Sep 5, 2011

Painting by the seat of my pants

I have been wearing these trousers for years.  When the holes in the knees got too big, I made them into a pair of shorts by cutting off the legs.  In recent months the seat of the pants have worn so thin that even I am embarrassed to wear them anymore. And so, today, I have reluctantly consigned them to the compost heap.

Aug 15, 2011

Desert island essentials - what would they be?

A few weeks ago, I was asked a series of questions by Prudence magazine, and it began by asking me "what does your work involve?"
 I create paintings, mostly working outdoors. In addition, I maintain my website and write a regular email newsletter and this irregular blog.  I am also engaged in selling my art work through art fairs and on the Internet.  

 Typical day?
Most days, I start early, with a  mug of tea, and a period of gazing out the window.  I need half an hour of silence in the morning before I can function. After tea I can achieve a lot before breakfast. However, while I am staring into space my brain never stops: scheduling, scheming ways to be more efficient. I seem to need this “gazing space” as I have an embarrassment of ideas, and capturing the good ones and making them a reality is the challenge. 

 How do you inspire other women?
If one is described as being an “inspiration” as often as I am, it can be quite a heavy burden if taken seriously. I don’t take it seriously .  In a world where everything is hard and times are tough, people are inspired by the fact that I haven’t curled up in a corner, lain down and died (yet), because of the “hand“ I have been dealt. 

My "shoeval" aclever way to avoid toe blis
That I drive a car (too fast), and before that cycled for years in Dublin city,  that I learned to scuba dive,  keep hens, am a keen gardener and love to cook, can leave others in jaw dropping wonderment.  That I have held down several jobs as well, sometimes at once, and have had a wide and varied career, from school teacher to agony aunt, from project manager to radio producer, at a time when discrimiation against disabled people was rampant, and educational and employment opportunities were rare, heartens many.

But the fact that I climb ditches, carry canvases across windy bogs, like working in wide open spaces, being a painter the hard way, surprises even myself.   Being on the road less traveled is not my choice. It is simply who I am.

If someone was to ask you what’s the one thing they could do in the morning, just one thing to change their life what would you say?
Be present in this moment.  I have learned to ask myself a simple question: is there anything happening right now, in this moment, that I can’t handle (pedal!)? And the answer has always been “No”. There has never been anything that I have not been able to cope with.  So, I deal with it, one breath at a time. 

Who or what inspires you?
My life time companion, Denis Buckley and my best friend for more than 30 years, Ger Wilson, inspire me. These two people have walked with me for a very long time - they’ve chosen to share my load.  They can both be confrontational and challenging at times.  I like that. I find it inspiring. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.

Desert island essentials - what would they be?
I have a shocking, searing, independent streak.  On a desert island I don’t want anything. Experience has taught me that focussing on “essentials” can be a pointless activity. For instance, I worked in a job which involved a practice called “hot desking”, which meant I was assigned to a different desk everyday (and often times I had to share it with a colleague as well).  I really longed for what I thought was essential for me (as someone without arms in an armed world) - a desk of my own. I argued my case well. But I wasn’t specific enough, and when it was assigned to me, the much longed for and much coveted desk was one that didn’t include either a computer or a telephone (what I really did need to do the job).  I had to laugh. If I didn’t, I’d have cried, and probably never stopped.

So, tell me what you think I need, and I'll tell you how I’ll get by without it.

Silver lining moment - if you have a challenging situation/problem, what positive thing do you take out of it or how do you handle it?
Challenges keep me sharp.  I have been in a few difficult situations- mostly involving toilets, door knobs,  the odd time a camel or bullocks, and once for five hours, being stuck in a hotel bath (trying to float out, having stuffed the overflow with mashed up soap, didn’t work, by the way). 

I generally believe whatever the problem is, it can usuaull be re-named as a nice problem to have.  
For example, my ten year old car is giving me a quite a bit of bother of late.  The Beetle is like a thing possessed with doors locking automatically and the alarm going off and for no reason any mechanic has been able to determine. It is discomforting and awkward, and often curtails my in-car lunch break, but isn’t it nice to have a beautiful blue car that moves (like myself) with all the elegance and speed of a turbo engine? 

Artwork can be seen:
Caviston’s, Greystones, Co. Wicklow
Cong Art Gallery, Co Mayo
            Kilternan Art Gallery Co Dublin

Forthcoming exhibitions,
  19, 20, 21 August 2011    
23, 24, 25 September 2011

For more check

Feb 14, 2011

bitten by a small shark....Siorc beag ionsaí orm sa chuan ar maidin roimh an bricfeasta.

Mary Duffy, 1966

Over the last while, I have been learning Spanish and have discovered the benefits of a limited vocabulary.  However, true to my nature, I found myself edgy in class, bored and staring out the window. Over thirty years since I left school, and nothing much has changed. 

When I was a teeny tot and asked to repeat by rote “Éirigh mé ar maidin ar a hocht a chlog. Nigh mé mo aghaidh agus mo dhá lámh….The rote didn’t allow for me to have no arms or to stray from where I am supposed to have risen at eight o'clock in the morning, washed my face and both hands. I remember being hauled up in front of the class of 45 pupils and made to clarify my “error” when I tried to manipulate the words I had and to deny that I had washed both my hands. I got garbled and ended up saying I had a hundred hands. My limited vocabularia then either didn't allow me to change the words and make them true for me. I remember the crushing effect of being forced to deny my reality. I wasn’t let sit back down again until I had agreed I washed both my hands every morning on rising.

