Paddy D’Arcy exclusive interview: Picking at the edges of reality

Mixing the dynamic energy of street art with a swirl of hallucinogenic surrealism, and blended effortlessly through the classical fine art lens, contemporary tattoo and mixed media artist Paddy D’Arcy reminds us that there is no one way to be an artist. Celebrating years of transition, Paddy continues to make his mark on the Irish and UK art scene. This journey has taken him from brick to canvas, exploring the challenges linked to the diverse mediums further pushing his creative direction.

Formal education aside, growing up in Ireland with creative friends provided a space to experiment and collaborate on new artistic ideas. This influence on Paddy’s aesthetic still lingers. Later moving to Cork, an “inspiring place to work”, Paddy further added tattooing to his roster of creative outlets – however, his roots in street art were never entirely forgotten. Cork boasts multiple large-scale murals from renowned street artists throughout the city. “The vibe towards street art has definitely changed for the better.” Paddy shares. “Although some great legal painting spots are gone, there are still many opportunities to paint, and many local businesses are commissioning works on large walls which is great to see.”

While Paddy still supports this scene, he has evolved into a new space. His works these days explore figurative painting with an unwaveringly modern twist. Warped viewpoints and bold colours pick at the edges of reality, playfully moving the viewer through suggested forms of altered consciousness – it is equally unnerving and beautiful, and fundamentally, mesmerising. Using oils, spray paints and acrylics, Paddy D’Arcy creates a unique space in which to reflect what it is to exist and be human.


Interview with Paddy D’Arcy

I know that you are a painting graduate from Limerick School Of Art And Design, but I’m guessing your interest in art started before this? Can you share more about your history as an artist?

I loved drawing from a young age and was lucky enough to have plenty of positive encouragement from my family. My father, a site draughtsman back in the 90’s, solely relied on traditional drawing tools like pencils and rulers before the advent of computer aided design. His penchant for drawing possibly rubbed off on me and I am certainly guilty of borrowing many of his materials to sketch stick figures with! I studied art as a subject in school, a favourite class of mine for sure. In many other classes I was more concentrated on sketching characters in my notebooks and drawing tattoo designs in pen on willing classmates.

Around the age of 15, I transitioned into painting acrylics on canvas. During the same time a school friend introduced me to Montana spray paint, the movie Style Wars, a recently published copy of Graffiti World and some local Graffiti writers. This opened the world of street art and Graffiti to me, and we began to paint our first pieces near the Galway docks.

These late-night painting sessions with my peers were exhilarating and certainly some of my most indelible memories.

Paddy D’Arcy

I was always inclined towards creating characters and often merged my designs with the 3D letter work of other painters. In 2008, I was accepted to Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD) to study fine art, further exploring oils, acrylics and spray paint on both canvas and walls in Galway and Limerick. Post graduation in 2012, I moved to Cork, continuing my painting practice in Sample Studios and began apprenticing at a local Tattoo shop. Since then, my time has been split between painting and tattooing, honing both crafts.

How has this journey as an artist felt so far?

My journey as an artist has had its ups and downs, just like life. I had a bucket list of sorts that I wanted to pursue, like exhibiting my work, painting large murals, getting a fine art degree, and becoming a tattooist. I’m lucky to have accomplished these things, but the bucket list keeps growing and I still have more milestones I want to reach. The best part is, I am very grateful to continue creating and doing what I love every day.

Your journey so far has definitely been an interesting development! On that note, though you mix abstraction and realism, a couple of your pieces are predominantly more psychedelic and seem to mix graffiti/street art with a hint of visionary art. How does it feel to push the boundaries juggling these different styles, and decide on how best to balance or incorporate them?

When I start a new piece, my initial focus leans towards the realistic, figurative details. As the work progresses, the abstract and psychedelic elements tend to occur in a pretty organic fashion.

I don’t dwell too much on the fusion of styles, it seems more of a subconscious pattern at this point. Sometimes a painting turns out more realistic, others more psychedelic; at the end of the day, I imagine it’s subjective to the viewer.


Was there a significant moment or event which stands out in your career?

