Born in Co Cork, my family moved to West Limerick just after I was born and I attended Scoil Mhuire agus Ide in Newcastle West as a teenager.
I later returned to education as a mature student and studied at University College Cork, where I graduated with a degree in English and Philosophy (Hons). However, I am largely self-taught as an artist, and have never been to Art College. Despite this, I was always interested in the topic which was shared by a fascination with science fiction and fantasy. Indeed, I would draw obsessively for hours and hours in my little sketchbook surrounded by my family, (namely my mother, Kathleen, my father, Donal, and older brothers, Dermot and Kieran), while they watched TV in the living room. I never really showed anyone my work back then, so I am not sure if anyone really knew that I had a talent for art. Nonetheless, these isolated early efforts helped me to develop my own unique style over the years.
Your best work, as an artist, is almost totally spontaneous but I will, maybe, do a rough sketch in pencil first, to make sure that the proportions and perspectives are the way that I want them to be.
However, I don’t really have a fully formed idea in my head until I start working. I am not one of those intellectual types who can approach art work with a fixed, explainable idea before picking-up a brush. I can’t work like that. Despite doing ‘normal’ art, for example landscapes, nature, and still life, my main interest today is in the more surreal types of art. I just enjoy playing with the human form and so my work includes a lot of nudity, which might put some people off. I just feel like there is something honest about the nude form, even though I must admit that I tend to stretch and warp the nude form in strange ways. Some may like it, some may find it disturbing, but I like working that way.
My artistic practices in the past had little or nothing to do with the concentrated effort of the intellect.
Now, I tend to actively embrace it. Whatever comes out comes out, and that’s that. I strongly disagree with the notion that the idea behind an artwork is more important than the actual art object itself, which is a common belief in the art world these days, particularly in the conceptual art world. I find that kind of thinking to be very limiting. That there is a fixed idea behind a work and it can only be interpreted in a few ways, which the artist dictates, within a certain historical or political context, is false. I believe that great art is open to many interpretations, and I will continue to adapt to the perspectives of future generations. The finished product is ultimately what’s important and how it fosters ideas in the viewing public, not whatever the artist’s original idea was behind it.
In terms of the business angle, life as an artist can be tough, (there tends to be a game that needs to be played, and even a person who is severely lacking in talent can succeed if they play it well).
I have a reasonable amount of talent, but I find it quite difficult to network and create the kind of relationships that would make me more well-known than I am. Frankly, I still find that I draw and paint for myself first and foremost. If people like it and want to buy it, then so be it. I never really formulate a plan for an exhibition, because I simply don’t know when one will be offered to me. I am constantly working though, and as a result, I always have plenty of material to fill a space. The way I work, I get a nebulous sort of idea in my head and work on that for a few days, exploring it in different ways over the course of maybe a week or so.
If a person has talent and has the right kind of work ethic then I would, of course, encourage their artistic interests.
In fact, many kids today have a basic creative talent, but that is not enough to make it as a professional artist. Training and good old fashioned hard work are still the corner stones of success. I am also a firm believer in young people going to Art College and developing the technical skills needed to create interesting work, even though I never went there myself.
Ronan Crowley has an exhibition showing in the Friars’ Gate Theatre from April 6-30. For more about Ronan’s work please see: www.saatchionline.com/ ronancrowley.