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Meet the Artists – Steve McCarthy

Meet Steve McCarthy, the illustrator/artist/bearded gentleman responsible for the ‘Discovered’ mural on our ground floor. In 2019, we invited Steve for a 3-month residency at The Tara Building, which culminated in this work – which reflects the curiosity and adventure at the heart of creative work and creative spaces.

This week, we caught up with Steve to find out how the past year has been for him. We also got some great advice for other creatives working in these unexpected and unusual circumstances.

Why do you do what you do?

The answer to this question changes often, but I think that’s because drawing for offers answers and insights, there’s a deep sense of calm and self-affirmation that comes from making a thing, whether it be a complex advertising campaign or sandwich they’re both creative acts, and it just feels good to solve those little problems, it’s addictive.

How has covid impacted your approach to your work?

My productivity dropped to zero, I just had no will to get things done, I found myself feeling too aware of being sedentary, of not moving from place to place. Time management has always been incredibly difficult for me regardless, and time made no sense last year.

I had a “careful what you wish for” moment when suddenly I was under no pressure to deliver things on time, which I’d always struggled with,  as I can’t seem to force myself to think of art as work, to me it is its own thing, with its own needs, like tending to a garden, treating each plant uniquely.

When I’m faced with a new project, my instinct is to let the project dictate what it needs, but this is not how the real world works, and mostly it demands you think of artwork like a task that must be completed, rather than some kind of magical creative garden that I get to frolic in.

My experience of lockdown was profound in that I began to understand that efficiency and client needs weren’t any threat to my own creativity, suddenly time and deadlines weren’t as vital, and I began to miss it, the collaboration.

Any tips for people struggling from creative block during isolation?

Look inward, indulge me for a moment while I go a little “moon cycle crystal mom” there are lots of exercises you can try to unblock and I recommend you sample them often. Here are my 3 favourites right now.
1. Free association:
Drawing/writing/music etc. this is simply the act of starting, and putting all your attention on the physical act, and not putting any thought in other than letting one thing lead to another. So if it’s writing you’d just write down the first word that comes to mind, and just write nonsense for as long as you can, but really focus your attention on each word, how it feels, where it leads. The same is true for any creative act, even sandwiches.
2. Colour trailing:
This is where you go for a walk, pick a colour and follow it, like you literally pick a shade of pink, then you might see a guy with a pink jumper, you take a photo, and follow him, then you might see a pink house, so you walk towards it and see if you can spot another pink thing. It helps you to get out your own head, because you can’t predict the destination, and is a great way to get the creative mind working.
3. Think of your work like a balanced meal.

You want various flavours and textures. Like sweet/salty or having meat, veg, some grains, some green, maybe some zesty slaw in there. With this mindset making work becomes intuitive again, rather than goal-based.

If it’s an illustration for example, maybe I want some bright colours, a little bit of texture, some clean lines, and a dash of humour, all wrapped up in a square composition.

What are you working on right now?

I made three children’s books during lockdown ( somehow!? ) The first is “The One With The Waggily Tale” it’s in all bookshops in Ireland right now, and is a collection of classic nursery rhymes from Irish childhoods.
The second is “Peigi’s adventures in science” which will be distributed to all Irish schools next term, and is a collection of stories written by a physicist named Shane Bergin and a Sociologist Name Declan Fahie, introducing young children to the idea of diversity in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Art).
Then lastly there’s my first self-authored book “The Wilderness” which is halfway finished and coming out in autumn 2022 which is about an indoor kid with an annoyingly outdoorsy family getting dragged into the wilderness and stumbling reluctantly into an epic adventure.

If you had one piece of cheesy life advice to give, what would it be?

Worrying is not preparation.