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Capturing the light: a chat with Chris McMorrow

Are you ready to meet a cheerful painter from Dublin? He is Chris McMorrow, a talentous self-taught artist charmed by lights and reflections. When he worked as a phone technician in Dublin, he discovered some very unusual points and now he takes photos of every place fascinates him to painting it. His production includes vivid urban landscapes (Dublin, Limerick, Cork, but also Paris, Venice and Lucca) and  coastal and rural landscapes  that express painter’s passion and curiosity for colour intensity and light.

When I first run into his The Conversation painting, I found myself smiling and closing my eyes, dreaming Irish wind tickling my face.

I bet you won’t be able to resist his charming style and subject handling!

Here what Chris told us:

As a mostly self-taught Dubliner artist, how would you describe yourself and your artistic career?

I never did art in school so I used to just dabble with drawing and painting at home from childhood and through the adult years. I never really took it seriously until I found an outdoor outlet where I could sell art every Sunday and it just kind of took off from there.

Many of your cityscapes are Dublin views and famous landmarks. What is your relationship to the Fair City and how it inspires you? What is your favorite place in Dublin?

A Stolen Moment on the Halfpenny Bridge

I used to work in the city center from when I was 17 and so always had an affinity with it. I worked as a phone technician so I got to see all its nooks and crannies and sometimes from very high and unusual vantage points. I think my favourite place would be the area around South William Street as it is a vibrant bustling place at any time, day or night, full of city life!

How it is the painting process outdoors and at your studio?

My studio is ridiculously cramped full of art stuff I have collected over the years… I would love a bigger place!
I usually start in the morning and work on and off till about 4 or 5. If I am starting a painting I usually start with a drawing in the morning and gather lots of reference photos which I put on my high quality Android tablet which I have beside me…
So much easier to look at than using photographs. I find I don’t do too much as dusk approaches as the studio lights are no substitute for daylight. I will always finish a painting during daylight hours. I don’t really do much painting outdoors as I use too many bits and pieces that I couldn’t possibly carry.

The series of pubs paintings that you have started over the last years is vibrant and passionate. What fascinates you most about these subjects? And what about street scenes and the reflections captured on the streets on rainy days?

McDaids, Dublin

I just love the way pubs and cafes look so inviting when it’s cold or wet outside in the streets. It’s too hard to resist the temptation to slip inside for a coffee or a drink to escape the cold, damp Irish weather and so I set out to capture that feeling in my paintings by making the streets cool with blues and mauves and the windows and interiors warm and fiery with reds, oranges and yellows.
I have often tried to paint daylight scenes but just can’t capture the scenes with the same passion or atmosphere or mood as I can with the evening scenes and I can have so much fun with painting reflections, much more interesting than daytime shadows.

I have particularly enjoyed your coastal and rural paintings. Their light and colours are so vivid that can bring the viewer directly into the scene. What you love most about painting landscapes and which place in Ireland you haven’t painted yet and would like to?

I just love messing around with colours; I pick a scene to paint and I just invent my own colour scheme using colours that are sometimes not really there. I guess it’s just my own interpretation of what I see, my own fantasy.
I haven’t been to Donegal yet and it’s a place I would like to see and paint and maybe also some parts of Northern Ireland that I haven’t seen.

All your paintings are full of warmth and life! The viewer can feel your ardor and how you are involved with what you observe and interested in the relationship between places and people. Do you have a favourite, or one with a special story, among your works?

I think my favourite one at the moment would be the Lovers, Montmartre painting because it is close to what I wanted to achieve with mood and colour. Usually (and I would bet that most artists feel the same) I struggle to get it right and always at the end I always just feel happy with a few elements in the picture but not the overall painting and vow to improve and ‘do it better’… Next time!

Lovers, Montmartre, Paris

The series of Italian themed paintings reflects your curiosity in landscapes and cityscapes. How do you enjoy the capture of Mediterranean light? What excite you most about Italy?

I love everything about Italy: the people, food, architecture, history, vibrancy , colours, textures …There is just too much to see. I can’t stop taking photographs when I am there, always thinking ‘that would make a really nice painting’. I would love to live there so that I could see all the seasons. I would be just so happy painting doorways, windows, stonework, whatever … I could live on bread and wine, and the odd gelato.
Its funny but if I get 9 more likes from Italians on my Facebook page then the Italians will overtake the Irish be my most popular demographic.

Do you bring a particular Italian place in your heart? Which special and little known place in Ireland would you suggest that our readers must visit?

Tuscan Poppies

I really liked the little town of Barga, in the hills way north of Pisa. It was a great base to visit Pisa and Florence and Cinque Terre and the rest of Tuscany. I usually rent a place a little off the beaten track!! And Venice: I spent a weekend there taking 1500 photos (got 2 paintings so far from that bunch!!) but it was absolute heaven. Oh, and I love Verona too! But there are so many places I haven’t seen.

Ballybunion, Co Kerry

I think I would generally recommend Connemara (Galway/Mayo), County Clare, West Cork and County Kerry as areas that are visually beautiful, as well as County Wicklow. There are lovely little towns and villages in West Cork that would be nice to stay in. You would be able to get a flavour of traditional Irish music, the rural pub scene, thatched cottages and barren bog landscapes…  All very different from Italy.

Where can we find and see your paintings at the moment? Do you have current exhibitions?

I have paintings and prints in a few galleries in Dublin as well as on my site.

  • The Doorway Gallery, Frederick Street, Dublin 2
  • Waldock Gallery, Blackrock, Co Dublin
  • Peoples Art Hall, Powerscourt Townhouse, Dublin 2
  • The Georges Street Arcade, Georges Street, Dublin
  • Craft Framing, Bray, Co Wicklow

I am exhibiting in the National Craft Fair at the RDS Exhibition Hall, Dublin 4, from the  4th to 8th December 2013.

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