Artist Elaine Agnew pictured in front of the Mural she created behind the Community Playground in Cootehill. Photo: Alex Coleman

A gigantic appreciation of nature

The wonder of nature is celebrated in an epic new mural that has given a great lift to a play area in Cootehill.

Artist Elaine Agnew is the talent behind the fabulous artwork. The sheer scale of the artwork - well over 20 metres wide and two storeys tall in places makes it eye-catching.

Elaine, who is an art teacher in Loreto College says it is the largest project she has painted on her own.

“It's not too often you get to do something of that scale - it’s fabulous,” says the Clones woman. “My husband came to help because it was so large. It was a joy to do it.”

The inspiration for the work came from a treasured family photo of her daughter Ayesha with a butterfly resting on her finger. Elaine then enlisted the help of her cousin's daughter - Penny McCluskey - as a model to get the composition exactly as she wanted.

“The idea was this child was just engaging with nature in the grass - it’s something simple and innocent. And of course the flowers and butterfly add a splash of colour, but children being involved with nature is something I feel very strongly about.”

Promoting biodiversity is a recurring theme in Elaine’s street art which also features prominently in Monaghan town.

The Cootehill artwork is displayed in an area that had been somewhat neglected until recently.

A group from Cootehill Town Team have worked alongside Cavan County Council to help develop the local playground. Eager to get the views of the children who will be making use of the facility, they conducted a survey amongst local schools on what was wanted and needed. A mural on the huge nearby wall was one idea that came back.

Having secured permission of the property owner, Cootehill Town Team had the perfect artist in mind to undertake the creative side.

“We had previously had art work done with artist Elaine Agnew who worked alongside young people from Foróige 365 in our Le Chéile space in Hub Muinchille and we liked her work,” explains Philomena McQuaid, one of the driving forces in Cootehill Town Team.

To make it a reality, SECAD Windmill came good with the funding.

“SECAD have been very supportive of the Town Teams efforts and we were delighted to get the support for this project too,” said Philomena.

So then it was over to Elaine. Employing a “doodle grid” technique to complete the face, she executed the flora and fauna freehand.

Given the audience is primarily children Elaine prioritised the spray cans containing warm uplifting colours.

“Colour would be to the forefront of everything I do. You want something eye-catching, and that everyone can appreciate.”

Elaine completed the work in just three days.

“It was amazing to watch the work getting done, the picture developing, the colours coming alive and the mural reaching completion in a very short space of time,” says Philomena. “Elaine is a lady to work with and an extremely talented artist. We are delighted with the response from the local community. It is certainly a positive topic of conversation and a huge addition to the area.”