Aisling Children's Arts Festival: The Ardagh artist behind this year’s colourful poster

Leigh Gurney, Mercy Ballymahon

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Leigh Gurney, Mercy Ballymahon

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Aisling Children's Arts Festival: The Ardagh artist behind this year’s colourful poster

Mary Smyth's stunning artwork for this year's Aisling Children's Arts Festival

Local animator and illustrator Mary Smyth is the artist behind the poster for this year’s Aisling Children's Arts Festival.

She kindly agreed to tell us about herself, her job and the inspiration behind this year's poster.

You are an Animator and Illustrator, what do these jobs entail and what inspired you to pursue them?

I am an animator and illustrator working in Longford. I use both titles as my work is varied. I am also currently doing a research masters in Clonmel, LIT, using animation as a tool to share life experiences with addiction in collaboration with the rehabilitation organisation Aiséirí.

As an animator I am attempting to make things seem like they have come to life. It can feel a bit like magic being able to do that with my work, and with others’ work.

As an illustrator, the possibilities of creation are endless. I work most of the time on a computer which is why I love the drawing stage of creating a piece of art and also that it can be done anywhere.

Both parts of my job involve storytelling and creating a connection with an audience. I always fondly remember seeing the behind the scenes of Wallace and Gromit - The curse of the Ware Rabbit as a child and a John Lewis advert, The Bear and the Hare animation released in my first year in college, both of which daunted and enticed me to try the animation and motion design course at LSAD. The sets were so beautiful.

Read also: Local children gear up for Playmaking at Longford's Backstage Theatre

Why is it important for people like you to be involved in the Aisling Festival and other festivals of that nature?

There are a few reasons; I believe it's important that people like me are involved in the festival.

I am a local artist living in Longford. Because I have been getting work around my area, I haven't moved elsewhere which had been a consideration straight after college.

Having local people working for events like these creates a thriving, beautiful community and that kind of thing just keeps growing.

When I was younger I was always getting involved in this festival and grew up with it here. I entered the art competition every year and won on occasion.

These are wonderful memories to have and to be able to come full circle and work for it now is amazing. These kind of events are probably why I am doing what I am. They cultivate creative people and encourage them to try what they dream of doing.

What are your inspirations for drawings and animations? Is there a certain subject you prefer to draw or animate?

Magic, fantasy, folklore and nature are the main themes which emerge over and over again in my work. I'm a child at heart and love day-dreaming cute, swirly imagery.

Can you tell us a bit about the artwork you have done for this year’s Aisling Festival?

The theme for this year’s festival is My Place In The World. With this title, I began brainstorming and I was certainly inspired by the raising awareness of climate change and the call for action by children and teenagers across the world of late.

It’s inspiring! We are all connected to our surroundings and are privileged to be allowed live on such an amazing place.

As I mentioned above, nature and magic crop up regularly in my work and I really love drawing trees. I wanted the children to be playing and interacting among the branches of a tree that has seen many generations before them.

A child feeds a squirrel, a pair paint and talk (new friendships) at the roots, a boy reads in a nest-like seat, a girl with wavy long hair is dreaming of her future as she swings and another young girl is building a tree house above all their heads, a link to the creativity and projects that occur thanks to the Aisling Children’s Art Festival.

In the house you may spot a theatre mask hanging on the wall. The tree and children sit on the earth and if you look closely you can see Ireland peeking out between the letters.

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