Following a life’s passion for art
Former estate agent turned artist John Fitzgerald from Kilcloon has spoken of how he gained inspiration from the local landscape and animals when he launched a new range of bronze sculptures.
“My first sculpture was a small cow out the back of my house in the first lockdown. I had some clay and just went out and started sculpting it. All the galleries were closed so I couldn’t go anywhere. I had plenty of work on, but sculpting was just something I wanted to do.”
The cow was John’s first attempt at sculpting in over 20 years, as he hadn’t created a sculpture since he left college.
“I hadn’t done any sculpting since the '90s. I used to do foam and clay models but hadn’t done any in years, but I got back into it in the last few years. It was like a duck to water.
"After the cow, I made a small horse and started doing bulls, such as a local Charolais bull and others based sketches of bulls I took on a trip to Malaga a few years ago.”
Sculpting is a painstaking process and requires a lot of attention to detail, as John points out.
“It’s a slow process. It takes 10-14 days to make a clay model you make the skeleton or the armature first, then you wrap wire around it before adding expanding foam and build the clay on top of it then. Then I bring them to the foundry where it is cast into bronze. I use the Cast Foundry in Dublin. They use a method called the Lost Wax process, which was used by the ancient Egyptians.”
Despite being one of Ireland’s best-known equine artists, John spent the best part of a decade working as an auctioneer in his family business in Ratoath, from when he left college in 1996 until the start of the economic crash in 2008 when he decided it was time to pursue his passion.
“It was a massive leap. I studied industrial design in college, but there were very few jobs available, so I went into the property market. As I was selling property, I was painting on the side and getting well known in the equine industry. When the crash came we had to shut down some of our offices, so I had a lot of time on my hands so I went back painting and found my love of art again, nearly 12 years after I left college. It was important not to lose touch with art."
When John saw his father get sick and pass away, it helped him realise the importance of following his passion in life.
“It was always a dream of mine to be an artist, but I couldn’t walk away from the family business. When my dad got sick helped me to see the importance of doing what you want in life. I sold the business in 2016, which wasn’t easy. But my dad always encouraged me to pursue a career in art if it was possible, so that made it easier.”
John hasn’t looked back since making the switch, and today his work is highly sought after, with many pieces on display in top galleries around the country.
“I’ve sold a few sculptures and have a few other ones on display in galleries, such as the Wilton Gallery in Sandycove,” he said. “I’ve been very busy over the last year. I’ve also received a lot of commissions from horse owners and trainers around Ireland, the UK and different parts of America. I’ve also had contact from different galleries looking for pieces, so I’ll be flat out for the next year at least.
"I plan to have an exhibition of large scale exhibition of horse racing paintings and sculptures with the Wilton Gallery this autumn and I also hope to get back to Cheltenham next spring. I’ve exhibited there for the last few years apart from 2021, so it would be great to make it back.”