Eoin Lane is an Irish landscape artist and a writer. Whether through his use of language and the written word or though his paintings, Eoin represents a deep love of and synchronicity with the landscape of his native Ireland.
His colour palette and the textures found in his paintings bring to life the ancient landscape in which he spends countless hours. Accomplished in both mediums, Eoin is a rare and fascinating artist.
In this Q&A Eoin talks about Inspiration and what first inspired him to paint, how inspiration informs his work now and offers advice on how artists can make the most of inspiration.
What first inspired you to paint? Is there a particular painting, Artist or movement that inspired you the most?
I was twelve when I first painted in oil. An art class, open air on summer holiday at Renvyle in Connemara. My mum wanted to keep me quiet. Distract me for the afternoon. It worked. I’m still distracted and attracted by the light of the land. The sea green glass in the shallows of water, a flicker of light in between clouds, the scars of ridges carved into the mountains. I like to paint wild places I have known and loved. Connemara, the Mournes, Strangford Lough (where I’m based) and the North Coast of Antrim. Places I can feel inside like echoes. The feeling of being there which is helpful when you’re not in the hills but the studio. I write as well as paint and my first novel is about an artist who paints the sea. Writing is basically making things up and verbalising your self-conscious thoughts and landscape painting, I think is like making up what you think you see, feel, saw and remember – a visualising of your inner awareness. It’s a personal squinting of the eyes. An application of techniques by individual hands. Everyone sees something different and that’s what makes it poetic.
We went on holidays every year to Connemara. The summers definitely seemed brighter and sunnier back then. But sometimes it rained, poured down from the heavens with a white shroud of mist across the bogs. You read books on wet days or traipsed around the craft shops in Clifden. There was a gallery upstairs in Millars (downstairs was all richly coloured tweeds). You had to go up a steep spiral staircase into what felt to me like a sacred loft. It was packed with landscapes by Maurice Wilks, George Gillespie, Kenneth Webb, Maurice McGonigal. I was hooked. That was it. The colours, the skies, the fields. I never wanted those holidays to end, to have to go home to Dublin, back to school. But then I realised I’d found a way to take the landscape with me. I could paint it. I had a link. A special key. After school I went to Art College and chose Fashion Design, specialising in knitwear particularly wool and after many years designing in America and England I moved on to horticulture and the language of plants and then again in a later chapter to merchandising and the flavours of food when my partner and I ran our own bistro and giftshop. By now though I was painting again and the work of the early twentieth century Irish landscape painters like Humbert Craig, Frank McKelvey and Paul Henry was reconnecting me to where I first began with their bold compositions, strong sense of powerful form and their keen play of texture and light.
What are your thoughts on inspiration and how does it influence your work? Is inspiration essential to paint or start a painting?
If you wait it will come. The sun. In a flash across the hills. Here it comes. Get it down. Lemon greening to lime. Now it’s gone. The clouds drift. The drizzle seeps. I am standing in a puddle of squelch. Boggy water, long, bronze grass. Painting. It’s August. There’s a wind. There always seems to be a wind in Connemara. The sun is back. Shining. Heat on my skin. The colours change. There is no one about. There never is where I go. Across the bog. Up the mountain. Sheep stare and baah. Wander off. Donkeys amble by. They have big brown eyes. Like marbles. Things to try and call up when I’m in the studio. I think it helps to be energised and looking forward to painting when you start a new canvas. But it doesn’t always work out like that. Days when the paint is moved around like sludge. Becomes muddy, a mess. Every artist goes through it. The off days. Brushes and knives, heavy and dead. Long grumbling sighs as you clean down the palette. But I always come back because I know (hope) it will find me again. They say a book will often find you at just the right time, when you’re ready to read it. The same can be said for painting, I think. The days when the paint just swims. You’re in the zone and you’re flying. Inspiration is when everything just seems to align and afterwards, you look at it and wonder ‘How did I do that?’ The desire to paint, the idea – that’s important, the rush to get started. But the real flash often comes only when you’re deep in the work and the whole thing is evolving. I often start with something quite specific in mind but end up with a completely different canvas which can be very exhilarating at times. But everyone is different. Some authors map out their books for example in great, lengthy detail before actually beginning while others just plunge in and see where it goes. Take your pick as a painter. I suspect most of us are somewhere in between.
What advice would you give other Artists on finding inspiration?
I wouldn’t really presume to give advice, rather just a few random, meandering thoughts. At the moment, for example we’re surrounded by a lot of negativity which can be very draining. And depressing. Plus, we’re heading into the short days of winter. I can get very down if I can’t ‘get’ to my work. Things have a habit of infiltrating and we all have stuff. Currently in my circle, we are dealing with dementia, osteoarthritis and chronic back pain. And these and the knock-on effects can just get in the way. And so sometimes when I do get a window, I’m not always in the perfect or calmest of moods, not always thinking straight. Until I set up. And sometimes even just the basic routines can help. The squeezing out of the paint and the pungent smell. The arrangement of tools and the choice of canvas. When I get up every morning I look out at the sky. To see what is happening. And every day that vignette is like a painting in itself, a reminder, a connection to what I really love to do. But now it is winter with the evenings closing in and the rugged terrain of mountains and cliffs feels further away. In the shopping centre, there are fish in a tank. Tropical fish in black and gold bands, with rainbow coloured gills, little ones, thin ones all gliding around in and out through the caves cut from rocks made of large siting buddhas. And every week I stop. I look in through the glass in my mask. There’s a big, orange, fat one with lips like the knot of a balloon and little fairy fins that flap like toy wings. It swims up to the glass and flaps its fins as if it’s clapping, as if it’s happy to see me as I bend close in. Now, although I’m aware that this is a totally absurd delusion it doesn’t really matter because this fish does it every single week and inside my mask I am smiling. As I write this there are blue tits and coal tits zinging round the bird feeder. They dart really fast like arrows. They are pecking and poking and pecking. And sometimes in the silence of the studio, I find myself smiling because a trigger like that has just flashed through my mind. And then suddenly I’ve got it and the paint has snapped alive. Now, each to their own but there is a certain rush that comes when you get it just right. You can feel it inside and when you stop at the end of the day, you just know. Inspiration to me is a composite of triggers, tiny fragments that out of the blue can send you up a gear and transform a day from the dark of dementia to light.
Eoin’s debut novel BEYOND THE HORIZON published by Blackstone Publishing is out now online and through all good bookshops.
Eoin’s paintings can be found in the following galleries, The Trinity Gallery, Dublin. The Lavelle Gallery, Clifden. Gilmore, Fine Art, Holywood.
Caffrery’s Gallery, Ballina.
Follow Eoin on Instagram @eoin_lane_artist_writer for regular posts