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  • lucyemcelroy

How it started, my journey to become a portrait artist.

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

Hello I'm Lucy McElroy. I make portraits of people. Sometimes I make them for myself of the people I love. Sometimes I make them for other people of the people they love. It makes me happy. But I haven't always known it's what I want to do, it took a journey for me to find that out.

My first pastel drawings of my children.

I have known, since childhood, that I am happiest when making beautiful things. I was blessed with a creative family, my grandparents were artists and my my mother taught me to sew, knit and crotchet so I grew up crafting with fabrics as well as drawing and painting. Definitely their greatest gift though was their encouragement to follow my heart in my education and career choices. Hence, when I fell in love with figurative painting during an Art Foundation course I enthusiastically trotted off to university to study Fine Art. But it was the 1990's and painting was out of vouge. It turned out you didn't do an art degree to learn how to paint, it was all about Conceptual Art. My attempts to paint were dismissed by my tutors, so I turned to making feminist videos and installations and graduated feeling creatively unfulfilled and unsure how I was going to earn a living, let alone doing something I enjoyed.

But I was lucky, I trained to be a secondary school Art teacher and found it suited me well. I spent eighteen years working with like minded colleagues and meeting inspiring young people. As well as being passionate about teaching the practical skills denied me in higher education I also found I was good at helping my students develop their individual creativity. Plus I discovered I valued the authenticity of the connections formed in the process. Perhaps I was good at helping them develop their creativity because I valued the authentic connections. I enjoyed figuring out what it was that made them tick, their strengths and insecurities and finding a way through them.

If I'm honest I lived my creative life vicariously through my students for several years. Which perhaps explains why the art department became increasingly full of portraits and figurative paintings. Inevitably there was only so long I could watch other people creating without wanting to do more myself, so after my second child was born, when I dropped some of my teaching hours to spend time with him I started to make my own art work.

It was slow going.

Pencil portrait baby
First drawing of Finnian

Being a mother is a full time job and the types of drawings I wanted to make take a lot of time. My years of teaching had refined my critical eye and technical understanding but my practical skills were very rusty.

I started drawing my children.

It took me hours and hours to make drawings I was happy with.

Gradually it got easier and my skills improved.

I loved it.

More pastel drawings of my children.

I started drawing friends children.

Drawings of friends children

Other friends wanted to commission me to draw their children and so it began...

Portrait of two boys in pastel
Pastel portrait commission

Portrait of two girls in pastel
Pastel portrait commission

You can find out more about the portraits I make now, my prices, and how to get in touch here

1 Comment

Apr 06, 2023

I love this Lucy ❤ all things happen for a reason .... teaching what you love is definitely a gift and you have inspired so many people to follow what makes their hearts sing! (And yours!) You have such a beautiful connection to your subjects that really comes through in your work even when you may not know them... you definitely *see* them. ❤

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