Land, sea, people all inspire the Donegal artist to create

Artist Sinead Smyth specializes in painting, working primarily in oil but occasionally adding other media. In her work, she likes to create the illusion of detail through energetic marking, focusing on abstract impressionism.

Here, she talks to The Impartial Reporter about her biggest influences, where she exhibits her work, and what her art means to her.

What is your artistic background? Are you self-taught or did you go to art school / take classes?

At 16, I was delighted to be accepted into the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Dublin, but my parents had other ideas.

I studied Geography, Teaching and a Masters in Counseling and Therapeutic Communication. Self-taught in painting for the past 15 years, I am still researching and studying the theory of painting, working and studying with other professional artists through the Royal Ulster Academy, Visual Arts Ireland and Artlink at Fort Dunree.


What inspires your art?

I draw my inspiration from my experience of land, sea, people, conversations and writing. In the summer I started swimming in the sea. This impacted my work in its sense of scale with greater freedom and movement. There is an elemental sense of freedom when you are part of the huge ocean.

Still life March 2020.

Still life March 2020.

Who/what are your biggest influences?

Joan Eardley and Melita Denaro. I love Brian Ballard’s style and I’m intrigued by Eamon Coleman.

Is there a specific place where you do your work? Do you have a studio?

I work primarily from my studio, which is attached to the Inishowen Artists’ Retreat. I also work outdoors (outdoors), which I find instructive and challenging. The light is constantly changing; it’s absorbent but can get cold.

Of the sea.

Of the sea.

What has been your most ambitious piece to date?

‘The sea was gentle and full of secrets’ (1.5×2 meters) is my largest painting to date. Painted in response to an experience I had in the sea on a Sunday morning, how the landscape receded beyond the horizon and I felt a very small but still important piece of a greater existence .

I felt compelled to share this; sometimes we don’t realize our individual worth and value. This work was selected as a finalist for the John Richardson French Residency Award.

Waiting warriors.

Waiting warriors.

What different art mediums do you use and which is your favorite?

I paint primarily in oils, sometimes adding other mediums like acrylic, blue clay slip, charcoal, collected dust and powdered pigments. I love working with oil paints; I find they have a mind of their own, and you have to let the paint inform the paint as you go… They can be unpredictable.

What are you currently working on?

I work on several paintings at the same time. My mind is constantly thinking about color and light, even when I’m doing something else. I plan and think about a project in advance, but sometimes an image appears in the structure of the painting, so it can turn into something completely different.

I’m working on a series of marine paintings; a portrait of a single mother and some landscapes. In truth, the face is like a landscape where the features and shadows reflect the life of that person.

The sea was gentle and full of secrets.

The sea was gentle and full of secrets.

Do you exhibit your work somewhere?

My gallery representation is with the wonderful Hambly & Hambly at Dunbar House; they work really hard for the artist and I love their philosophy.

I am grateful to have been invited to participate in a traveling exhibition, “A5”, with The Drawing Box – an incredible initiative of international artists, organized in cooperation.

We have exhibited in Paris, the Athens Institute of Fine Arts, New Delhi, Ghent, New Mexico, Lithuania, Cyprus, Germany, Australia, Scotland and the Netherlands.

I would like to thank the founders, John Crabtree, Andrew Crane, Patil Rajendra and Diane Henshaw for their vision.

Place of soul.

Place of soul.

New artistic adventures planned for 2022?

Yes, I have been invited to exhibit my work by Echo Echo Dance Theater in Derry during the Illuminate Festival (February 17-27).

The “Lucent” exhibition will be opened by my friend and colleague, Noelle McAlinden, on February 1 from 7-8:30 p.m. and will continue until March 29.

My drawing, ‘Oscillation’, will be featured in a group exhibition, ‘A0’, by The Drawing box at the Kanu Nayak Art Foundation in Mumbai later this year.

A long-awaited three-way exhibition with myself, Josephine Kelly and Paul Murray will take place at the Hyde Bridge Gallery in June. We had to postpone twice.

Our Artists’ Retreat (, located in an 1800s cottage near our home in Inishowen, will open soon. A place where I can host up to four artists, share my experience and knowledge of painting while focusing on style and innate abilities.

It will be amazing to realize this project because we have been working on it for 10 years, practically rebuilding it ourselves with whitewash.

Where to go next.

Where to go next.

What have been your favorite projects so far?

Working with the education team on the Turner Prize in 2013 or the Rivers of the World project with the Thames Festival and the British Council (Foyle and Londonderry College and Royal and Prior at Raphoe), creating sculptures and videos, and recently compiling a young people’s book on creative well-being with the Churches Trust.

What do you do when you’re not creating art?

Take care of my family and take care of my parents. Carrying out forest and wellbeing projects with the Donegal Sports Partnership and HSE, combining my interest and knowledge of trees and mental health recovery.



How would you describe your artistic style?

My paintings are based largely on an intuitive response to personal experiences and observations of people and places, real and imagined.

I develop paintings, drawings, ephemeral land art and photographs. I like to create the illusion of detail through the creation of energetic marks, focusing on abstract impressionism.

What does your art represent for you?

That’s how I communicate best. It allows me to show what is going on in my life, demonstrating my point of view in visual form.

The boy and the sea.

The boy and the sea.

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