Art Scene

Zara McDaid

Art Scene: Art changed Emer Smith’s life

Emer Smith.

Emer Smith.

I CAUGHT up with upcoming artist Emer Smith, a 23-year-lady from Letterkenny whose colourful and vibrant work caught my eye recently.

Her work is currently on exhibit as part of the ‘Affordable Art’ group exhibition in An Grianan Theatre, Letterkenny, and runs until December 21, so be sure to pop in and snap up one of her beautiful creations.
Emer was born in Belfast and lived the first seven years of her life in Carrickfergus before moving to her mother’s home place, Donegal.


Emer admits that she didn’t take a particular interest in art as a child or teenager. “I didn’t do art for my leaving cert and I had no idea that I had any talent for it. “I went to UCD to study English and History and had to drop out during my first year due to ill health.”
It was only then, when Emer moved home in 2010 that she discovered that she had a talent for drawing. “I stayed up all night to draw a portrait of my auntie on her anniversary.

“My dad was up at 7am for breakfast, just as I had finished and we were both speechless at the likeness I had captured. I was gobsmacked, I had no idea how I had drawn it.

A painting of Florentyna Muldowney, Letterkenny.

A painting of Florentyna Muldowney, Letterkenny.

“I thought it was a fluke. I then decided to start an art class once a week in a community centre in Derry, ‘Pilot’s Row’. I loved it. I was surrounded by the most encouraging women.” Emer said that this in turn gave her the confidence boost she needed during a very vulnerable time in her life. From here she went on to join Create-a-Link, in Letterkenny, which is a rehabilitative art course for people who are recovering from mental ill health.

Emer believes that painting has played a pivotal role in her recovery of mental ill health. “Create-a-link put me back out into the world. I met so many wonderful, talented, local artists who gave me the confidence and encouragement to explore my artistic abilities.

“The course changed my life. It was a wonderful, relaxed atmosphere. I was surrounded by hundreds of art books and supplies and music and my own booth to mount my work on the walls. My tutor, Peadar McDaid, was an art teacher, life coach and friend all rolled into one.
“In March 2012, with Peadar’s gentle encouragement I painted for the first time. That portrait went on to be selected for the Glebe Gallery annual competition and sold on the opening night. I have been selected for that exhibition every year since.,” said Emer.

Emer Smith 4

“Ever since Emer’s first visit to Derek Hill’s house in Gartan she have been fascinated in William Morris’ pattern designs.
“Most of my portraits feature patterned wall paper or clothing. Frida Kahlo is a massive influence. Her passion, sense of humour and free spirit is just spell-bounding to me, especially considering all that life threw at her.


“I am in awe of her colourful, Mexican rooted sense of style. In June this fascination with Frida took an ironic twist when I broke my back and had an easel fitted to my bed in order to paint. Frida spent a large part of her life painting from bed due to spinal injuries she incurred in a bus crash as a teenager,” she said.

Emer is currently working towards a solo exhibition for 2015, which she plans to hold in Letterkenny initially and hopefully elsewhere after. “Right now, I have paintings on display at An Grianan Theatre, as part of the brilliant ‘Affordable Art’ exhibition, curated by Seamus Quinn.

“I recently set up an artist page on Facebook ‘Emer Smith Art’, where you can see my latest work, my inspirations and contact me about commissions.”

You can also contact Emer Smith via e-mail

Emer Smith 7

Zara McDaid can be contacted on Facebook, search ‘Zara Mc Daid Art’, or e-mail is

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere

and get access to our archive editions dating back to 2007
Every Thursday
Every Monday

Donegal News is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. St. Anne's Court, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland