Una O’Grady was born in north Belfast and her art focused predominantly on the people and landscape of her home city until she found calf-style inspiration in Waterford which expanded her range from urban to rural.
I was inspired by my art teacher when I attended secondary school. She gave me the necessary encouragement and motivation to pursue a career in art and since then oil painting has been a constant in my life. The natural progression after school was to Art College at the Ulster University. After my final-year degree show there, I was presented with a large box of paints from my tutor which I took as a hint to keep painting!
After meeting my partner John while travelling in Australia, we relocated to his small family farm in Co Waterford.
We began building a house there while living in a nearby mobile home. Anyone who has tried this will know that the “new build” tends to take much longer than expected!
[While living in the mobile] My new neighbours, ie the cows and calves in the next field, became a much more familiar sight than anticipated.
This, however, was maybe serendipity as I began to really observe these wonderful animals. Their idiosyncratic movements and different characteristics began to interest me. Up to this point my paintings had focused mainly on the people and landscape of Belfast – but as my new friends refused to be ignored, I began some pencil studies of them through the mobile window!
This was probably a sunny morning when I observed a chunky copper coloured bull calf munching on hay. The sun reflected off his coat and a glorious array of colours seemed to glow from his bulky, moody stance. I immediately began painting. After capturing him on canvas, I titled the painting Red Fella. I was hooked and other members of the herd were scrutinised too. Paintings such as the Shy Fella and the Bould Fella ensued.
It seemed apparent that these paintings were resonating with my viewers on social media and with the visitors to galleries. And I’m delighted to say that since then, there are a trail of original “Una cows/calves” on walls across Ireland and beyond. The farthest afield one I know of is on display in a home in South Africa!
If money is tight?
As large-scale original oil paintings are not within everyone’s budget, I have made my work accessible to all by reproducing some of the paintings in fine art print form. The prints are limited edition. Happy customers have shown me how versatile the prints are by sending me images of the prints in modern sleek homes, traditional rural country homes, urban apartments and new builds.
My approach involves energetic, vigorous movements and brushstrokes as I aim to achieve a style that looks fresh and effortless. This bold application of paint requires palette knives, brushes, charcoal – and even fingerpainting! I paint everyday as it anchors me. I feel truly grateful that I have been able to continue my practice during lockdown. I feel a genuine empathy for those, whose work they are passionate about, has been snatched from them during this pandemic.
Although I am not a natural when it comes to technology, I can appreciate the positive impact that social media has had for artists and creatives alike. Never before has the artist been in direct communication with their audience and these visual platforms allow the artist to gain instant feedback and exposure. I find it interesting that these visual platforms are questioning how the traditional fine art market operates and maybe dispelling some of the elitism associated with it.
I recently received a very kind offer to visit some Highland cattle. I’m super excited about meeting these striking creatures and putting my own interpretation of them on canvas! Watch this space!
Una can be contacted on Facebook (Una O’Grady Paintings) and Instagram (unaogradyartist). Website: unaogradypaintings.Email: email@example.com