story by Carol Lauvray photos by Susan DeLoach
Each year, Kevin McNamara travels 3,750 miles from County Clare, Ireland to Beaufort to capture the essence of the Lowcountry on canvas. Many days during December and January this year, you’ll spy him standing on the dock by the former Dockside restaurant in Port Royal under a large umbrella. With his palette of oil paints, standing in front of an easel, he’ll be painting the idyllic scene before him—the shrimp boats moored at the dock, golden marsh grass, and pristine waters of Port Royal Sound.
Kevin says he prefers to paint outdoors, reacting directly and spontaneously to his subject, rather than in a studio from photos.
He finds inspiration for his paintings in the waters here in Beaufort and concentrates on the effects of the changing light and colors. Kevin says, “A painting evolves over several sessions and I adjust the colors and their relationships as I go, using brushes and palette knives to create my artwork. I’m always trying to build a tapestry of paint marks that reflect the beauty I see and there’s a child-like enthusiasm to my approach. All paintings are just flat images on canvas, but when I look at a painting after I finish it and see there’s a spark of something special I’ve captured—I call it the ‘X-factor’—then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.”
Kevin first came to Beaufort four years ago with his wife, Rachael Montejo, a photographer with artistic talent in her own right who studied photographic printing. The couple met in Cape Cod in 2013 and married in 2016. They heard that Beaufort was a center for art, came for a season then, and have been coming back every year since. “I love to paint in Beaufort because of the wonderful water scenes and the great network of bridges here,” Kevin adds. He says he has also painted scenes elsewhere in Port Royal and at the Gay Fish Company dock and other locations on St. Helena Island.
Raised in Dublin, Ireland, Kevin has been drawing since he was two years old. During his school years, his teachers would catch him drawing instead of paying attention in class. Kevin says his father was a major influence in his life and a very discerning person. “My father would tell me specifically what I did well and what I could do better. He always encouraged me to paint every painting as if it were my last one.”
Kevin studied at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin where he earned his degree in 1985 in fine art painting and the history of art. A year before leaving college, he had his first exhibition as a part of the Emerging Artist Show organized by Guinness Peat Aviation, and the same year he participated in the Young Artists exhibition in Dublin. Just as here in the U.S., Kevin is sought after in Ireland for his paintings featuring water scenes. He participated in the show ‘Four Irish Painters’ on prestigious Cork Street in London with the Messums Gallery and Petley Gallery. Kevin says that his artistic inspirations are such painters as Impressionists Claude Monet, American Childe Hassam, and Russians Konstatin Korovin and Valentin Serov.
McNamara presented a selection of 50 works at the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach, Florida from November 2007 through January 2008. Gary Libby of that museum described him as “a painterly realist with leanings into Impressionism.” Since that time, Kevin has participated in several one-man and group art shows in America, London and Dublin. In addition, he has completed a number of portrait commissions and teaches occasional painting workshops.
For the past 20 years, Kevin has been working in both the United States and Ireland. He was an artist for Walt Disney Productions in the Animation Department, as well as working in Ireland and England, on such animated classics as Tarzan, Mulan, Thumbelina and All Dogs Go To Heaven 2. For those animated films, Kevin painted backgrounds to exacting and intense color specifications to precisely match them from scene to scene. “That work taught me to be extremely discerning about color and light and how they relate to each other,” he explains.
Kevin and Rachael now divide their time between a home and studio in Lehinch on the rugged West Coast of Ireland and living here in Beaufort. Their home in Ireland on “The Wild Atlantic Way” is perched 275 feet high on a mountain, overlooking rolling pastures dotted with cattle and the famous Lehinch Bay. From their living room window in Ireland, the couple can see in the distance O’Brien’s Tower near the Cliffs of Moher. Kevin and Rachael say they would love to find a small cottage in Beaufort to purchase so they could live here three to six months each year. They’d also like to develop painting workshops to present in Beaufort when they return next winter. Kevin’s paintings are handled in the Lowcountry by the Hagan Fine Art Gallery & Studio in Charleston, SC, www.haganfineartcom. To learn more about Kevin’s work, visit www.kevinmcnamara.us.
About his craft and talent, Kevin says, “I have a very simple way of looking at my art and a real love and appreciation for God’s creation and the beauty of the scenes that I paint. I want to share that with others.”