The Dublin artist has lived in Florence and London but home sweet home is in Monkstown with her husband Ben and their three children Penelope (7), Ralph (9) and Matilda (12).

Her work is largely focused on the local seascape and landscape, plus portraiture and life drawing. Her passion for the sea and its vast skies feature largely in her recent works, predominantly concentrating in oils on canvas.

Kettle on to learn about her artistic practice and how she unplugs from domestic responsibilities…

Tribal Flower Robe

What would a perfect weekend look like to you?
This question makes me think back to a Saturday morning last September when Ben and I, our three kids and our dog Zeus set out early to walk the cliff path around Bray Head down towards Greystones, followed by a sea swim, then coffee and croissants. We picked blackberries on the way, watched boats meander by and had the most idyllic time. So I think slowing down and spending time with the people I love, and allowing nature to ground me is a recipe for my ideal weekend.

When and why did you become an artist?
I grew up in a house full of art, and although I was surrounded by a lot of creativity in my birth family, it wasnt something I really identified with until I happened to do a life drawing session while visiting Florence, Italy. I was thinking of studying architecture at the time, so went there to work on a portfolio. But life drawing completely took over so I attended the classical Cecil School there and then moved to London where I studied portraiture at the Heatherley School of Fine Art for two years.

I then moved back to Dublin and saw the landscape Id grown up in through new eyes. I immersed myself in landscape painting and started exhibiting and selling my work in galleries. It was and still is a wonderful privilege that people want my pieces in their homes. I feel so fortunate to get to call this my work.

House Coat

Does your studio space exude methodic madness or total calm?
My studio space is in the main hub of our home, so its really a mix of both. Once the house empties out in the morning, I have a bit of a ritual for my work space, especially for starting a new piece; candles are lit, music is on, phone is off, which all help my focus and flow.

Creating art is in itself can be meditative, a mindful experience – thats why art therapy exists. But is there such a thing as an artists equivalent of writers block and if so, how do you push through it?
For me, while Im working on a piece its like an intense, all-consuming relationship. Im completely immersed in it, and barely come up for air. There’s a huge concentration and physicality involved in my work so on the rare occasion Im easily distracted and not connected to or invested in the surface as its emerging, I know Im in danger of just pushing paint and need to walk away fast to get grounded. Ill do something completely unrelated, not think about it, then come back ready to face it again. And I think avoiding calling it a block helps move through it!

Isobel Hanihan

How did living in Florence and London inform your work?
I loved my time in both cities, but I think the biggest impact from living in them was that they enabled me to see Dublin through new eyes when I moved back here. Dublin was a relief from the groomed perfection of Florence and London and for the first time I was able to appreciate these familiar places I took for granted growing up and try to visually interpret them through a new-found medium.

You live in Monkstown. Did you choose to live near the sea, or did the sea choose you? Thats a lovely question. I always seek out the sea, I dont think I could ever feel at home away from it. I swim every day, its literally part of who I am.

When painting portraits, do you have any techniques to help relax your subjects?
After years of working from life I now generally work from a combination of sketches and photos – that’s hands down the most relaxing for the sitter.

Tribal Flower Robe

What books are on your nightstand?
The Blissful Breath by Niall Ó Murchú, The Changing Mind by Daniel Levitin and The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. And my guilty pleasure, the Irish Times Bumper Simplex Crossword book.

Imagine a much-anticipated Friday night in. Your Moon + Mellow PJs are on and you have the TV – and couch – entirely to yourself. What is your go-to feel-good film, snack and refreshment and why?
I love the idea of curling up to watch my favourite series but truth is I dont get to watch much TV these days – by the time I get to wind down in the evenings I end up choosing sleep! My favourite, though, is a good crime drama, and a cup of herbal tea.

Ive always had a soft spot for Poirot, and most Agatha Christie whodunnits. Im there for the style and nostalgia, and Poirots quirks just crack me up. I also loved Line of Duty, Breaking Bad and The Wire, and answering this question makes me realise I really need to catch up with some current TV series…

Jellyfish Pyjamas 

Who would be your top celebrity pyjama party guests?
My four ideal guests: Hercule Poirot (David Suchet in character); Jenny Saville (inspiring painter); Mel Robbins (motivational speaker); Wes Anderson (film director).

Which are your favourite picks from the Moon + Mellow collection?
Its hard to choose a favourite, theyre all so gorgeous. The Midnight Jellyfish pyjamas are the comfiest thing ever, they feel luxurious and are a nice way to confront my fear of jellyfish… I love the pink Tribal Robe too, you dont mind having to answer the door in that one! The quality and design-detailing of these pieces are beautiful and I love them all the more hearing how Cliona had the courage to follow her dream by starting up this company, its really inspiring. 

Isobel's M+M pyjama picks

Jellyfish Pyjamas Tribal Cotton Dressing Gown

Follow Isobel on instagram @isobelhenihanart