Clare based artist Sorrell Reilly creates bright, illustrative landscapes of the Irish countryside, starting off life as delicate lino prints and later digitized to add vivid colour. We asked Sorrell a few questions about her beautiful artwork and the process behind it.
Tell us a bit about what you make.
I make print artwork of the Irish landscape. I strive to make work that speaks to my soul, brings me joy and has personal meaning and connection with a certain place and time.
Could you describe your studio to us? What is your favourite thing about the space?
Myself and my husband have recently moved into a little cottage by the sea in Clare. We’ve made one of the rooms into a workroom and I love it!
I lived in Cork city for years and lived in some pokey flats, not big enough to swing a mouse! So coming out to the coast and having my own space with things around me that inspire me has been liberating. I’m so grateful for where we live. My favourite thing is hearing the seagulls and the waves while I work. In the summer I can take my work outside and I feel pretty darn jammy!
How do you get into the mindset of making?
I have to connect to my subject to get into the mindset of making. Often when I travel I use that time to self reflect and associate the place with a poem or song. And then later I revisit the words or music to get back to what I was experiencing. Music has a powerful way to travel you back to past feelings and to get into a creative head space.
What is your favourite tool and why?
Pfeil Lino cutting tools, my magic weapon. I know they say a poor workwoman blames her tools, but I think a good tool can shorten the distance between the artist and the art. And of course it can also make you feel like the business. I remember when I was a child I learned the piano but only had a keyboard to practice and then one day my parents bought me a beautiful upright piano. I adored it and couldn’t wait to wake up everyday to play. That’s what Pfeil cutting tools are like for me.
Can you describe your making process to us?
To start with I always draw a number of rough sketches to find a composition that I am happy with. After this, I try to find ways to add more design elements and motifs that I can use throughout the piece. This is often patterns and textures derived from plants, flowers, rocks etc. Once I am happy with the design I clean up the sketch and transfer to Lino. I then cut the Lino, ink and print it and leave to dry which usually takes about three days. Once the print is dry I do a high resolution scan and bring the design into Adobe Photoshop. I then mask and edit the colours digitally ready for the final print.
What is your inspiration?
Nature has been a medicine and a constant inspiration for me. It has the ability to lift you out of your head where you can view life from new perspectives. Also, the more time I spend observing my surroundings, the beauty of the landscape and the flowers and colours around me the more I get the impulse to create.
Moylussa - Killaloe print by Sorrell Reilly.
What led you to choose this craft as a profession? What do you love most about it?
I have thought about this question before and I think that printmaking chose me rather than the other way round.
To give you a bit of background, I have Endometriosis and Adenomyosis, both of which took years to get properly diagnosed. It was a difficult time and normal everyday life could at times be exhausting. I often felt I was at the mercy of my illness. Then in 2017 while I was studying illustration I had radical surgery in the UK that helped to dramatically reduce my symptoms. After my studies I started working with my husband who is an animator, designing and illustrating marketing animation for start-ups, non-profits etc. But the work can be frenetic and deadline-driven and ultimately I found that type of work didn’t feed my soul. Also, I think even though my illness was under control I needed time to heal in other ways.
I had studied printmaking for a short time in college where I made etchings, transfers and of course Lino prints and was immediately drawn to the whole process. I think printmakers are careful artists. For example, a painter friend of mine paints huge canvases with sweeping brush strokes and is very loose in his approach. Print making, on the other hand, doesn’t allow that level of freedom. Ideas are explored and worked out before ever committing them to paper, and this slow deliberate process lends itself to my sensibilities and introspective nature.
By far the thing I love the most about my work is when people connect with it and make it their own. I am always fascinated with how people see my work, there are so many stories and memories associated with the landscape and I love that my work can reflect parts of who we are.
How do your surroundings affect your work?
The beauty of the Clare landscape with the Atlantic coastline at my doorstep is a constant reminding voice to be creative. You have only to take a walk along the shore, especially in the evening with the stunning sunsets to be compelled by nature to make. Also, I work together with my husband and having another creative person to bounce ideas off is really helpful. It a great way to hone ideas and try out concepts, he’s also my 24hr tech support!
What is your favourite piece?
I think my favourite piece is probably my print of Nohoval Cove in County Cork called ‘I am Outside, I am Breathing’. (pictured above)
The Sea Remembers and Sings Back print by Sorrell Reilly.
We stock Sorrell's work both in-store and online, which you can check out here.