Art inspired by surroundings: Leo is currently working on a piece set in Rathcoole Park

By Aideen O'Flaherty

A skilled painter from Rathcoole is currently working on a piece that’s set in Rathcoole Park, after he was inspired by the way the sunlight fell between some trees when he was walking there recently.

Leo Clancy, 76, studied drawing and portrait painting in the late 60s and early 70s, and since then has gone on to have his work on display in numerous exhibitions, including at the prestigious Royal Hibernian Academy and as part of an art exhibition in the Oireachtas.

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Artist Leo Clancy witht the piece he is currently working on

The grandfather-of-three finds inspiration in his surroundings, mainly looking at how light falls in a variety of spaces, and the impact that the resulting shade and brightness has on the surrounding objects and features.

As his latest painting, which is called ‘The Pinkeen Catchers’, is nearing completion, Leo told The Echo about how his enduring passion for art began, why oils are his preferred medium to paint with, and why it’s important for budding artists to get to grips with drawing before picking up a paintbrush.

When did your passion for art begin?

As a kid I really liked drawing, and when I was about 17, I was told about the National College of Art, so I started studying drawing there part-time, under the late Maurice McGonigle from the Royal Hibernian Academy, while working.

I then went into portrait drawing, and I really enjoyed studying art and later I started painting.

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Leo Clancy

Why do you think making art has been such an enduring part of your life over the past five decades?

Art is fulfilment, it’s food for your soul. Like all art forms, it can feel like a compulsion.

And, of course, you get pleasure out of it and you want to share that with people and show them.

I couldn’t give up painting. It’s like breathing for me. I see it in everything – everything is covered in light and shade.

How often do you paint?

I don’t do it as much now, because I’m 76-years-old and I had prostate cancer last year, but I still like to paint.

I love doing landscape and portrait pieces, I like to conjure up an atmosphere in my work.

Oil is your preferred medium for painting with, why is this?

With oils you’ve got more freedom. You can get all sorts of effects with them, and then you can wipe them and change it.

I’ve used other materials before, like watercolour and I’ve done pastel portraits, but I prefer oil – it's so interesting, and there are so many different techniques you can use.

Your work has been on display in numerous solo and group exhibitions, what does it mean to you to have your work on display?

I believe that the purpose of art is to share it. I read something a while ago, where it said art – all forms of art, including things like music – is the soul of a nation and the spirit of the people. Art is there to enhance life.

Can you tell me about the painting set in Rathcoole Park that you’re currently working on?

 I walk in the park a lot and when I was there a few weeks ago I spotted sunlight coming through the trees, casting a shadow on the ground.

I took a photo of it, to work from for a painting. In the piece, there’s three mallards coming out of one of the ponds in the park.

I’ve put crows and everything in it, because the park is teeming with activity. I also decided to include my grandson in it, and some other children.

So there’s two boys and a little girl in it, and two Jack Russell Terriers too.

What advice would you have for anyone who wants to become an artist?

They should keep practicing and drawing. Drawing is the most important thing if you want to become a painter – it's like the foundation of a house, if you don’t have the foundation then the house will collapse.

I was drawing for years before I even started to paint.

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