Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Artist Brian Ballard reveals his most favourite things

Studio time: Brian Ballard and daughter Lisa at their recent pop-up gallery in Belfast
Studio time: Brian Ballard and daughter Lisa at their recent pop-up gallery in Belfast
Kiri Te Kanawa
Jean de Florette, starring Gerard Depardieu

The acclaimed 70-year-old artist lives in Cherryvalley, Belfast, with his wife Kate and their children, Freya (14) and Esme (12). He has three children from a previous marriage, Mark, Ross and Lisa. Brian will be exhibiting new work this week in Armagh.

My best moment

This was quite recently when my son Mark invited me to take part in a dinghy race with Holywood sailing club. He asked me even though I haven't sailed for 35 years – I managed to come third against all these young bucks. I might have come second, only I smashed my face on the boom.

My best song

One I really like listening to is Bailero, part of the Songs of the Auvergne, which is a collection of folk songs from the Auvergne region of France. It's a great song to paint to and I particularly like the version sung by Kiri Te Kanawa.

My best way to relax

My wife and I really enjoy the garden. My studio is built on to the back of the house and in between paintings I nip out and sit beside the pond and feed the goldfish and the shubunkins, which are a type of Japanese goldfish. It's very soothing.

My best job

I recently opened a pop-up gallery on Royal Avenue, Belfast. My daughter Lisa showed her paintings for a month and then I showed for a month. I went to "work" every day from 11am to 4pm and people just came in to view the pictures. It brightened up that part of town for couple of months and was the first "job" I'd done in 30 years.

My best advice

People have always told me just "to keep at it". Senior painters and people in the know would always tell me that if I had something, to just keep going with it. Paint away and it will come good.

My best gift

It was a smart set of oil paints from my folks when I was 11. I remember the smell of the paint and the linseed oil and being confused as to how to work with the material. I tried to reproduce a little landscape by Humbert Craig – it was the first thing I ever did using oils.

My best achievements

My lovely family. At the tender age of 70 they're keeping me young at heart. I built the younger two a treehouse in our back garden on a pair of big, fat conifers. It's strong and sleeps five 11-year-olds. I made it from recycled materials.

My best buy

I bought a boat that had been used at Lough Neagh to get us to and from the island in Donegal where we have a cottage. It was £600 and is a lovely 19-ft fishing boat which was unloved and only being used to test outboard motors. We've been using it now for 20 years.

Best movie

I remember watching Jean de Florette, starring Gerard Depardieu, in a big comfortable cinema in Adelaide in Australia. There was wine beforehand and space for my long legs. I remember leaving the parched landscapes of the film and I had a great feeling of displacement coming away from what I had just seen. I really enjoyed that.

Best book

I once read a book by Patrick White called The Vivisector that I found enlightening. It's about an old painter and I guess you could say I have turned into that old painter now.

  • A collection of new paintings by Brian will be on display at The Gallery in Armagh as part of the John Hewitt Summer School from today until August 16. He will be giving a talk about his work at 7.15pm tonight. For details, visit www.johnhewittsociety.org

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