Eimear Maguire is following her dream – and we can all be very proud of her.
The young mum-of-two has two passions in life – beside her family, of course – painting and birds. And she’s just on the way to forging an extraordinary career as a home-grown artist whose paintings are adorning more and more homes here and abroad.
The walls of Eimear’s studio in Hopefield Avenue in north Belfast are lined with images of every bird she has encountered during her regular walks on Cavehill or the city’s parks and hilltops. And they are being snapped up by shoppers – she supplies Irish chain Avoca – and on her internet site.
“I’ve just been given a commission from the National Trust at Giant’s Causeway Visitors’ Centre to paint three seabirds,” she says, clearly delighted at the latest boost to her career. “I’ve painted a sandpiper and an oystercatcher, but my favourite is the puffin,” she says, pointing to the stunning images of this comical but popular bird.
Eimear’s artistic bent is hardly surprising – architect sister Orla works in the same artists’ building and her other sister Aoife is an art teacher. With parents like Eamonn – famous for his bodhrán-making, bog oak sculptures and walking sticks that Dúlra once used – and seamstress mum Frances who made all the girls’ clothes – Eimear had art in her DNA.
“I did my PGCE to be a teacher and taught art classes but I decided this year to make painting my full-time job. Teachers need to be dedicated to their job and if I stayed teaching I would have had no time to paint.
“I don’t see my new business as a small thing – I don’t see why people can’t enjoy my art around the world, and with the website, I’m getting interest from all sorts of places.
“People are fed up with mass-produced things and want to buy better quality items that last and are unique. And they know when they get a local piece of art they’re supporting the local economy.
“I’ll admit it’s hard to juggle everything with work and family and I’m learning all the time. I did a course and designed my own website – I just want to be painting all day long but you have to do other things when you run a small business, like sending out orders. My plan is to eventually employ someone so I can spend more time painting – each piece can take around four days, and you’re always returning and fixing things up you don’t like.
“That sandpiper there for example – I’ve had to redo its beak and feet several times. I see failures as a positive – with every painting I do I’m trying to make it better than the last. If your last one was perfect, you’ll never paint again!
“I paint in oil which takes days to dry, so you have to wait before you can return to it to make changes.”
Most artists are attracted to landscapes or even people – but Eimear’s love is for birds.
“I go up the Cave Hill every Sunday to walk Heidi, who’s a collie-bull terrier cross. I always see people walking with headphones on and they don’t hear all the birds around them,” she said.
“Birds are so small and camouflaged and they are hard to see – that’s why when I paint them there is no background, so you can see them in all their beauty.
“When we were kids we used to visit our uncle in Crumlin, and he had all sorts of fantastic birds in his garden, like golden pheasants and even peacocks. Then when I used to paint in the kitchen in my own home, I was always amazed by the birds that would visit the garden.
“They’re so tiny and make such a tiny noise that unless you are a birdwatcher with a good set of binoculars you don’t really see them.
“I saw my first jay this week so I’ll soon be painting one. And years ago I saw a waxwing on the Cave Hill – it was so perfect it looked like it was fake!”
Eimear also paints notebooks and cards – her most popular is of a wheatear – and recently branched out – literally – after getting a commission to paint an exotic leaf for the Botanical Bar in new hotel Bullitt.
“When I think of the wheatear making it all the way here from Africa, it’s a reminder that we too can overcome anything that life throws at us, no matter what problems we have,” she said.
She keeps the originals in her studio and sells a limited number of prints of each, which cost on average around £39.95. Yesterday she ran a pop-up studio in Avoca in Belfast city centre, where she showed invited guests how she works from sketches to finished article.
“I hoping to get GoPro camera [which you wear on your head] and record the painting process from beginning to end and post it on the website so everyone can see how the paintings are produced,” she added.
At least this Christmas, Santa won’t have a problem choosing Dúlra a present. Eimear’s paintings are available at dollybirdsart.com.
If you’ve seen anything interesting or have any nature questions, you can text Dúlra on 07801 414804.