Reigniting our talent

EMMA CONNOLLY talks to two women who returned to painting some 30 years after they finished Art School
Reigniting our talent
Artists Ber Murphy and Anne Browne.

IT’S NEVER too late to reignite a former passion — regardless of your age or stage in life.

That’s the advice from two Cork-based artists who returned to their love of painting nearly 30 years after they graduated from Art School and who now regularly host exhibitions of their work.

Ber Murphy and Anne Browne first met in Art School in Waterford back in the 1980s and through life’s twists and turns both ended up working as graphic designers in Cork.

Ber — originally from Thomastown and living in Donnybrook — is a senior graphic designer and studio manager at Dowling & Dowling Design Consultants, while Anne — originally from Wexford and living on the Skehard Road — is a senior graphic designer for Barry Design and Print, Little Island.

According to Ber, their friendship became stronger over the years as they were there for each other “through thick and thin, the good times and the bad.” And they had always talked about returning to their love of art, she said, but it was only in 2012 when she happened upon a Groupon voucher offering a discounted art class in Carrigaline that they took the plunge.

Work by Ber Murphy
Work by Ber Murphy

Since then they can’t wait to see the back of each other each week — as they paint back to back in Mary Murphy’s art class in Carrigaline and have gone so far as to dub themselves the ‘Back2Back Artists’.

Ber said: “Neither of us had picked up a paintbrush since art school and Mary’s incredibly enthusiastic style of teaching opened up a whole new world of creativity to us. We started out painting portraits and studies in oils and over the last five years we have grown in confidence and developed our own individual styles.”

Another piece by Ber Murphy
Another piece by Ber Murphy

She described the Thursday night class with Mary as ‘sacred’ and with her encouragement, they were part of a class exhibition in 2012 and then in 2013 the pair showed their work in the city’s Raven as part of Culture Night. In 2014 they exhibited in On the Pig’s Back in Douglas — all the time, Ber said, with Mary’s backing, and they also recently had a very successful pop up exhibition in Griffin’s garden centre in Dripsey.

“It’s great to have the support of family and friends, but the first time you sell a painting to a stranger the feeling is amazing. Without the discipline of the classes I’m not sure I could have done it,” said Ber.

She paints a lot of animal portraits which she says are inspired by a desire to capture the individual character and spirit of dogs and pigs. She has also developed an interest in African tribal art and has progressed to produce a series based on tribal face painting, principally of the tribes of the Omo Valley in Ethiopia.

Work by Anne Browne
Work by Anne Browne

Anne’s interest in music, especially jazz, inspires her eclectic mix of strong, colourful portraits of musicians — recently she has developed a series of large scale portraits in charcoal. Among her favourites are her paintings of Leonard Cohen and Billie Holiday.

An amateur photographer (she has taken around 30,000 pictures), photography and a keen eye for composition inspires her landscape paintings. Like Ber, she’s high in her praise of Mary’s enthusiasm and support. And she wants to share the message that it’s never too late to reconnect with a talent.

Work by Anne Browne
Work by Anne Browne

“We’ve been blown away by our own ability — and that’s not to say we’re fantastic or anything, but it’s great to have painting in our lives; I find it calming; I can go into my own zone.”

Ber agrees: “I’m so glad I found art again — it feeds the soul and keeps me sane. I can lose hours to painting, time can disappear when you’re on a roll. You never know what you can do until you try — just go for it.”

For more on the artists see www.facebook.com/Back2Back-Artists- 1422598597999124/


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