Born in Egypt while her father served on United Nations (UN) peacekeeping duties, Joanne Kavanagh grew up in Athlone and studied equine studies in England before relocating to Shanagolden, Co Limerick. There, she kick-started her life as an artist in earnest.

Were you supported to pursue art as a career?

I loved art as I grew up and, growing up, I was self-taught or family-taught. My mum was a fantastic artist and art teacher and my family would have wholeheartedly supported me if I chose art as a career. However, I chose to follow my love of horses instead; working for 17 years as an instructor and yard manager in Clonshire Equestrian Centre before changing lanes.

What was your seminal moment?

I painted sporadically, both for my own pleasure and some commissions, through the years. My mum always felt I should be following my love of art more. Three years ago I made the leap of faith and haven’t looked back since.

Joanne attributes her upbringing with horses and dogs to her USP.

What’s your focus and preferred medium?

I love painting animals – especially horses and dogs – but I have also painted hunting scenes and still life relating to equestrian life; like a single stirrup. My work is realistic and personal with a view to capturing the character and essence of the subject. I work primarily in water colour paint, but have worked with pastels and pastel pencils in the past.

Can you walk us through your process?

After an initial discussion with the client about the size, composition, framing and price, the sketching and painting will usually take two to three weeks.

Who or what is your inspiration?

My dad has always loved fishing and shooting, so it was very familiar to me. I became immersed in the world of horses and, later, hunting.

What is your unique selling point?

My upbringing with horses and dogs, and my equine training (through my degree and British Horse Society exams) give me an insight into anatomical aspects of pet portraiture. I take such pride in being able to capture precious memories of loved pets for my clients; particularly if their pet has passed away.

Working through COVID-19:

I’m lucky that I can continue to paint from home, but travelling to deliver my paintings can be difficult as I enjoy the personal delivery aspect of my work. It is the final stage of the painting’s journey.

Support for the arts:

Ireland is renowned for its love of the arts be it painting, writing or theatre, but I feel that it is the bigger, more formal areas of the arts that are more supported. The grassroots of the Irish arts could be cared for more. The arts can be seen as a societal thing – or elitist – and not meant for the common man, woman or child and I think, especially with the pandemic this year, it has shown how important art, music, pantomime or even crafting is for the mental wellbeing of the people of Ireland

If I was to start over...

I would have started my art career earlier and believed in myself a little more, which is something I need to work on every day

What keeps you awake at night?

Potentially, what people think of me and my abilities – I tend to overthink things and I find I have to work on not procrastinating and hiding behind other things to do before I start a picture. The worry of taking the first step or sketch can be daunting.

What are some things which are always with you?

My gorgeous, cheeky, independent devil of a two-year-old daughter and my mobile phone!

Joanne can be contacted through Facebook or Instagram (@joanne.kavanagh.77). Prices for her work start from €250 and are dependent on size, number of subjects, portrait or action painting and framing.

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