We were thrilled to go inside the studio of talented Irish painter John Halliday and discover how his passion for art led him to win the hearts of collectors all over the world, from the UK to Germany, Australia and beyond.
John captures the emotions of each scene that he creates in his beautiful impressionist paintings, from a crowded commuter path, to a weathered coastline. There is a lot to discover in the artist’s work, but before you explore John Halliday’s full collection, read on to find out more about his journey as an artist.
When did you first start painting and how did your art career begin?
An interest in painting and art has always been there but lay dormant for many years aside from sporadic sketches and doodles. I drew a lot as a child if family stories are accurate and art was by far my favourite subject at school. Having seen a local exhibition about 10 years ago I thought I could do that, bought some watercolours and gave it a go. Results were okay. Surprised a few people, and it developed from there.
Where do you find inspiration and what motivates you to keep going?
I find inspiration in most things, could be a street scene, landscape, a face or pose, light or sometimes just a colour, and of course other artists work particularly their process. The motivation is to keep progressing, I usually find something in a completed piece that has gone well or improved and this generates the motivation for the next piece and often results in a series of pieces.
Tell us about your studio or space where you create you art.
About 4 years ago, due to unemployment, I decided to concentrate on art and painting, I now paint full time. Having a garage which was used for storage and not for the car, I converted the garage into a studio and now have a space where I can paint and store work and materials.
Is there an active art scene where you live in Northern Ireland?
When I started showing work locally I was amazed to discover just how many local artists there were, both professional and amateur. There are a few local art groups and several galleries. I paint with a group of artists, usually about 14 artists in the group, we show a couple of times each year.
How would you describe your style?
I think my style has evolved to more impressionist and perhaps abstract in some pieces. My style has become looser as I try more to capture shape and light. I use palette knives more now as I try to keep detail limited.
I take a lot of photographs and work from those, mostly I crop a small piece from the photograph and base the painting on that, often combining several photographs. The photograph may have been stored on the computer for sometime before I see something in it that I want to develop into a painting. Alternatively, particularly with a landscape, I will view the image try to memorise it and paint from memory.
Your impressionistic style steers towards landscapes and people. How do you decide which subject to paint and what do you enjoy most about your subjects?
I live in a village, south of Belfast, so the rural setting, fields and farmland are a ready source of landscape subjects. The Mourne Mountains and Lough Neagh are also close to my home and provide inspiration. Usually a site or landscape that I may have passed many times will one day strike me as something I should paint. It may just be prompted by the light that particular day. With the very changeable weather in Ireland a scene rarely looks the same two days in a row but that provides for various paintings of the same scene.
“Golden Fields” is such a warm painting. Could you tell us a little more about your colour palette for this piece?
This painting is based on a local scene, on a bright sunny summer day I passed a field of rapeseed, this covers large areas locally, the warm yellow flowers contrasted perfectly against the largely blue sky. The colours for the field are cadmium yellow and yellow ochre, the sky French ultramarine with titanium white to lighten it, and streaks of titanium white for the moving clouds. The middle distance is a mix of these colours to provide distance and harmony. The paint was applied with a palette knife to reduce detail and capture the main elements of the landscape.
Which artists have inspired you throughout your career?
I admire so many artists and different styles. The list would include Sisley, Monet, Modigliani, Giacometti, Caravaggio and so many more. More recent favourites would be Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon.
Do you have a favourite painting in your collection?
During the summer I painted two versions of a Laburnum Tree, impressionist almost abstract paintings of the long strands of yellow laburnum flowers. The initial painting is 12 x 19 ins oil on canvas board, pleased with the result I painted a larger version 30 x 24 ins oil on canvas. I noticed a garden with several laburnum trees and a mass of yellow flowers moving on a gentle breeze, this was the inspiration for these paintings. I think the paintings capture the image and the movement.
How do you decide when a painting is complete?
This is a difficult question because I probably feel I could do something more with every piece but equally I have ruined a piece by just doing something else to it. I suppose what I usually do is walk away from the piece leave it for a period of time and then have another look, most times I am right to leave it and it looks finished on the second viewing.
If you could exhibit your artwork anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
It would be wonderful to reel of a list of places Paris, New York, London etc but really I am happy to see a piece hanging where someone has decided I like that painting and I want it there.
Do you have any planned exhibitions this year?
My art group aim to hold two exhibitions this year, probably May and November, I have exhibited with the group for the past 3 years.
We hope you enjoyed finding out about John Halliday’s inspiration and how he became a full time painter. Remember to view John’s full collection of original paintings here before you go.