Brown paper artist hopes to return to Longford

Fancy getting your portrait slapped across the front of a brown paper bag?

Fancy getting your portrait slapped across the front of a brown paper bag?

If the answer is yes, Longford natives could be in for a pleasant surprise as a UK based artist and on-stage performer this week celebrated his 30th anniversary of ‘bagging’ or transcribing faces onto brown paper bags.

From the famous to the less so, Leeds-based father of three Michael Gallagher has turned what started out as a whimsical past-time into a fully fledged career.

Ironically however, the impetus for such an unlikely career path has its roots firmly entrenched in Co Longford.

“I don’t quite know how it happened, but in January 1983 I ended up in a cafe bar in Longford. I saw all of these paper bags on the counter and asked if I could take a few,” he remembered.

After approaching and receiving a favourable response from a local bartender to draw his portrait, Michael started out on his three-decade long ‘bagging’ career.

“I can still remember bits of that day,” said Michael, whose initial charge for a bagged portrait amounted to just £5.

“From there, off I went and I have done portraits, other paintings and exhibitions since.”

When not scribbling people’s faces onto brown paper containers, Michael’s other time is spent with a comedy/rock and roll band he set up in 2006, called Mikartistik’s Ego Trip.

“People think we’re a really strange hybrid of all sorts, a bit of comedy, a bit of performance art, a bit of pure punk rock, some funky stuff, some freestyling and nursery rhyme stuff, poetry and a load of improvisation,” he said.

The band’s growing repute has also seen them play at the last five Glastonbury Festivals in the UK as well as Clones’ Flat Lake Festival.

That said, Michael hasn’t ruled out the lure of returning to Longford and continuing where he left off 30 years earlier.

“We have a couple of gigs coming up in the next few months, but, no, it would be great to go back and have another go. It would be like, a sort of pilgrimage I suppose,” he said.