Portrait of an artist: Meet Valerie Walsh Jolley

Aileen Lee sits down with artist Valerie Walsh Jolley.

Valerie Walsh Jolley
Valerie Walsh Jolley

What’s your background?

I have been painting from a very young age. My first exhibition was in the Crawford when I was six-and-a-half years old.

The theme was Flight into Egypt. I later studied as an adult at the Crawford and qualified with distinction with a silver medal.

I also got a first in Ireland for portraiture. I finished my studies in the NCAD in Dublin, and I taught part-time at a boarding school in Newbridge to support myself in Dublin.

Later, I taught full-time in Mount Mercy College in Cork while still painting and having group and solo exhibitions. I am a full-time painter now.

Examples of my work can be found in the Lavit Gallery, Hotel Europe, international conferences, as well as in Áras an Uachtaráin. 

I also did a portrait of Sabina Higgins, which can be found at the RHA.

What’s a typical workday?

I start my day with daily Mass and do a little bit of tai chi to music, and then have breakfast with my dog, Matisse. 

After that, I make phone calls and answer emails, before walking the dog and getting some fresh air. I am usually in my studio by 12.30pm. 

Visitors call in for commissions or to view the gallery and my studio space. Matisse keeps me company during the day.

On Monday evenings, I hold an art class. My workday finishes at approximately 5.30pm, when I head home to my husband, Tom. 

He is a landscape gardener but helps with my exhibitions by curating them. Sometimes I go back up to the studio after tea to finish work if there are deadlines.

Girl at the Tate
Girl at the Tate

Tell us about a recent project or design?

I just finished an exhibition, which Bibi Baskin opened. It was called Summertime and was a series of collages and line drawings. 

One of the collages, Glass Ceiling, was inspired by Christine Lagarde.

She was asked what she would do if she couldn’t break through a glass ceiling and she answered she’d move onto the next one.

My collage features a pregnant woman with her young children, and it shows her climbing the corporate ladder. Women juggling work and family life is a very interesting and motivating theme for me.

What’s your design style?

My design style would be semi-abstract. At present, I’m very motivated by bold print.

What/inspires your work?

My main interest is people or eclectic people in the crowd — I love people-watching.

Glass Ceiling
Glass Ceiling

Your favourite trend?

My favourite trend is collage-recycled paper and magazines and flyers. This is reflected in the work I am doing myself at the moment.

What’s your most treasured possession?

My most treasured possessions are my steel rulers and Mont Blanc pen.

I have two or three steel rulers that I can never find, so I keep one in the studio and one at home. I don’t feel right when my rulers or pen are missing. I use them a lot when working.

Your favourite artist?

The artist Pauline Bewick — she is a terrific drafts woman and that is where my linework comes from. Other influences would be Picasso and Andy Warhol.

When Life Throws You Lemons, Make Lemonade
When Life Throws You Lemons, Make Lemonade

Your dream project?

My dream project would be to have my art printed on designer labels like the Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama, and be in the top fashion windows on Rodeo Drive. 

Mind you, I have printed some of my pieces on my own clothes!

Have you any design tips?

My design tip is to buy a piece of art you absolutely love and build your own interiors around it. I learnt that many years ago. 

It was at the start of a tour of Dublin Castle and the guide started by saying the design of the room was based on a Ming vase in the centre of it.

Often, I have been asked for interiors advice, and that’s my secret: Start with a work of art and if you’re really lucky, the piece you pick will increase in value.

Valerie Walsh Jolley Gallery, Church Road, Douglas, Cork (entrance Carrigaline Road)

Email: valeriewalshjolley@gmail.com/Phone: 021- 4893550

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