Over the years, Irish artists have been inspired by their national ideals, rugged coastlines, fair cities, Celtic heritage and all the other wonderful things that make Ireland such a special place to live. Although there are lots of Irish-born artists dotted around the globe, it is the artists still living and working there that continue to contribute to the local art scene and keep it thriving. 

So, if you’re interested in learning more about Irish art and perhaps you’re even thinking about buying a piece or two, there are some artists you should definitely know about. In this guide, we’ve pulled together a list of six of the best local Irish artists you should know about right now.

Check them out below.

James Kelly

James Kelly

An artist and graphic designer from Kircubbin, County Down, James Kelly has become popular in the local area thanks to his wonderful local-themed prints. He attended the University of Ulster and, after graduation, spent some time as a traditional sign painter. He still enjoys painting signs to this very day.

However, it was his love for old-style travel posters, technology and, of course, the wonderful local area that inspired his move towards prints. His artistic process sees him sketching his chosen location before digitising it and adding a splash of colour to create a fabulous range of prints. These typically feature local scenery, iconic architecture or sport.

Thomas Bannon 

Thomas Bannon is an incredibly talented illustrator from Belfast who attended the Belfast School of Art. His career started as an in-house illustrator for design agencies, but now he is a freelancer and has worked with some huge clients, including Kraken Dark Rum, Jameson Irish Whiskey and Suki Tea Makers. 

His illustrations, which love to blur the line between fantasy and reality, are inspired by his surroundings. From the city of Belfast all the way down to the writing on a mustard packet, Bannon can take inspiration from anything and turn it into something beautiful.

Keith Drury

Born in Northern Ireland, Keith Drury has a long and interesting past in the art world. Initially known for his oil paintings, lots of his work featured political and religious leaders and, over the years, has caused controversy and raised criticism. After a while, he moved away from his oil paintings and towards a new style of art, cityscapes featuring well-known local landmarks, using 3D modelling.

Over the years, he has proved to be very popular and has worked on some incredible pieces. For example, in 2009, he was commissioned to create a portrait of President Barack Obama. He also created a piece of artwork to promote and celebrate a Van Morrison music festival for the National Trust.

Susanna Banks

Susanna Banks, who also attended the University of Ulster, has a degree in fine art. She is an award-winning artist who received the Laura Irvine Memorial Prize for ‘Painting and Experimentation in Colour’.

Banks creates captivating prints using a range of exciting formats, including illustrations, cut paper pictures, typography and more. Her work is largely influenced by her love for children’s illustration, and her pieces are perfect for any nursery or children’s room.

Rhea Hanlon

Rhea Hanlon is an Irish freelance illustrator from Downpatrick who takes most of her inspiration from nature and the beautiful Irish landscape.

Through her work, she hopes to encourage people to go and explore their local area and fall back in love with the natural world that surrounds them. She also aims to capture those moments of exploration in her beautiful illustrations.

John Breakey 

Last but not least, we have John Breakey, an artist, lithographer and an elected member of The Royal Ulster Academy. Born in 1932, he is an honorary life member of the Ulster Arts Club. He showed talent from a very young age and first studied art at Belfast College of Art in the 1950s.

His work has featured in a number of collections, including displays at Queens University Belfast, Oxford University and The National Self-Portrait Collection. Despite his years of experience, he hasn’t slowed down and still paints to this very day. Nowadays, his work speaks of his love of living by the sea; he features the oceans and beautiful mountains of Mourne, celebrating his local area.

June 30, 2022 - Cornell Studios


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