Sophie McGrath

LSAD graduate whose work challenges stereotypical perceptions about the female form

John Rainsford

Reporter:

John Rainsford

Sophie McGrath

BORN and bred in Galway, I came to Limerick with a dream to carry my love of art into my working, adult life, and to educate myself in a field which I am most passionate about.

My education began in two separate primary schools; St. James’ National School in the city and Barnaderg NS in Tuam, Co Galway, having had to move schools for commuting reasons. In each school, I was encouraged to express my creativity which only motivated me further. I, then, went on to the Mercy Secondary School in Tuam and it was in my third year there that I discovered a prospectus for Limerick Institute of Technology. Immediately, I realized that I wanted to study art in the esteemed Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD), from which I graduated this year.

For as long as I can recall, I have been drawing, painting, and making, fueled by a keen interest in art and design.

Very much in touch with my thoughts and emotions, I have always felt the overwhelming need to express myself artistically. This artistic flair runs in the family, predominantly on my father, John McGrath‘s side, (my mother is Caroline), whose aunt is a professional sculptor and art professor in New York. His sister, my aunt Fidelma, has been my key inspiration since I was a young girl watching her draw at home. I grew-up in awe of her talent, and although she never attended an Art College, I feel as though this only spurred my desire to become a practicing artist.

While attending LSAD, I studied fine art painting, although in the early days I had hoped to study fashion design.

However, at the time this did not suit me and I ended up going into painting – a discipline which, to be frank, is more fitting to me as an artist. I thoroughly enjoyed this course as it allowed me to explore my favourite themes on a wider scale and to look at them from various perspectives. Today, I specialize in figurative painting and drawing. This comes from a fascination with people, the human body, and personal identity. As a woman, I can relate more to the female, rather than the male, so I tend to focus more on the female body and identity. Indeed, this was the basis for my LSAD degree showcase in June called ‘Be.Cause’.

For the past few months I have been working in a regular nine-to-five job in order to earn a suitable living for myself.

That said, I am now taking some time-out to focus solely on launching my career with the release of newer artwork. So while I have no immediate plans to exhibit any of my paintings, I look forward to doing so when the time is right and once I have a greater quantity of work accumulated. Indeed, since the birth of my final year showcase entitled, ‘Ornamental Body’, I have been using mostly oil paint which is still a relatively new medium for me as I have always felt more comfortable using acrylics. Now, I invariably opt for the medium of oil paint any time I go to pick up a paintbrush, though my style comes from a plenitude of drawing as I started off as an artist who just adored drawing.

Anyone with an artistic passion to go and be an artist on their own terms, whether they take it as far as a career, or simply see it only as a pastime, should be encouraged.

However, for a person to want to be an artist, they have to possess an innate need for self-expression and the desire to create something sincere and meaningful. Art is a means of creatively communicating a thought, a feeling or an idea, and this is something you must want to achieve as an artist. Today, art has never been more universal and it is central to global culture. Although, it is fair to say that because of this, the current market is rather tricky to break into. Buyers, dealers, curators, and collectors, alike have to be very selective with incoming work. Thankfully, in this age artists have the advantage of using social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook to share their work. However, to secure a stable career you really have to invest a lot of time, energy and determination, all the while staying persistent. Whatever you give you will get back tenfold.

While I don’t think that a college education is crucial to be an artist, there are undoubtedly important elements to it which can really benefit you as a practitioner.

For example, critique sessions help to build your self-confidence and allow you to practice connecting with the audience. There is, also, the extensive theory work covered in an art college, from history to cultural context, which can really help to expand your knowledge. This enables you to become more comprehensive and articulate. An Art college can offer you the kind of resources you might not acquire otherwise, from state-of-the-art computers complete with some of the best programs available, to intensive workshops, and a wide range of equipment and materials.

Today, Limerick is becoming a fantastic artistic centre with such a large, tight-knit community of artists, and creators. This success stems from the various highly-regarded institutes and facilities available in the area along with significant events that have taken place such as the amazing ‘City of Culture’ concept. Not only does LSAD produce highly educated artists every year, you have all of these hubs, and galleries, on offer in the city, which bring in fabulous talent to adorn the living space. This is really encouraging for Limerick and its artistic community!

To learn more about artist Sophie McGrath please see: www.facebook.com/sophiemcgrathartis.