Art is for everyone... at any age

A West Cork artist tells IRENE HALPIN LONG about her latest body of work, inspired by saltwater kayaking in Mexico
Art is for everyone... at any age
Artist Eilbhe Donovan at work in her studio at Seven Heads, West Cork. Photo Joleen Cronin

ARTIST Eilbhe Donovan has created her latest work, ‘Flights of Fancy’, after visiting several marine reserves in Baja, Mexico.

She studied and photographed a range of wild birds whilst kayaking in saltwater mangroves.

Eilbhe has been working in the arts for more than 20 years. She qualified with a degree in Illustration from West Wales School of the Arts.

Her work has ranged from small illustration to large scale public mural works. She has participated in many exhibitions and shows, both in Ireland and overseas.

In her studio at her home on the Seven Heads Peninsula in West Cork, Eilbhe created a series of pieces, using the photographs she took on her

trip to Mexico as a reference. Since she was a young girl, she has been fascinated by birds.

“I’ve always had an interest in birds. Two of my aunts were keen bird-watchers. For Christmas, they often sent me membership to Birdwatch Ireland and various bird books. As a result, I became interested in birds and ecology and the conservation of wildlife.”

The artist works predominantly in ink. In her latest exhibition, running at Cronin’s Pub, Crosshaven, she depicted a range of marine birds in flight and says: “I try to capture each bird’s essence with minimal detail. I like to leave some of the painting up to the viewer to ascertain.

“My work is suggestive – after all, when we see a bird in flight hundreds of metres above us, we can only guess what they look like up there.”

Working with ink is meticulous and difficult. Eilbhe chose this medium because it gives maximum impact in her portrayal of marine birds.

“Ink is not very forgiving. An artist needs to be very accurate when using it. If you make a mistake, you have to start again. There’s no covering it up. I like the challenge of working with ink.”

Eilbhe also trained as a teacher of Art in Crawford College of Art & Design. She has been working with her local primary school under the Cork County Arts-funded ‘Artist in Schools Programme’ for the past three years and was granted an Arts Council Bursary last year.

Eilbhe explains the importance of encouraging children to explore their artistic sides.

“It’s good to encourage children from an early age so they don’t develop a misconception about what art is. People often tell me that they can’t draw. I don’t think there is anyone who can’t draw, it’s simply that people have been deterred or put off by something that happened while exploring their artistic sides or something someone said. It’s really important that we don’t cut off a child’s artistic abilities.”

Eilbhe believes that art is for everyone at any age and encourages anyone who has an inkling to attend an art class to “just go for it”.

She says: “People are often scared by art. They worry they don’t understand it. That is a misconception. Art is not elitist. Art is for everyone and shouldn’t be seen as something that only certain people can access.”

Eilbhe hopes that people will visit her exhibition at Cronin’s pub and leave with a greater appreciation of what lives in our coastal landscapes.

“I hope that people will see that the birds that live around them are an important part of where they live, particularly living by the coast.

“They are so beautiful and such an important part of where we live. Sometimes people can forget that.

“The coast around Cork is very interesting because there are so many coves, rocks and caves so there is a lot of wildlife here. It’s important to remind ourselves about how rich our area is in wildlife.”

The exhibition is running in Cronin’s Pub, Crosshaven, until July 21.

Joleen Cronin is responsible for marketing and has a keen interest in artistic and cultural events.

She says: “It’s a really nice experience for our customers to look at an artist’s collection of work. Every artist brings their own personality and inspiration to their work. Each time someone comes into our pub, there is a different atmosphere, depending on what art is displayed.”

The pub and restaurant host exhibitions of local artists on a regular basis. If you are an artist and would like to exhibit your work at Cronin’s pub, contact Joleen via email at

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