One year on she is living in Cumber with her boyfriend, Belfast native William Brown, and has been painting non-stop for the past year.
“I’ve been a lot more focused this time around preparing for my second exhibition and I have worked all year round completing it,” she said.
Growing up in the foothills of Muckish, the well-known Donegal landmark has always featured heavily in Ailsa artwork and so it is with her latest exhibition, named after a well-known bridge by the mountain.
She said: “Even though I am living in north Down, that part of Donegal is still very much part of my painting and I’ve been over and back a lot while I have been working.
“But living in County Down, I’ve also drawn some influences for my landscapes from these parts.”
Ailsa said, after her first exhibition, Mo Bhaile, at Café Blend in Letterkenny, she received so much interest in her work, it really drove her on to pursue a full-time career in art.
“The opening night was so incredible, I remember being very nervous wondering if people would come, but it couldn’t have gone any better.
“I’m hoping for the same again, especially as it’s so close to home on this occasion.
“I’m really delighted that I have been given the opportunity of exhibiting my art at The Workhouse which, I feel, is an ideal location for displaying my paintings.
“It’s real cultural landmark and I think my art needs to be shown in a place like that with such heritage.”
Ailsa’s unique take on local landscapes has proven a real hit with art lovers and after selling out her first exhibition, she was kept very busy working on commissions.
At the time Ailsa didn’t expect to sell all over he paintings and saw holding an exhibition more as a means of getting her name out there and promoting her art – and that she certainly did with great success.
“There was so much interest from people, both in Donegal and Northern Ireland, and I pretty much sold out the whole exhibition which was a huge boost, of course.
“The success of my first exhibition had a real knock-on effect and kept me going during the year.
“It’s tough sometimes as a full-time artist, but you just have to keep the head down and keep at it.”
Ailsa’s canvas of choice for her landscape paintings is wood.
“I feel the grain of the wood gives the paintings a lot more texture and makes them look a lot more dramatic and it’s just a lovely material to work on. As well as that the paintings are lot easier to frame afterwards.”
Dedicating her whole time to painting, Ailsa said she is treating it as a 9 to 5 job, but as she loves what she’s doing so much, it certainly doesn’t feel like that to her.
“I have a little studio in our house in Cumber and I get up and start working at 9, have lunch and then finish up at 5 for my tea, but very often I will go back and do some more work in the evening.
“Doing that is all about self-motivation, and as I love it so much, it;s not very hard for me, so it’s very much a labour of love” she said.
The daughter of Mary and Columba Friel, Ailsa graduated from University of Ulster (Belfast campus) with a degree in Fine Art (Ceramics) in 2007, but this was not the area she had initially intended to complete her studies in.
“I started out painting at college, but when they wanted me to change my style I made the switch to ceramics and after my graduation I was invited to exhibit my final pieces at the Royal Ulster Academy Annual Exhibition, but I knew some day I’d wanted to get back to painting.”
And so the young artist from Creeslough has, with great success, and you can see Ailsa Friel’s latest exhibition, Bridge Of Tears, at Dunfanaghy’s Workhouse from July 8.