of trees at the hotel. They are for sale, ranging in price from €1,300 to €7,500. One of his pieces at the hotel celebrates the twinning of Cork with Shanghai. It’s a subtle piece as Vincent didn’t want it to be in your face.
“If you look at the painting closely, you’ll see music notes that are a replica of the sheet music for The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee. There are cherry blossoms falling from the sky, landing on the music notes. The flower in the middle of the painting, a yulan magnolia, is the state flower of Shanghai.”
Vincent’s tree series was sparked when he was creating a painting to commemorate his grandmother.
“She was quite unwell at the time. I did a piece with 13 trees in it, representing her family of 13. When I finished working on it, I left my studio. Later, when I came back, I saw that I had painted the shape of a body across the trees. it was very subtle. I figured I had subconsciously painted a body to represent my grandmother. I then began to think about how I would ‘hide’ stuff in the trees. Some of the paintings have faces in them. Others have numbers such as one representing my age.”
Prior to painting delicate trees, Vincent was doing a lot of portrait work. But he had to eventually stop painting portraits of celebrities.
“I did a portrait of Shakira. She liked it and put it all over her social media platform. Madonna was reaching out to people, promoting her Rebel Heart tour. When she performed it, my portrait of her popped up behind her. I didn’t realise it was going to be used. I had emailed the portrait to her people. It’s hard to get any kind of confirmation but there it was, used as a backdrop. Someone who follows me on instagram sent me a message about it. I looked up the video and saw it.”
However, Vincent didn’t get paid for his work as he initiated the contact with Madonna and forwarded the portrait. He stopped doing the portraits.
“I was getting these huge people whose agents were contacting me and asking me to do album covers and things like that. But they wanted me to do it for free in exchange for a shout out on Twitter. I sent one agent a curt email saying exposure won’t feed the kids. (Vincent has two young children.) I said ‘thanks, but no thanks.’ I got so disoriented and annoyed about the whole process. I realised I had to start valuing my self-worth. Everybody has money. But nobody has what I have. I see what I have as a gift. It’s not an ego trip. So that’s why I stopped painting the portraits.”
Away from celeb land, Vincent has been doing very well.
“Last year was a bumper year. I had shows in Hong Kong and Miami, organised by a gallery in Toronto that represents me. I had a sell out show in November at Art Source in the RDS. A billionaire came along and bought the whole stand for €120,000. It included my triptych of Frances Bacon and a portrait of Angelina Jolie.”
Vincent was an artistic child, encouraged in his drawing endeavours by teachers.
“I wasn’t very good academically. I was more into the creative side of things, writing stories and drawing pictures to go with them. At primary school, I was quite socially awkward and would spend my lunch break drawing. The secondary school I went to didn’t have art on the curriculum. They didn’t bring it in until two years after I had left. I had to do classes privately so that I could do Leaving Cert art.”
The more he drew, the better he got. After a spell in Canada, Vincent attended the Limerick College of Art and Design. After his first year, in which he did six subjects, he was advised to quit painting and concentrate on graphic design.
“I ended up transferring to Athlone Institute of Technology. My parents were in the middle of getting a separation so it was kind of money-related and I wanted to be closer to home. It worked out fantastic for me. I have an honours degree in visual communication.
“I started doing paintings to make extra money while I was in college. I was painting very abstract colourful pieces that I dried on the radiator in my mother’s house. People who called to the house would ask where the paintings came from. I started selling them from the house for €50 up to €300. I got great responses from people and started putting my work out there and getting feelers for it.”
Painting the tree series helps Vincent to relax.
“My other work is very heavy and heady. Also, with the #me too movement, male fragility is coming to the fore. There’s a huge amount of male suicide. It’s something I’d like to shine a light on. But I won’t do that through the trees.”
Vincent has certainly come a long way from his time in Limerick College of Art and Design, where he says he was told he didn’t have a natural hand.
“I’m now letting my hand go free,” says this ambitious artist.
Artist goes from painting Tyra Banks to ‘The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee’!