Enda Griffin

'Realist' who deserted the managerial board room for artistic portraiture

John Rainsford


John Rainsford

Enda Griffin

Enda Griffin

Born in Ballina, Co Tipperary I have been working in and around Limerick since I attended Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD) in the 1990s.

Although, I spent a decade working in management, Art is in my family. My dad is a landscape oil painter and scenes from the countryside grace the walls of many a local home. I have drawn and painted since I was a child. Indeed, I have always felt the need to reflect the world I see around me. I was encouraged in this by both my parents, who as teachers, had loads of creative energy. I haven’t stopped drawing and painting since then. It is one of the joys of teaching, that using my techniques, adults can overcome years of struggle and produce wonderful art.

When creativity is unlocked exciting and surprising things can happen.

My own artistic style is, I suppose, best described as figurative realism. For me this means that I draw and paint mostly people and I try to create reasonably realistic work. I try to capture the essence of a person and the feeling of the situation in a way that is beyond photographs. Over the years I have painted landscape and floral paintings but I love painting pictures of people. Ideally, I work from life but also from good quality photographs, where that is the only option.

All children draw and paint as it comes naturally to them.

It is only as they grow older that children lose this confidence. They start to look around and make comparisons with other people and see the difference between what they are drawing and reality. Then they stop. When people say they can’t draw I love the challenge of showing them how they can. I do not like the notion that some people are artists and some are not. We don’t say: “I can’t talk”. Drawing is just another way of communicating, one that is as old as humanity. We might not yet draw as well, or in the style that we like, but that comes with practice. Try not talking for ten years and see how well you speak the first time. Just because someone’s drawing is not hanging in the National Gallery does not mean it lacks value. For example, we would never think of saying that our spoken conversations are of no value.

In 2013, I attended a workshop in the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin, with the internationally renowned American artist, David Kassan.

After that experience, I realized that figurative and portrait art was my passion. It is funny that it took so many years to realize that. My sketchbooks from childhood are full of faces and heads, real and imagined. The exciting thing for me about portrait painting is the challenge of getting a likeness of a person, while at the same time creating art that evokes an emotional response. It is easy to paint a tree that looks like a tree, and a person to look like a person, but the challenge is to paint a particular tree, or more so a particular person, to look like themselves. Getting a likeness is only the beginning with portrait painting. Capturing a mood or a feeling is the next step, all while paying attention to quality.

I was lucky enough to be selected as an Irish heat finalist in the Sky Portrait Artist of the Year competition (2013).

It was equally exciting and nerve wracking to be on the TV. However, it was great to be among some of the best portrait painters in the country. Since then, I was the chosen painter for the first Rose of Tralee portrait painting competition, in Shannon Rowing Club, when Maria Walsh won the competition in 2014. Since then, I have been working on a number of commissions including the Co. Tipperary Bealtaine Festival, local sporting heroes and even Middle Eastern royalty. So, although I have plans to hold an exhibition of my work, I have not yet had the time. Being an artist is a time consuming job with much of that time being spent, ironically, in other activities (not actually drawing or painting). In all this, I am indebted to my wife, Claire, while I work to develop my art teaching and practice.

Whether it be drawing, painting, or any other artistic pursuit, it is difficult to keep going all on your own.

However, there are great local organizations like Limerick Art Society where you can meet like-minded people. A weekly class is a great way to stay enthused. In fact, I run my own weekly classes, and monthly workshops, both in Quay Arts, Ballina, Killaloe and in Shannon Rowing Club. These are great local facilities where the artistic life can be explored. I was delighted to find out that Shannon Rowing club could be hired out for many occasions and events so I grabbed the opportunity to use it for art classes. It would be hard not to create good art with its beautiful setting and views. Last year a group of us created the Limerick Academy of Art to promote classical drawing and painting techniques and held our first summer school there. It was fantastic. This year we are holding it again in early July while my regular classes resume in September. Here, people have a chance to practice their technique, the kettle is always on the boil and the support and encouragement is warm and friendly. The building is a wonderful setting, conducive to art and when people create art, they are invariably surprised and delighted by it!

The artist Enda Griffin can be contacted at: 086 1033346 or email: endagriffin@hotmail.com