Deborah Donnelly Deborah Donnelly Fri, 27 Nov 2020 14:23:37 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Deborah Donnelly 32 32 A day in the life of Deborah Donnelly Fri, 27 Nov 2020 14:23:36 +0000 The artist, author & teacher shares a typical working day

Deborah Donnelly On The Importance Of Art During Lockdown Mon, 23 Nov 2020 18:06:14 +0000 There’s no better time to pick up a paintbrush.

It’s safe to say the first lockdown brought out sides of ourselves we never knew. Some discovered a talent for cutting their own hair, some perfected the art that is baking sourdough bread while others set themselves the challenge of running 5k. Granted, when the restrictions were lifted back in June, those bread loaf tins went back to gathering dust in the kitchen cupboard and we practically sprinted to the salons to fix our at-home quarantine disasters. 

But as of October 19, the Irish government implemented level five restrictions mean we were once again confined to our homes.  Despite being over three weeks into the second lockdown, there’s still flour on the supermarket shelves. Perhaps it was the copious amounts of freshly baked bread in March or simply that the novelty has just worn off but baking is no longer the answer to lockdown-induced boredom. 

As we enter what seems to be the millionth weekend of being at home, there is no better time than the present to start a new hobby. Of course, lockdown shouldn’t be a time to put extra pressure on yourself. Forget those plans to write an epic novel and put away those unattainable exercise programmes – times are tough enough out there already. A new hobby, though, is a good way to go. Take art – whether that’s painting, drawing, colouring – for example. It can be done from the comfort of your own home, is herald as being therapeutic and is an incredible stress-reliever. 

“Painting is very relaxing, it’s like meditation,” says Dublin based artist, Deborah Donnelly. “It’s easy to be hard on yourself in these times. People are afraid to make mistakes but with art, part of the fun is making mistakes and being messy. It does help bring a sense of calm.” 

Deborah Donnelly grew up surrounded by art, as she followed her mother’s footsteps to become an artist. She studied art in NCAD before she headed Stateside to work with an Art Gallery in New York. She later returned to Ireland and can now be found painting her exemplary works in Marlay Park.  “I major in bad art but every now and again I paint a winner,” remarks Donnelly. “I can lose myself in my art and I love it. It has helped me get through some testing times and I truly believe expression beats depression.”

It’s true, experts say creating art – be it painting, sewing or decorating cakes – is one of the best ways we can help our mental while we’re stuck at home. Picking up a new creative hobby such as watercolour painting is a great way to practice mindfulness and look after your mental health, while also giving you a sense of accomplishment. The best bit? It’s easy to get started. 

And to help with just that, we asked Donnelly to give us her top tips on getting started with painting, no matter what your skill level. From the paints and brushes you’ll need to finding ideas and inspiration, here’s everything you need to know.


Step one: gather the right materials

When it comes to painting, a lot of people are put off by the fancy equipment they beleive they need to get started. But according to Donnelly, “all you need is a nail in the wall and a canvas.”  As for what to use on said canvas, it’s best to experiment with different mediums to see what works for you. “I use oils as I find them the best to work it. They stay wet for about a week or two meaning I can constantly re-work pieces. That said, water-based paints are great for if you’re just starting out and especially if you have young kids!” says Donelly. If watercolour is the medium you chose, Donelly recommends investing in a watercolour sketchpad. 

Step two: source the best tools

Once you’ve got all your paint and canvas selected, the next step is aiding yourself with the best tools. “The brush is your best tool,” advises Donelly. “You can spend €60 on a really good quality brush and it will last you years – you just have to look after it.” To do so, Donelly recommends cleaning the brush well, ensuring no paint is left on the bristles. Then, put some washing up liquid onto the brush and wrap it in tissue.

Step three: decision time

Often the hardest thing to do when it comes to painting is deciding what to paint. “It’s always hard to start painting, it’s even harder to decide what to paint,” says Donelly. “Never paint from a photo. Try and get out and sketch a flower to start with or stare at your hands and toes, they are good subjects.”

Step four: go for it

Once you’ve decided on what you’re going to paint, the next step is diving straight in. “Just make the time and give it a go,” says Donelly. “Get art books from the library and start saving some of your favourite artist’s work. Surround yourself with art and eventually, you will feel more confident using colours.” And speaking of confidence with colours, “never ever use black paint when you’re a beginner. Black can easily ruin a painting. Instead, mix together three colours you’ve used in your painting to make a far nicer shade of black that will be easy to work with.”