Back in 2003, a local artist in Galway organized an exhibition called ‘Fight the Grey’. It was a response to the city council buffering the majority of the painting spots in town. We got to show our works in The Spanish Arch Museum, and it felt great to exhibit my work at a young age in a public setting alongside my peers. Certainly a fond, standout memory for me.

Galway sadly isn’t the only city to be limiting areas where street art can thrive – at least canvasses are always available when you need it. How does your canvas work differ to the experience of working larger, or on concrete or brick walls?

Working on canvas, I take my time to get it just right, sometimes over weeks. It is a solitary pursuit in its nature, but conversely, painting walls outdoors is usually more interactive and lends itself too working at a much quicker pace. People passing by often share their thoughts and offer free critiques of the work which is always interesting and informative [laughs]. I enjoy both, but I would say painting outdoors with other artists is a more exciting, wholesome experience.

Paddy D’Arcy also tattoos his designs

In-line with artwork being more interactive; where do you find your models?

I mainly paint my friends or people I know. Sometimes, I paint portraits of musicians or actors who inspire me. I use a mix of my own photos and images and film stills for reference.

Recently I referenced characters from ‘The Wire’, the mythical characters Omar Little and Marlo Stanfield. One painted on wall, the other on canvas.

What materials do you use for each stage of your design? Can you outline how you plan a piece from conception to the end piece?

I start by building a frame, stretching canvas over it, add some layers of gesso and sand it down. Then I sketch the basic linear design with acrylic paint. Once I’m happy with the composition, I begin working into the piece with oils and add touches of aerosol in the latter stages. Sometimes I have a clear picture of the end result, but often the design evolves naturally as I paint.


What’s your favourite part when creating a new artwork?

My favourite part of creating a new piece is prepping the canvas, and mapping the first lines. It’s exciting to think about the many possibilities and how it could turn out.

Of course, the moment when I am finally content to call a work finished is very rewarding also.

Have you created work in other cities?

I’ve painted in the UK at a street art festival called Upfest, which was awesome. I’d love to paint further afield in Europe and the US. I am open to paint anywhere there are walls and opportunities!


On a similar note, can you share some of your influences?

My older brother introduced me to a lot of great art when we were kids. I was drawn to the music and album cover art of Artists such as The Prodigy, Nas and the Chilli peppers, the painting of Salvador Dali, Books by Hunter S. Thompson, Aldous Huxley, and Irvine Welsh.

I owe some of my main artistic influence to: Salvador Dali, Phil Hale, Gottfried Helnwein, Saber, Mr Cartoon, Jenny Saville and Mode2 but to name a few.

I love many genres of music, everything from ambient to techno to metal – but I think it’s safe to describe myself as a hip hop fanatic, the early 90’s era especially is a staple in my music playlists and continues are too inspire me to this day.

Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

I guess I could have focused more on my art when I was younger. But I also think that my experiences and social life back then gave me a lot of inspiration for my art. So, no regrets!

That’s a good way to live! Where would you like to take things in the future?

Just aiming to keep creating and be as prolific as possible.

Traveling and painting in different cities around the world is well up there on the to do list and I have recently been accepted in a role as an art mentor in a local community centre, so I’m excited to work in a teaching role and hopefully pass on some inspiration and knowledge to others.

Apart from that I just plan to keep busy working solidly. I am currently creating a fresh body of paintings and aiming towards an exhibition in the near future.

On a final note, I’d like to sincerely thank my family, friends, patrons and anyone who has supported or shown appreciation for my work over the years. THANK YOU.


Paddy D’Arcy social media accounts

Website | Instagram | Tattoo Instagram | Facebook

About Author

Based in the UK, Natalia Joruk enjoys a life surrounded by art, nature, and curious trinkets. As Deputy Editor, she's worked closely with the Editor-in-Chief for over a decade, supporting with the design and growth of Beautiful Bizarre and the maintenance of the annual Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize. Natalia also oversees sponsor partnerships for the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize, and distribution of the magazine, so drop her an email if you know someone who would like to sponsor or stock! She also writes for both the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine website and print publication. One of her favourite perks is getting to know artists, gallery owners and their teams personally, so feel free to email her if there is anything she can help you with – or just to connect.


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