True characters


Artist and cyclist LIAM DALY (Eolaí), who has done a 32-county tour of Ireland

I first started painting. . . when I ruined my parents’ wallpaper as a child. I don’t remember ever making a conscious decision to paint; it’s just something I always did. I do remember thinking that when I grew up I wanted to be an artist, self-employed, or a priest, so I’m not really surprised that I’ve ended up being two of them. I no longer want to be the third.

I decided to do a 32-county painting tour. . . because I wanted to reacquaint myself with my country. I’m back home after living in the US for eight years but I’m so happy painting that my life revolves around my studio, my dog, cycling and two teapots. The people I’ve known through social media are among the most interesting and funny that I’ve ever known. Having previously done solo cycle trips across Europe and America, I realised I had the opportunity to meet many of these people in their homes.

Being on my own so much. . . is something I’m very good at it. Waiting is something I love. I can sit still for hours and look at a brick, or over your shoulder. In my head there’s a carnival and being still helps to slow it down and process it into paintings.

The name Eolaí. . . made sense when I started using it. I wrote a blog about Irish events in the US and chose the three-part name – Eolaí gan Fhéile – in a nod to Myles na gCopaleen.

I get inspired by. . . shapes, especially squares. If somebody paid me to paint squares all day I’d probably just do that. It’s why I’m driven to paint cityscapes and find it that bit more difficult to paint landscapes – except in America where they conveniently organise the land into squares.

The best thing about being an artist. . . is saying things in image that I can’t articulate in words. I get to choose what marks I make, and that’s how I make a living.

The worst thing is. . . the limited time there is to render the millions of images in my head. I get worried I’m choosing the wrong ones.

My guilty pleasure is. . . romantic comedies. Twenty years ago I’d have struggled to look at one, now I find I find I’m rooting for the characters, although still perhaps hoping for an unrequited ending.

If I lost everything in the morning. . . I’d do what I did the last time I lost everything – I’d just keep painting. Most things I own are related to art; I’d miss them but it wouldn’t stop me making marks on surfaces.

The funniest thing that someone has ever said about one of my paintings. . . was when a four-year old asked me why there were giraffes walking down the street I’d painted. It became clear that a couple of houses together (thanks to their gable ends) looked like giraffes.

My favourite way to relax . .. is to sit in an Irish kitchen and listen to people talk. There would be a large mug of tea in my hand.

Cycling . . .strikes me as the right speed at which to see the world. It lets you see the wild flowers at the side of the road but it doesn’t leave you there smelling them. It also gets you from A to B, when A and B are sometimes thousands of miles apart.

The person who had the biggest influence on me. . . is my son. Now 15, he lives in America but every time I walk the dog, cycle to the studio, or paint a brushstroke, he’s there with me.

See or @eolai on Twitter