Step five: make mistakes

Unlike most aspects of our daily lives, art encourages making mistakes. “I constantly make mistakes,” says Donelly. “I major in bad art but every now and again I paint a winner. For me, mistakes add texture to the canvas. The thicker the paint, the more mistakes I made. Mistakes make you better!”


Ryan Tubridy Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:09:00 +0000 This week Ryan spoke to Ann and Sabrina Boyd on both being named Carer of the Year; Gwen Layden on letting business flourish in George’s Street Arcade; Vogue Williams on life in lockdown; Clare on the circumstances that saw her giving birth to her daughter Deborah in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home; And Bob Woodward on the upcoming US election.

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Mother and Baby Story“I feel I was lucky. I was. The nuns treated me – maybe I had a missed calling – they treated me like an equal.” Wed, 21 Oct 2020 13:17:04 +0000 Wednesday’s Ryan Tubridy Show featured a conversation with a woman who gave birth to her daughter in a Mother and Baby home 40-odd years ago, but the conversation didn’t go as you might expect when you hear the words “Mother and Baby home”. Instead, the chat was 20 minutes of discussion of the importance of art, kind-hearted nuns and the non-existence of puffins.  Artist Deborah Donnelly got in touch with the show to let Ryan know that, inspired by his puffin-denial, she’s started painting the birds. And she also had some notable puffin facts: 

“I’ve started painting puffins because they’re actually a sign of wellness during Covid. And they’re Ireland’s longest-living bird. My favourite part about them is that, when they mate, they share the chores equally of, you know, family life.” 

Which, Ryan decided, just goes to prove their fictional status.  Obviously. Deborah was in studio with her mother, Clare, also an artist, who had a story to tell that was as remarkable for its happy ending as it was for its potential to be deeply harrowing. Clare was pregnant when she was 27 and decided in a panic to go to a Mother and Baby home to have her child. 

I found myself pregnant and I did a lot of crying and then I sought an agent – there’s an agency, you know, in the papers there’s always a little ad about if you’re pregnant and I contacted this agency and, obviously a Catholic agency, and then they arranged for me to go to Bessborough in Cork, a mother and baby home.” 

At 27, Clare was, as Ryan puts it, not exactly a whippersnapper. No, she wasn’t, Clare agreed, “I was an eejit”. Bessborough – despite what we’ve heard about it over the years – welcomed Clare and she was relieved to be there. They gave her a new identity. She had told her parents she was going to England to work, so they forwarded her letters home to their convent in London, who then posted them back to Ireland. All the staff were nice to her. And although Ryan couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing – “I’ve never heard of a cheerful mother and child home in Ireland” – Clare told him that the only complaint she had was with the doctor who delivered her baby: 

“The only unpleasant person was the doctor, in my opinion, because I might have said something about not wanting to give her up and she said, ‘What have you to offer this child? What have you to offer?’ You know, at your lowest point, for her to say that.” 

Fortunately, the midwife told Clare that she thought she’d make a great mother and that was all the encouragement she needed. Clare acknowledged that many horror stories have come out of Bessborough over the years, but she says her experience wasn’t one of them, something she thinks might have something to do with her age at the time. 

“I feel I was lucky. I was. The nuns treated me – maybe I had a missed calling – they treated me like an equal.” 

Deborah, meanwhile, presented Ryan with a painting of – what else? – a puffin, which he was delighted to hang on the wall and Clare also bestowed art upon him, a print of his beloved Dún Laoghaire pier. There’s loads more in Clare and Deborah’s story, including how baby Deborah was almost adopted, then almost fostered and how Clare was more or less forced to get married. And we find out how old everyone in the studio is. You can listen to the whole conversation by going here

You can find Deborah’s work at and both Clare and Deborah’s work is featured in the Duke Street Gallery in Dublin.

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Dublin artists brush aside stress & are the picture of happiness Thu, 08 Oct 2020 15:15:00 +0000 Deborah Donnelly and Chris O’hara are using their talent to help others in the community to see the benefit of painting

Irish Daily – Mirror 8 Oct 2020

ROYAL APPROVAL Chris O’hara with Zara Phillips and the piece commissioned for her

Expression beats depression is the motto of a well known Irish artist who’s lifting the mood of the nation with colour therapy. Dublin artist Deborah Donnelly told how in times of stress art can heal and art therapy is on the rise.

