At some point in our lives, we have all come across a piece of art that has stopped us in our tracks. If it’s a painting, then its artist will want it to hang proudly on our wall. Art [just like beauty] is in the eye of the beholder, and it is all about personal taste. What might be perfect for one person, might not have any effect on 99 others. A mid-century oil painting of a countryside scene and a spray-painted mural on a street wall may well be opposites but would appeal equally to a collector.
There is no shortage of gifted people capable of magically conjuring up a sketch or a painting that carries a provocative statement. An artist needs fans in the same way that an actor or a musician does. When the work of an artist generates buzz then the individual piece might become collectable. Most artists will tell you that they had no choice but to create art and that making money was never a driving factor. Some artists embark upon a certain career only to find themselves lured back.
Olivia Finn of Rainbow Dreams Design, Kilbeggan, is a self-taught artist who has been drawing since a child. She would spend hour upon hour trying to capture onto paper whatever tickled her fancy. At school, her natural talent didn’t go unnoticed, and it was nurtured by her former primary school teacher, now close friend and collector, Heather Seery. Though Olivia took Art as a Leaving Certificate subject she ultimately decided against a degree in Fine Art. Instead, she chose Sociology & Politics in Galway so that she could become a teacher. After college, she taught English at a secondary school in Galway. I recently met Olivia and began by asking her when art became important again.
“When I was in college, I lived with some people who were older than me and were primary school teachers. They saw some of the little paintings that I had done. Those paintings were on paper and weren’t particularly good. Nevertheless, one of my housemates was impressed by them and asked me to come along to one of her classes and teach Art to the little children. I did that once a week and taught the pupils simple little things in Art.”
Olivia worked as an English teacher at an all-girls school in Galway for a while and enjoyed herself there. But everyone that she had known from her college days had moved away from Galway. She decided to be closer to her family and moved back to Kilbeggan and continued to work as a temporary teacher until the recession hit Ireland. Her passion for teaching began to wane, and she eventually left the profession.
In 2012, Olivia says that she discovered digital art and used it to write and illustrate her book. Digital art is when you draw a picture that can be coloured in using software e.g., Photoshop on a computer tablet. She taught herself how to use digital art by watching YouTube videos and found that she could create a complete painting using Photoshop.
“The first children’s book that I ever created using digital art was for my nephew Killian, and he loved it. I then wrote and illustrated ‘Stan the Skateboarding Snowman’ followed by ‘Fairy Sarah and her Forest Adventure.’ I self-published these books and sold all the copies that I had made. People were amazing and so supportive.”
Olivia still uses digital art to plan out her paintings before she even puts paint onto the canvas. She takes a picture of a pencil sketch and then adds colour to it which gives her a complete picture of what the finished painting will look like. Then I have the picture before I put it on canvas.
From Digital Art to Painting
“It wasn’t a conscious decision to switch from digital art to painting in acrylic or oil paints. My cousin wanted a farm illustration for her son and I started to paint that and realised that I enjoyed doing that. You can print thousands of copies of a picture made using digital art, but you can only have one original painting.” Olivia now sell prints of her popular paintings for less than if someone purchased the original. She makes the prints myself using a very good printer and quality paper. Kilbeggan Distillery bought some prints of a painting she did of their distillery, to sell in their gift shops.
What sort of Artist are you?
“I am interested in Surrealism which was made famous by artists such as Salvador Dalí. I love his art and I think it is so appropriate with the surreal times that we are living in at the moment.” Surrealism is an art form that was started in the 1920s by writer Andre Breton who was interested in dreams, fantasies and thoughts that we didn’t even know we are having. Artists such as Dali explored the concept of surrealism painting things that are abstract that need to be looked at properly to get the meaning. “Some of the things in surrealism are nice to escape to, and it ties in very nicely with my imagination. Normal things constrain me!”
Painting & Pandemic
Olivia plans out every single piece of art. The more painting she did, the more she learned. Most artists are never happy with the finished piece. “You are working on your own, and so I have good days and bad days. Keeping your own belief in your ability is hard because you are your own worst critic. It was only last year  that she started painting full-time and decided to start Rainbow Dreams Design. ”I was building up my name and my brand last year and knew that the first year is never going to be fantastic for any entrepreneur – let alone an artist. At the beginning of 2020 things were beginning to improve and then Covid-19 came. Thankfully, I did have a solo exhibition in the library in February and was involved in an online ‘virtual’ exhibition in August of this year as well.
Olivia understands that she has to use all the tools available to promote her art. She has a website and is constantly trying to find ways to attract people to visit it. There are a lot of artists in Westmeath, and so she has a lot of competition. However, most artists are different and have different styles and Olivia understands that surrealism isn’t for everybody. “I know that surrealism isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, and so I have paintings in other art forms. I painted the non-surrealism painting earlier on. With surrealism, you need an idea and I don’t always have one. So, while I’m waiting, I will do a normal painting that I know people would like.”
English teaching influence
“Poems by T.S. Elliott have inspired some of my paintings. I’m a creative person so teaching English suited me. I’m also really into politics and social justice and I like to hide things in my paintings for people to find!. I get up and paint just like as if I had a normal job. I don’t paint in the middle of the night because that would be just mad.”
Are you glad you made the move?
Olivia believes that she made the right decision because she felt that something was missing while she was a teacher. There is no doubt that she takes a disciplined approach to her new career as an artist. Her paintings are imaginative, colourful, vibrant and she is capable of painting in an array of different styles. She can only get better from here. “I’ve come too far at this point to turn back so I go with the flow and take it one day at a time. I’m in no rush and the more I paint, the more I hope that people will come across me. My nephew Killian is 10, and he is my biggest fan. He keeps me company while he is on his iPad and PlayStation and that to me makes everything worthwhile.”
Don’t just take my word for it, why not see for yourself just how talented Olivia Finn is by visiting her website: https://rainbowdreamsdesign.com/
This article was published in the Westmeath Examiner 03/03/2021.