I studied art at Camberwell College in London. Looking back to my final degree show in 1986, I can see how it contained the seeds of many of my plans for future projects in art and life- a blueprint for my vision of bringing together personal art, community and environment in one creative whole.
My involvement in community arts over the years allowed me to explore and develop skills such as singing, drumming, creating large and small images with schools and community groups for carnival arts, directing two large scale pageants for St Patrick's Day Festival in Dublin.
I also enjoyed creating and coordinating a series of intergenerational community art and music projects, and was inspired by the the Living Willow Sculpture project in Arleston Park Omagh. Along with fellow artist Helen McFarland and 120 school children, we planted and wove a three-circuit labyrinth in the Park.
the artist's way
Julia Cameron's book 'The Artist's Way' is a great self-help guide for anyone engaged with the creative process. I used to run workshops based on the book, before singing took over my life, and I strongly recommend it. Here's a nice testimonial about the workshops:
In my journey along “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron, Valerie has guided my path through self-doubt, fear of criticism and negative beliefs in my abilities to be creative. By week twelve I didn't want the journey to end. Don’t come if you expect to be taught how to paint a picture or write a book. Come on a twelve week journey of exploration to find the inner you. It will change the way you think about yourself forever.
'Four Normal People' is the title of a series of oil on canvas works based on the comedy slide show of Kevin McAleer. The slide show used found images covering a wide range of content and styles, including photographs both conventional and bizarre, old movie and animation stills, museum exhibits and illustrations.
Working with this highly unusual mix of images presented many new painting challenges for me, and led me down paths I would never have chosen to follow if taking a more rational approach to subject matter. On the other hand, it was nice not to have to ask 'What should I paint, and why?' and just follow the visual paths to their strange conclusions.
It took three years to finish the seventy odd paintings; it was an intense and concentrated project, but a real labour of love. Hints of the original humour comes through in some of the paintings' titles, and traces of the slide show's strange internal logic remain too I think, lending the collection a certain unity and cohesion, against all the odds. See the gallery here