Deborah, 43, told the Irish Mirror : “I’ ve had times when I’ ve gone through a bit of trauma, and the only way to feel better is to paint, swim in the sea or go for a walk, you just have to keep moving.

“With painting I find it a form of meditation, you don’t think of anything, I feel balanced after it.

“I have days where I want to cry all day and those are the days I might paint the bright est and most colourful painting.

“My motto is expression beats depression.

“I taught a group of women who had cancer and they said, the only time they don’t think about their illness is when they’re painting.

“They’re trying to bring art wellness into hospitals, I used to teach art wellness to staff in Google but now with my Youtube videos, I can teach art therapy to everybody.”

During Covid, Deborah started painting puffins, they represent a long and happy life.

They’re the longest living bird in Ireland and are believed to trigger the brain to be happy.

Through social media Deborah strives to share her vision of Expressionism with thousands of people and to encourage them to try and paint too, through her youtube videos she makes painting look easy.

The mum-of-three explained: “During lockdown I had to close but I still had to work, I could see outside the window as it’s a public park.

“Everyone was stressed looking and the markings on the footpath were leaving everyone nervous and scared.

“My passion is art and colour therapy so it’s possible to trick your brain to be happy with colour.

“My favourite saying is from the jungle book, if you’re going to be blue be bright blue.

“I had this big donkey painting and I hung it outside my studio and it said, don’t be an ass be nice to your family.

“Then I had pictures of bees and wrote on them bee happy, then an image of women drinking and having fun and I put the message up, don’t worry we will get to see our friends again.

“I kept changing them around and wanted to cheer people up.

“Then I started doing my Youtube videos, trying to lighten the mood, I have my books, how to paint an ostrich and a duck.

“I think when people are stressed they go back to childhood simplistic stuff.

“I had so many people telling me that the paintings really cheered them up.

“A Lot of people start painting again when they have kids, you get good at it very quickly and you can hang up your own work on the wall and stop buying prints from Ikea.

Inspired by her mum who led a

tough life, Deborah always knew she’d become an ar t i st despit e resisting the profession.

She said: “My mother had me in a Mother and baby home in Cork, she got to hold onto me, the nuns were really angry with her and all it took was one nun to tell her she’d be a good mother and so she kept me.

“She’s an artist, we had very little money growing up but art was always fun.

“She inspired my love of art, she would paint around Merrion Square for 20 years, she was always painting us.

“We spent days running around the square as my mum painted and

I remember getting the best soup ever in Holles Street, they used to give it to the new mums and they’d sell it to us, it was only 50 pence.

“Mum has her down days, when she hasn’ t painted in a while, it can get on top of her so maybe I can see that pattern in myself and painting is

just something I have to do.”

Meanwhile, the Irish artist who recently hung his painting on Zara Phillips wall is donating most of his earnings to help budding artists succeed in tough times.

Dubliner Chris O’hara said he wants to give rising stars of the art world a helping hand in these challenging times.

It took Chris many years to give up hi s day j ob as a successful restaurateur and do what h e was re al l y passionate about, painting.

Chris, 50, told the Iri sh Mirror : “Everything in my life before ar t came along was f orced , I was tr ying to f it a square into a circle.”

In the restaurant business for a long time, Chris was stressed and worried if he’d fill the pub on a Friday night or if his next venture would work or fail.

He added: “My artwork organically grows, it stems from something that was said to me a long time ago, if you do what you’re passionate about, they’ll eventually queue up and pay you for it.

“I travel around the country every week meeting customers, it’s a great release and I get to meet people.

“I would spend 14 hours painting alone and time just evaporates, the thing is everyone can paint and once you start your talent shines through.”

Chris wants to give back and help the next generation of artists to f lourish.

He said: “The hub was an idea that I had for a location in town that could be let out to emerging artists.

“It would be a community where artists could rub shoulders and learn from each other.

“That was the whole idea, but I don’t know if that’s possible now because for the best part exhibitions are closed.”

With a plan to move to the idyllic island of Skopelos in Greece, Chris i s pairing down his work to 400 paintings a year instead of 1400 and investing back into the community.

He added: “I ’m going to keep the galleries in Naas and in Navan and I ’ ll paint 400 paintings over three visits, back to Ireland

“The proceeds from these painti ngs will go towards helping to finance and mentor budding artists.

