|Irish Watercolors Attract Artist
Special to The Irish American Post
pictures to enlarge]
landscape artist Theresa M Quirk does her cultural thing in oil and watercolor,
with a strong dose of Irishness mixed in for good coloring and heritage.
She began painting and studying art as a child with her father, Walter
D. Quirk, who motivated her to pursue art. "He was very interested in art
and dabbled in it from time to time. He was a major influence when I was
very young and even signed me up with a home study course with a high school
in Westport, Conn.," she said.
Unfortunately, Quirk’s father died tragically after a bar fight when
she was 13. His daughter recalled that he was probably one of the last
remaining urban gang types from Jersey City. His life evolved around cards,
loan sharking, managing the numbers, the Irish Lottery and other frowned
upon activities of the day, according to Quirk. "But he was a very good
father and very proud of his entire family and faithful to the Church,"
"I loved him very much and his death seemed senseless. As one of the
eldest, I was left to help care for all my younger siblings. Unfortunately,
this took a toll on my education as I stayed home during most of my high
school years to care for the household and kids," Quirk said.
She has two natural brothers, one of whom is older and one younger,
as well as one younger sister and two adopted brothers that her father
took in as foster children just before he died in 1969. No one else in
this large Irish family, however, has been interested in art.
grandparents on her dad's side were from the Tipperary area before immigrating
to Brooklyn. Her grandmother’s parents, the Twomeys, came from the Wexford
area and emigrated to Savannah. In honor of her heritage on St. Patrick's
Day, Quirk always celebrates at a local pub, eating corned beef and cabbage.
"It seems a very American thing to do, rather than an Irish one. But it's
a day we can all be proud," she explained.
"I don't enjoy many Irish dishes. I grew up with many of them and tend
to avoid them. I remember as a kid having to peel five pounds of potatoes
every single night," she recalled.
Most of the Quirk side of the family lived in Connecticut while the
artist was growing up, but all originally came from Jersey City or Brooklyn.
Quirk was born in 1955 in Stafford Springs, Conn., while her parents were
attempting to make a life up there.
"It didn't work out for my father and we moved back to Jersey City after
enrolling us in a private school there," Quirk said. But at 16, she left
home, yet still finished high school at 18 and entered Jersey City State
College. She initially studied art but quickly changed to business, fearing
Quirk never graduated from college because she said she was simply too
busy working. "I had a job in New York City in the travel industry, where
my company was a pioneer in implements networks for the airlines during
the 1970s. The growth was so fast and aggressive during that time that
it was better to stick it out," she offered.
artist now lives in West Milford, N.J., a lovely heavily-wooded area of
state about 50 minutes out of Midtown Manhattan. "It's a very rural area
and there is much wildlife, including wild turkeys, coyotes, and numerous
backyard bears to contend with. West Milford is in a migration path and
there's always interesting hawks and eagles hunting above. While I am painting
plein-air, I watch them soar and hunt. We tend to a small tree farm here,"
Quirk often attends workshops in New England, New Jersey and in Greenville,
N.Y., at the Hudson Valley Art in nearby Durham. The latter town is becoming
quite well-known for its Irish festival, she said, adding, "I never had
any extensive or formal art training other than these workshops I take."
In addition to doing a few art shows, Quirk is represented by a local
gallery in West Milford. "I really don't enjoy that part of the business.
Maybe even hate it. I am a 'quiet painter' and would rather use the Internet
for publicizing my work," she said.
"I see so many other artists running around with paintings, entering
shows and such. I think it's all very strange behavior. Maybe because my
background is so digital. I paint because I love it," Quirk said. "It's
part of me. I feel I don't need to run around hoping someone will give
me some award for something, I only need to satisfy myself. Someday, I
will not be here but my art will live and that's enough for me."
now has a 20-year-old daughter attending Fordham University in New York
City. Five years ago, in her third marriage, Quirk married an Argentinean
architect who enjoys the art world but does not paint. His father is a
painter in Buenos Aires and he knows many South American artists. She and
her husband were married in Iceland, the only other country she finds as
amazing as Ireland. "It’s probably the closest thing to traveling to the
moon," Quirk said.
"After the birth of my daughter, I started a small publishing company
that enabled me to work from home so I could care for her better. I enjoyed
doing layout and design and a family entertainment newspaper was among
my projects," Quirk said.
