How some curious cows became an artist’s “visiting card”

Anyone who has spent time in the company of cows can attest to their curiosity, and it was precisely this trait that captivated artist Eoin O’Connor.

When it comes to painting cows, he explained, he tries “to get a bit of character and fun out of them.”

“You know how the cows are very curious and come to you. I try to get the essence out of it,” he said. Agriland.

O’Connor, who lives in rural County Wicklow, has been painting cows in his distinctive colorful style for about 15 years.

“I just started painting cows in the fields. There was nothing funny or humorous about it. They sold out pretty quickly.

“So I could have continued doing that. But then I started trying to give them more character and interact with the viewer,” he said.

The work struck a chord with both urban and rural dwellers.

For paintings purchased as gifts for special occasions, such as milestone birthdays, O’Connor was even asked to add the recipient’s herd number to the label.

The journey of an artist

When he was young, O’Connor’s family moved from Dublin to Cork as his father had changed jobs.

He then returned to the capital to attend the Dublin Institute of Technology (now Dublin University of Technology) to study architecture.

However, it soon became apparent, much to the concern of his parents, that his passion was painting.

“They weren’t so happy,” he recalls.

“When I left school, it was in the very late 80s, the economy in Ireland was pretty shitty.

“I should have gone to art school, but I was pragmatic enough to think I should do a job rather than be an artist because I didn’t think I was making a living,” he said. he declares.

“When I did architecture, I loved it at first, but over the years I started to dislike it.

“I saw other people loving it and I thought, ‘If I work there, and I don’t like it, and I work with people who love it, I won’t be a great architect.’ .

“So I learned from them and said, ‘I have to do what I love to do, which is to paint,’ so I started painting,” he said. Explain.

Eoin O’Connor in his studio

But for the first few years of his career, he “earned just enough to survive”, he admitted.

“Everyone thought I was crazy. It was a very difficult time. I wasn’t sure if I could make it my job. When I told people that I painted and that I was an artist, I could see them rolling their eyes,” he said.

“I was so determined to make a living. I told my parents I would make as much money as any of my three brothers.

“I could understand my parents’ point of view. I myself have children. I would be very concerned if one of my children decided they were going to be a musician, or something like that.

“But the truth is, you only live once and you should follow what you love.”

All the colours

So how would the artist describe his work?

“I use very bright colors. If I was doing landscape, I would have red fields, pink fields, blue fields, all of different colors. When you look at it, it makes sense. But when you describe it, verbally, it sounds a bit ridiculous.

artist Eoin O'Connor
“Make Hay While the Sun Shines” door Eoin O’Connor

“I like to play not only with color, but also with light, shadow and perspective. So I might distort them a bit, only slightly. I just try to put my own slant on things,” said said the artist.

Popular cows

When he was first approached by Tipperary Crystal four years ago with a proposal to use his colorful cow paintings on a range of homewares, O’Connor initially declined.

“I myself had two small galleries [in Gorey and Kinsale] and I was a bit afraid of overexposure, to be honest,” he explained.

However, after giving it some thought, he decided to allow his images of cows and dogs to appear in the collection, which includes: plates; balls; vases; towels; notebooks; socks; coasters; and cushions.

“I thought to myself that the household items are not my paintings and they are not my prints. They are really business cards for me. So they wouldn’t really affect me that much.

“Tipperary [Crystal] I wasn’t sure if they would sell or not, but they are now their top selling item. They sell in over 500 stores. They get an order of them and they run out very quickly.

“It’s amazing. I never expected them to sell so well,” he said.

Despite his success, O’Connor – who spends much of his time in his studio – said he was still in disbelief when he walked into stores and saw his name on products.

“It’s incredible, but it’s not like me at all. It’s hard to get an idea to be honest.

Artist Eoin O'Connor
Eoin O’Connor working in his studio

Whether it’s the colorful cows, social media, or years of hard work, the stars certainly seem to align for O’Connor, who currently focuses on landscape painting.

And these are proving just as popular as all of his other creations.

“Actually, I don’t have any paintings [left] because I sold them all in April,” he said.

“It’s every artist’s dream – something I’ve dreamed of for years – but when it happens it’s actually quite stressful because you have nothing.”

The artist visits Kerry twice a year – Kenmare every Christmas and Derrynane for two weeks every summer. But even on vacation, the lure of the web is still there.

“I’m delighted to be away, at first, then I just have to paint. I would be gagged to come back and paint.

“I like painting better now. But I’m always trying to get better. You’re probably always trying to do the best painting you can,” he said.

“I’m my own worst critic, so if I have a painting and I’m thrilled with it, a few weeks later I think about what changes I could make,” O’Connor said.

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