How bees inspired Dolores Keaveney to switch from painting to picture books

Dolores Keaveney had been painting watercolours for 40 years when a bee-keeping course drove her at the age of 60 to publish her first children’s picture book

I have been writing and illustrating children’s picture books since 2009 when I self-published my first book, If I Were a Bee. What possessed me to start writing at the age of 60, you might ask?

Well, I really had never intended to write children’s picture books, but I had been painting in watercolours for the best part of 40 years at that stage, and it was during a period when I was taking some time out from a different career and attending a bee-keeping course locally that I awoke one night with poems about bees in my head and with some encouragement from my friends I began to look at how I could combine my poems with the images I had painted.

I suppose you could say that it was the bees that inspired me to write my first book. My grandchildren also feature in almost all of my books. When I first started I had two grandchildren – I now have seven.

I decided to self-publish because I had researched a lot about it over the previous year and I felt it was a route which I would like to take. I realised from the start that it would be a daunting journey but I felt I still wanted to go this route. If I Were a Bee was a great success and it spurred me on to write and illustrate more. So I have continued to launch one or two books per year since then. My books are published under the name DbeePress, which is my logo.


My art is vibrant, colourful, loose and uplifting. I get my inspiration from my garden which in summertime is packed full of beautiful flowers. The real charm of my books is depicted by the energy and colour of my illustrations.

One of my books, Jenny the Little Brown Hen, has been translated by Foras na Gaeilge into the Irish language and has been a great success.

Some of my art has been used by Shannonbridge Pottery Ireland on a range of ceramics.

In 2014 I was privileged to illustrated a book, Marlena the Fairy Princess Making Friends, written by the late Dr Mary Redmond Ussher. Mary was the founder of the Irish Hospice Foundation but she sadly passed away last year.

I have been very busy over the past seven years. I read in schools and libraries throughout the country every year during World Book Week, Summer Reading Challenge, and Children’s Book Festival.

And what for the future. This year I am embarking on a slightly different book. My husband and I are coming together to produce a book called The Hills Speak. John is a historian with a Masters in literature in history and I will produce the watercolour paintings of each hill.

What is it about? The plan is to climb, photograph and paint four watercolour paintings for each hill and to write the history and mystery of 20 or so small hills and ridges that harbour enough folklore and mythology to fill a complete chapter on each. We propose to include photographs taken on the climb along with a small map of the location. We have to date climbed 14 hills. A few, such as Rathcroghan and Uisneach, are well known and exhaustively documented. All of the hills are our personal choice and some of them are unremarkable landmarks which nevertheless, on closer examination, prove to be an integral component of the rich and varied narrative that shapes our island’s history.