Darragh Bourke was born and raised in a small town called Ballina in County Mayo on the West Coast of Ireland.
He grew up under the smothering love of an Irish mother and a passionate caring father with two red-headed sisters by his side. Darragh first witnessed the beauty in drawing when he was 9 years old and when his dad showed him his old collection of sketches that he kept hidden under his bed.
He distinctly remembers this one sketch of a woman pissing in a urinal and thought it was the coolest thing he had ever seen. And there Daragh’s love for art and drawing was born.
” My perception on art was that it was something you had to develop on your own through practice, and It never fit my description as a ‘job’ that I could work at for the rest of my life. As a result of this, I decided to pursue my academic interests in human anatomy and biology which lead to my current studies in Physiotherapy. I am in my final year in Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, and should be graduating in June 2021. As my academic skills developed through education, my eye for detail and perspective also matured during my free time on evenings and weekends with a pencil and piece of paper. Pencil in hand, headphones on and a cup of tea nearby, the simple ingredients needed to get lost in a world of my own creation. As my confidence grew along with encouragement from friends and family, I started sharing my art on social media. 4 years later after my first post, I now sell prints and original artworks on my own successful art website to art lovers around the world. I love the path I have chosen and I cannot wait to see where it leads me in life. ”
Hi Darragh! I’ve found it quite amusing and entertaining how you’ve found your love for art and drawing. Did you know that you’re going to be an artist at that particular moment? And what are some other early memories that inspired you to pursue art?
Darragh: After seeing my dad’s drawings, I assumed that some of his talents would be in my blood. If dad was good at it, my logic was that I should be too… I wasn’t. I was terrible. The reality between nurture and nature suddenly became painfully real to me. I always loved drawing as a kid, but growing up in school but I never thought of myself as an artist. Even when my work started to improve and it gained interest from friends and family, I would have never called myself one. I felt that to be labeled as such would require a certain skill or ability level, perhaps even a University degree. I am now more accepting of the term.. I’d be lying if I said I don’t crack a smile when somebody addresses me with it.
What medium is your favorite to work with, and why?
Darragh: Pencil on paper any day of the week. One of the most simple, inexpensive, and underrated creative tools at an artist’s disposal. Pencil on paper started off as my bread and butter; it was the only medium I used to express ideas until I started experimenting with other materials three years ago. I love its ease of use and its old-school simplicity that you don’t see that often anymore.
How would you describe your art to people?
Darragh: I suppose it fits in the category of creative realism. Detailed drawings of my thoughts and dreams on certain topics.
What’s the most challenging part of your artistic process? And how do you overcome it?
Darragh: The most challenging part for me can be the thought process behind converting a word or idea into a drawing or painting. This can be difficult when you have deadlines for commissions fast approaching. However, this process cannot be forced or rushed, no matter how hard you try. Once you begin to relax and play with the idea over time the mental fog begins to lift, and ideas start to flow.
Leonardo coins it brilliantly: “Sometimes it requires going slowly, pausing, even procrastinating. This allows ideas to mature. Intuition needs nurturing. Men of lofty genius sometimes accomplish the most when they work least. For their minds are occupied with their ideas and the perfection of their conceptions, to which they afterwards give from.”
Could you walk us through your process? How much planning do you do before you jump into creating an artwork? If you do, what are you trying to solve at each stage of it?
Darragh: The process is everything. First comes the idea, the spark, the question that ignites my mind’s eye to conceptualize these thoughts into images. My drawing of Hope is a good example of this process. I ask myself the simple question: how do you draw hope? The visualizations that follow can be almost instant or take up to a whole year to fully develop. This process cannot be forced; time and patience reveal beautiful creations at the most random of times. When the idea has fully developed in my mind, the corollary of enthusiasm and excitement to put it on paper always follows.
My setup process comes next – this is something that is repeated every time I go to draw. Spotlight on the page, the image to be drawn in front of me from a laptop or a book, pencils laid out carefully on my left and a cup of tea on the right. The headphones go on, I press play on Spotify, and the world outside of me and the page melts away.
Do you have a real-life situation that inspired your art?
Darragh: Inspiration is usually subtle for me. You must have an open perspective on the real world to turn regular everyday objects into something of your own creation. I like letting my mind play with my surroundings. For example, on my desk beside me is a Peace Lilly. While I look at the plant, I imagine different things that it could be growing out of it, like a baby’s head or a giant’s ear. Then I notice a dying leaf at the bottom of the plant and suddenly the images change to represent a peaceful death and I see the plant on a bedside locker next to a dying man. This image progresses further into something more philosophical in nature such as regeneration and regrowth and is conceptualized in my mind’s eye as a baby wrapped in the petals of the same Peace Lilly. After a few minutes of this child-like play with a plant in my head, I have three or four new drawing possibilities… and perhaps a small smirk at the thought of plants making babies. I could describe it as openness and willingness to letting my mind off the leash of what we’d describe as normal, in order to create wild and novel abstractions from everyday phenomena.
What is your most recent piece of art that you have enjoyed working on the most?
Darragh: I recently finished my Anatomy Art Collection which was just pure pleasure. I enjoyed this so much because it combined two main passions in my life: Physiotherapy and art. The collection consists of colourful twists of the original illustrations from the Grays Anatomy textbook.
Who are a few artists/people that really inspire you right now, and why?
Darragh: My two art Gods are Leonardo De Vinci and Salvador Dali. Leonardo is one of the most diversely talented humans to have ever lived. The man had a beautiful, gifted mind which combined the laws of science and nature to create jaw dropping works of art. He inspires faith in the creative process and shows a deep primal connection between all living things.
Salvador Dali on the other hand was a mad little man with a lascivious mind and one hell of a painter. His surreal, hyper lucid creations portray the familiar through new eyes and inspires irrationality and individualism.
Besides that Jordan Peterson and Echart Tolie provide inspiration through their unique perspectives and wisdom about everyday life.
Do you see your art as serving a purpose beyond art?
Darragh: There are many quotes out there from well versed humans that beautifully capture the purpose of art in words. I am not one of those humans. However, It’s incredibly gratifying to dedicate ones-self fully to something like this, and watch as you struggle towards becoming a better artist. It causes frustration, elation, depression, anxiety, hope and every other emotion under the sun. It makes me feel alive, which is a pretty good reason to keep doing it.
Are there any upcoming shows or workshops we should know about?
Darragh: Not at the moment. I had my first exhibition lined up for September of 2020 in a café in Aberdeen but unfortunately Covid put a stop to that, so I have yet to lose my exhibition virginity. I post photos and videos of my current projects on Instagram and Facebook for whoever is interested in keeping up to date with my art.
What are you currently working on, and what’s next for you?
Darragh: I am currently working on a Looney Revival collection which involves combining ancient Greek and Roman Sculptures with characters form the looney Tunes and I am having such fun with it. I am also working on a private commission painting for an investor.
I think the future looks bright. I feel like I am only getting into my stride as an artist and my career is really in its fledgling stages. My goal is to keep growing; I have dreams of exhibiting my art in galleries across the world and sharing my creations with those who hold the same passion for art that I do.