“For example if there’s a young artist who has a talent but just doesn’t have the means to take it further, I ’ ll step in and help.

“They might just need someone to talk to and to explain how for instance I made it in this game, also I plan on renting a studio out for them so they won’t have to worry about finance.

“Help and guidance without interfering is what it’s all about, all artists a p p r o a c h t h i n g s c o mp l e t e l y different.

“I always tell rising artists subconsciously people are buying t he passion for what you do.

“Enjoy it, have a plan and let it unfold.”

See www. deborahdonnelly. com and www. chrisoharaart. com

Cow to paint the blues away Wed, 26 Aug 2020 13:39:00 +0000 It’s amazing how so many of us love having a cow looking down on us from our walls, their gentle bovine eyes luring us into a sense of safety and contemplation.

Artist Deborah Donnelly is one of the reasons we have such a love affair with cows, having specialised in painting their docile friendly faces for years now.

Though a modern painter, her work resembles much of that painted during the impressionist era and she uses strikingly bold colours in her paintings of cows, cafes, farmsteads, and other farm animals.

Deborah’s work is in several galleries in Ireland, London and Paris and she has been commissioned by Gary Rhodes to produce artworks for his restaurants. Andrew Lloyd Webber also has several of her paintings. In 2010 she published her first ever painting book, How to Paint a Cow, a step by step guide to painting a cow. More books have since been added to the series. Her books are stocked in the Saatchi galleries and Tate Museums in London. Or check out or

24 Hours With… Irish artist Deborah Donnelly Wed, 26 Aug 2020 12:49:00 +0000 During lockdown we probably all tried to become the next Van Gogh, but one Irish woman has been making waves with her stunning art.

Deborah Donnelly grew up surrounded by art, as she followed her mother’s footsteps to become an artist. She studied art in NCAD before she headed State side to work with an Art Gallery in New York for a few years.

The professional artist and writer told EVOKE that she usually paints with Oils and exhibit with galleries in Ireland and the UK. She also writes children’s books and encourages people to paint. As ‘painting makes you happy’.

So how does she do it all in just 24 hours?

I’M AN EARLY RISER… so I get up at 6.30am. Although I wake up a little later in the winter. Then I fill my flask and head up to Killiney for a morning dip. I swim all year round and I love it. Breakfast is coffee and usually an energy ball. I batch bake. 

MY DAY STARTS WHEN… I cycle to Marlay park and start working at 8am. I kick off with painting as this is the only time I don’t get disturbed. I open my studio at 11am to the public. 

MORNING IS… the best part of my day. Painting in the morning is pure bliss.

LUNCH FOR ME… is always miso soup. I have packets in my studio and they are quick and easy to make. Also fruit and lots of liquorice!

WITH THE WEATHER SO NICE… in the afternoon I move my easel outside in Marlay and paint under the tree. Oils take about six weeks to dry so I am always waiting for paint to dry.  With COVID, I prefer to sit outside so people can look in my studio. It feels safer somehow. 

MY CYCLE HOME… usually helps me unwind. Painting is very relaxing so I find coming home is the hard bit!! My husband usually cooks dinner. Usually one pot wonders. It is so nice to be cooked for. 

I AM MAD ABOUT… podcasts. I am loving Esther Perells Where Should We Begin about couples in therapy. I also love Grounded with Louis Theroux. His podcast with Rose McGowan stayed with me as it was all about the #MeToo movement.

I’M NOT AN NIGHT OWL.. I want to say I stay up late and party but I am asleep by 11. Especially during COVID. I have slept a lot. Before I get into bed, I usually have a bath and then read some poems. 

IF I COULD GIVE MYSELF ADVICE… I would say: ‘Have courage’.  Obsession about your work is normal and don’t give up too easily. 

THE BEST PART OF MY JOB IS… when someone connects with a piece and wants to buy it! I don’t feel as guilty about spending so much time painting.

MY BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT WAS… getting my children’s books into the Tate Museums and the Saachi Galleries. Seeing my book in the Saachi Gallery in Venice was pretty awesome. 

ART IS PART OF MY BLOOD… My mom is an artist so years of hanging around Merrion Square in Dublin!! I went to NCAD but I really learnt the business of the trade in NY. I worked as a ghost painter for another artist. This is where I learnt the business of art. My mantra is Expression beats Depression.

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