A Day in the Life: Padraig McCaul


PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST  Padraig McCaul pictured in Slievemore on Achill Island with one of his paintings. Pic: John Michael Nikolai


Name: Padraig McCaul
Age: 57
Lives: Dugort, Achill
Occupation: Artist

My routine is built around the kids’ routine. Rory and Claire go to Coláiste Pobail Acla and Tom is in Saula NS. So we’ll be up at 8am, have breakfast together and out the door to school.
We live in Dugort so when I am out in Achill Sound dropping Rory and Claire to school, I will call into Kathleen in the post office and send off any packages I need to post. I have cards and prints people buy online so I will post them and there has been a much greater demand for postage this last year.
Some days I could arrive at 2pm and have not lifted a brush between organising postage and responding to emails but I like to try and get painting as soon as I can so I have myself well organised and as efficient as I can.
I work 10am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and I always try and keep the weekends free for family time unless I’ve an exhibition on or particular deadlines to meet.
The studio is just up the road from the house. It’s important to be separated. You have to treat it as a business.
I drink far too much coffee, it’s almost part of the creative process for me. I will have music on all day in the studio. I wouldn’t tend to listen to the radio at all.
I’m originally from Dun Laoghaire and we’re living in Achill ten years now. I took up art as a hobby around 18 years ago and within three years, I made the move to go full-time.
Prior to that, I had played sax in a band in Dublin for years. Art was something I was always interested in pursuing but I didn’t have the time. When the music quietened down, I started to play with art and it moved very quick from there. I was working in production management in software development and I had grown to hate it. It was soul destroying and I was really looking for a way out.
I haven’t regretted my decision for one second since.
I had friends who came to Achill every summer but I had never been. When I started art, they told me I had to come to Achill for the landscapes. I got down on my own for a week and fell in love with the place.
Achill has been great, the people are very welcoming and our kids are Achill now anyway.
I have a late lunch, to tie in with one of us collecting Tom from Saula and then one of us will collect Rory and Claire from secondary school later.
Covid-19 hasn’t impacted hugely on my work because what I do is pretty reclusive anyway. I spend most of my time on my own in the studio.
What would have had more of an impact was the cancelling of exhibitions and closing of art galleries.
In March 2020 I was preparing to go to New York for an exhibition. I was working towards that for a couple of years and that had to be pulled.
We have found different ways for people to see art this past year through websites and social media platforms. It has made it more accessible.
I’m looking forward to galleries reopening, which will hopefully be in June. It is hard to see art fairs going ahead though for some time.
I picked up a lot of commissions in the last year, where people might have put off doing something like that because they were busy. Likewise, people planning to do something with their homes, there was a lot of demand in that regard.
It was busier in the summer too when the galleries reopened.
Even when the galleries are closed, for me it is important to just paint, then I feel I am being productive. Every year in January and February I do not tend to paint landscapes, it is more inward looking. I paint for myself and maybe convey what I can’t express in words. I find it declutters my headspace and is very therapeutic, particularly this year. There was one painting, called Lost, which might seem a bit melodramatic but it reflected what was going on in my head.
Demand has balanced out – where you might lose custom with galleries not being open, on the other hand people are more willing to buy online. A lot of people would have been reluctant in the past to buy a painting based on pictures or a video – they want to see it in person. But when people didn’t have the choice in the last year, they were more willing to buy online.
I found people who bought this way were always very pleased with the painting when they received it compared to what they had viewed online. There is a feel and a life to an oil painting.
When I moved to Achill, I felt I was leaving my music behind in Dublin but then I found the Mayo Concert Orchestra and they were really warm and I really enjoyed being involved, playing the saxophone. I’m good friends with Donal O’Connor, a gifted singer/songwriter. I play on his new album, Black ‘n Blue, and we would often have Achill sessions and I would sit in with the sax.
I’m a wingman there and I really miss that collaboration, especially when art can be very solitary.
My wife Ann is a great motivator to get us outdoors for walks at the weekend. There’s so much lovely landscape to explore here. We’ve just got all-year wetsuits for the kids, which is another great activity on our doorstep. In normal times we’d be busy with going to and from football games and training. Hopefully that is not too far away. The last year has been hard for the kids in that respect but we’ve so much beauty on our doorsteps that we can get out and enjoy.

In conversation with Edwin McGreal

Quickfire questions

If money was no object what would you do?
Take the kids out of school and go on a one year round the world trip   

Something we don’t know about you?
I worked for 10 years in my dad’s clerical outfitters – selling clothes to priests and nuns.

Most unusual thing you’ve ever tasted?
Nettle soup

Favourite place?
Anywhere by the sea

What makes you angry?
Automated customer service help lines

How do you unwind?
Netflix and a glass of wine

Three things always in your fridge?
Milk, Chicken and Sauvignon Blanc

What makes you nervous?
Brown envelopes with a harp on them

Last book you read?
Inside Out by Nick Mason (Pink Floyd drummer)

Favourite TV show?

Most famous person you ever met?
Frank Sinatra’s cousin, in New Jersey. (well he said he was)

What do you miss most about being a kid?
The freedom to live in your own imaginary world

Most prized possession?
My Yanagisawa alto saxophone

Best advice you were ever given?
Don’t go to art college if you want to continue painting

Three words to describe you?
Honest, creative, quiet

First thing post-Covid…
Exhibition in New York