"I also did prepress and layout of other printed material. At the very
beginning of Internet I quickly took advantage of the opportunities I saw
online. I was published in the New Jersey Star Ledger as a pioneer
during the Internet revolution. When I started web pages there was only
Mosaic but Netscape was in the works," she added.
She continues to study on a regular basis with other artists and travels
extensively she can explore the landscapes and scenes that have become
the subjects of her work. "My Irish scenes are favorites and I find a lot
of inspiration in the Irish countryside," she related.
"I have always traveled quite a lot. My daughter's father was from Germany
and before him I had a few Swiss boyfriends. So I spent a lot of time in
Europe. My time in the travel industry afforded me easy travel opportunities,"
"I fell in love with Ireland and still have an ongoing affair with it.
I am very drawn to the beautiful landscapes and the moist environment.
The weather invites me as part of it's wonder, like becoming one. I think
visiting Ireland was a major influence in my art. I really enjoy the entire
western coastline and can't say which area I love more as it all appeals
to me equally," Quirk said.
For her, Ireland is among one of the best places to paint. She cited
the ever-changing weather and endless landscapes that create a very special
challenge. The watercolor and the atmosphere seem to go together quite
naturally, she indicated.
"I think there's no better medium than watercolor when capturing an
Irish scene. Although I haven't been able to paint plein-air, I take hundreds
of photos for reference as we cover a lot of ground while we are there.
It a very busy time. The rest I hold in my memory," she said.
"Since as an American, I am terrified of driving on the other side of
the road, so I go with my husband who drives me around. We have a wonderful
time. I am currently attempting to drive by myself so I can spend more
time there this year. I need ‘quiet time’ to soak up the Burren and Connemara
and browse the bookstores," she said.
Quirk receives her inspiration by looking at photos or reading Irish
stories, "History or, film and music. It amazes me how much talent there
is in a country nearly the size of New Jersey," she said. "I enjoy the
pubs, the music and the art of storytelling. I appreciate the freedom they
give to sheep and cattle, allowing them to really enjoy a wonderful life
while they have it," she said.
"How could one not fall in love with a newborn lamb nestled alone in
the grass as you stroll the countryside? Or gaze at a rock wall wondering
who built it and why. In a Connemara field, a rock that could be a grave
or ruins of a stone cottage, filled with only lost memories. There are
so many stories to tell but no words to express it all. I think the reason
why it's so undeveloped there is the people visual this and ‘respect’ it
as it is. I like that," Quirk continued.
"I've always loved Irish music for as long as I can remember. I am fortunate
that there is a local radio station at Fordham University that broadcasts
wonderful music and news from Ireland," she went on.
"As a watercolorist, my work is about layers of transparency, illusion,
light and a bit of reality moving from reality to abstract to reality,"
Quirk said. "I work in layer after layer, viewing the actual piece brings
you a clear understanding of just how layers of different colors can play
with your eye. I employ spontaneous and loose-flowing brushwork, suggesting
the freedom only a watercolor can provide," she said.
Quirk recently started painting in oil; however, she continues to enjoy
watercolors. For her, it’s more spontaneous. I love building up layers
and having happy discoveries. I think watercolors allow you to really catch
the moment. They are truly from the heart. Oils are too-time-consuming
and the point is usually lost. I take a lot of photos everywhere I go but
never used it as a medium," said explained.
When not painting, Quirk is working at her publishing firm. "I unwind
with my working. I spend a lot of time on the computer and have a network
throughout my home and in my studio. I also travel with my husband to Puerto
Rico where his company has an office, for brief 'warm ups" during the winter,"
"An important point I'd like to make is that I just started painting
only three years ago when I became a member and studied at the Ridgewood
Art Institute," Quirk related. "Throughout my life, I have always been
too busy and pressured to work. After the birth of my daughter, I was divorced
and was left to raise her myself. I also had a business for many years
to tend and a home to pay off.
"Although I have always loved art and dabbled in it here and there it
was only three years ago that my business got to a point that I could "relax"
and for the firs time in my life do something I love. My new husband of
five years has been very supportive of this and motivates me constantly.
"I now devote most of my time to art and this has been a long time waiting.
So, in the last three years I've been catching up to all those lost years,"