I became an artist by accident.
When I was a teenager in Dublin, Ireland, I filled out an application at the local job center. Based on my skills, they sent me to Sullivan Bluth Studios for an interview and paint test. Only upon arrival did I learn it was an animation studio and they wanted me to paint cells for feature films—not houses. Over the next 20 years, I became an accomplished animator, working on films such as Anastasia and All Dogs Go to Heaven.
In the mid-1990s I moved to Phoenix for an animation job with another studio, and started oil painting. I’ve been doing it ever since. In animation, the focus was on characters. In painting, I wanted to capture real life—so was drawn to portraits, landscapes, still life and other representational work, particularly those of Dutch and Italian masters such as Caravaggio and Honthorst. I spent two months studying at the Florence Academy of Art, but otherwise, am self-taught.
My curiosity and love of learning led me to public art and museums. I earned a museum studies degree from Arizona State University—painting murals in schools, hospitals and houses to put myself through school. Then I joined the City of Glendale as a public arts coordinator. The job gave me a kaleidoscopic view of what it means to be an artist—including the importance of community access to art.
At the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, I started in collections and registration and ultimately became exhibit development manager. It was an amazing place to work. Where else could I have installed an exhibit of African thumb pianos, worked with Graceland on Elvis memorabilia, and led the project team for “Women Who Rock”? After arriving in the Bay Area in spring 2014, I was communications and operations manager at the Museum of Craft and Design in the Dogpatch neighborhood. My job was to make sure both our exhibit space and our social media gave voice to the amazing artists we featured.
Since I’ve been in California, I’ve jumped back into painting in earnest. I’m inspired every day by the beauty, diversity, culture and creativity of Redwood City and the entire Bay Area. Hopefully my work reflects this and it inspires you, too.