In my Spanish class every day I was reminded of this experience as we had to report to our teacher what we had done before coming to the class. There was a lot of “Tengo una ducha y lavarse el pelo…” I don't have a lot of hair to wash and I hate showering, and so participating in the recitation of our morning rituals made me bold, and dare I say, revengeful,  as I always wanted to be when I was five years old. For some reason, I was always  last to be asked in this class,  and there is only so many showers and hair washes …. (vocabularia was muy limitada) So, I made up stories worthy of my five year old self…. Me fue mordido por un tiburón pequeño en el puerto esta mañana antes del desayuno... I was bitten by a small shark on my leg while I had my early morning swim in the harbour....Siorc beag ionsaí orm sa chuan ar maidin roimh an bricfeasta. Oh, yes, and those of you who were schoolchildren then can correct me and say I didn't add that I "say my prayers". Somethings never do change.

La Tormenta, La Gomera

Nov 3, 2010

Ticket Master Challenge is Too Much for Most People

Change is my theme of the moment. I am really struggling with the reality that I can't read small print. And for once it's not about the numbers. It's about the print, or should I say the size of it.  And the poor light. I am now one of those people who, clutching my illuminated magnifying glass, complain that the Guards are getting younger, and that children are running the Banks. 

So, I decided to get a bigger stand at the RDS Art Fair.  You can argue with yourself that this is a non sequitur, and that for some other reason, I  have moved a few feet away from where I said I'd be.  Well, of course you are right, and my bigger spread has little to do with my need for reading glasses and more to do with my love of the grand scale. I am now at stand B7 (it is still at the back left-hand corner).
But some changes do remain constant. And this year again, with a few days to go, it is decided that the Ticket Master Challenge is Too Much for Most People and the RDS has agreed to let people print this email as a valid entrance to the Art Fair.  

So here it is. You will need one separate 'ticket' for each person in your party, but that's it. There are two tickets on this page. You can stop struggling with the passwords and codes and once she's printed the two tickets for you, you can send that nice ten year-old helper on her way.   Or bring her along to the Art Fair,
hope to see you all there,

Sep 2, 2010

Wexford Art in the Open

During the recent August Bank Holiday weekend, I took part in one of my favourite events of the year, Wexford's En Plein Air Festival for artists. Read more about it here

Jul 5, 2010

What I did with your money

When I was snowbound I got a great idea. The idea was that I spend your money and become an international financier. So that is what I have done. I have taken your money, and invested it in entrepreneurial projects on two continents. Let me explain.

It all started with the snow, and the delicious adventure of being icebound, housebound and self-reliant for about ten days after Christmas.  I decided to re-design my website and yes, get my life in order. The hours ran into days, the days into weeks, the weeks into months....Seemed like such a simple task, at first.

By March, I had finally completed writing my 'To Do' list. There was nothing for it, but to tackle each item head on. I
had several older entries (16 altogether).  I knew they were all excellent ideas (once upon a time), but
it seems I had written them in a mysterious code. The first was "Look in 2 Kiva". I considered this might be shorthand to get a kitten, but I had to resort to Google to decipher it. Now that I have, I realize that this word concerns you.

This is how I learned that  Kiva is a simple organization that allows people to lend money to other people across the whole wide world. Simply. Easily. Effectively. 

And where do you come in...  Remember my calendar? I hoped it would be self-financing and it was and then some. In fact, by the end of December,  I had quite a surplus, about €400. Much of your money came in from across the world via PayPal and it was my first real experience of electronic payments and together with the rolled up tenners in brown envelopes I was off. And it was just magical.

Once I had decided how to spread the magic of your dosh, within a few minutes I made an investment in a business inParaguay,  and by tea time, I completed a deal in Cambodia. You can read more and get details about Kiva below.

But what about the painting I hear you ask? Am I not doing any painting anymore? Well, yes, I am doing a bit. Quite a bit, even. I have been working on a number of portraits, and I even made a few videos available on my website of work in progress. (It did snow rather a lot.)

I have also been sending off a load of small pieces to the Old Market House Arts Centre in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, where Assumpta Nugent has been selling paintings like hot cakes.

 The latest on my organizational binge is that I bought an iPhone. It hasn't solved my problems, but it makes me desirous of having two heads instead of one...

with warm regards to you and yours,

signature of Mary Duffy
Become an international financier yourself.

There is something really nice to be able to lend out this surplus in places where $100 is a fortune. And you can do it electronically, with PayPal (which offers its services free).
Try it yourself! Go to Kiva's website and lend to someone across the globe who needs a loan for their business - like raising goats, selling vegetables at market or making bricks. Each loan request has a description of the business and how they plan to use the loan and you get updates letting you know how its all going.

When the entrepreneur pays back their loan you get your money back - you can lend again, donate to Kiva's running expenses or take it back yourself. Kiva's loans are managed by microfinance institutions on the ground who have a lot of experience doing this, so you can trust that your money is being handled well.

Since I made the loans with your money  in March, one has already been repaid. Being an international financier is good for the soul in these recessionary times. You can join me and start small if you can loan as little as $25.00! 

Mar 6, 2010

I love this "nook".. my petite office space on the east side of the house. It gets lovely light as the sun rises - the time I best like to work- and it has replaced decades spent with makeshift desks and drawers made from old crates and doors.  It was a guest room that didn't work... our guests outgrew the bunk bed style double that fitted into this spot I call now my nook. The only bits that don't work is my  filing cabinet that requires two hands to open it, and because I have none, I am open to suggestions on that one! I also  got two very long drawers that I call the "coffin spaces".. They are two metres long, and run the length of the desk, under the keyboard. They are very difficult to open. There is so little space that I could not have drawers under the desk without moving out my chair out of the space entirely.

life as an artist

I write about life as an artist and the challenges that this choice presents. I was born without arms in 1961 and this makes my painting demanding, my life stimulating and my choices complex. I like it like this.