Irish Design Spotlight: Leah Daria Art
Irish Design Spotlight: Leah Daria Art

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Image / Style / Irish Design

Irish Design Spotlight: Leah Daria Art


By Sarah Finnan
13th Jul 2024
Irish Design Spotlight: Leah Daria Art

A self-taught artist from Dublin, Leah Ward uses her background in psychotherapy to merge her two passions; art and helping people. Over the past four years, she's embraced her creative side more fully, selling her vibrant abstract pieces online. Inspired by her home near the Dublin mountains, her creations are bright and colourful with a fluidity reminiscent of the Irish sea.

Tell us about you and your work
My name is Leah Ward and I’m an Irish abstract artist born and raised in Dublin.

I’m actually a psychotherapist by profession, but art has always been one of my passions. Over the last four years, I have been exploring this side of me more and started selling my art online. I’m self-taught and create colourful abstract pieces, using mainly acrylic paint on canvas. I like to rely on using my intuition to figure out the compositions and always strive for that balance between light, dark and contrasting colours.

I grew up near the Dublin mountains surrounded by a close-knit family, so I have a very strong connection to home. I’m lucky enough to be halfway between the sea and the hills so being surrounded by nature and exploring the outdoors was a huge part of my childhood, climbing trees and swimming in the sea.

You have an MSc in Art Psychotherapy, tell us about that…
After my degree in Psychology, I went on to do an MSc in Art Psychotherapy at UCD in 2015. I wanted to find a way of merging my two passions; the work I do with my clients therapeutically and my love of art. Art Psychotherapy is a creative intervention used to help people express what may be difficult to say with words. I truly believe in the healing nature of creativity and my dissertation focused on that.

Making art has healed me and lifted me from difficult places throughout my life. I like channelling my energy into creating, and to transform negativity into pieces that bring joy into my life and hopefully others.

Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
No, but I’ve always been interested in art, it’s my therapy! It was the only subject in school that I had any interest in. Creativity has always been a part of my life and I’m happiest when I’m creating. I’m a sensitive type with lots of feelings so art gives me a space to have fun and process my emotions. Throughout my life, I’ve used it to help me transform negative feelings into positive and healing experiences for me. I’ve loved making art for people and gifting it to them if I felt it would encourage or uplift them or for special occasions/birthdays.

In lockdown 2020, I started following some Irish artists online and they inspired me to get back to painting. I found it a great escape. With lots of time on my hands, I started painting on larger canvases as an emotional outlet for myself, so it really came full circle. It wasn’t until a year later that I set up my Instagram. I started posting online in February 2021 and I immediately found a receptive audience which was amazing.

It all grew pretty organically, the enquiries and commission requests kept coming and it went from there. Shortly after going live I actually moved to Bristol which was great for my own growth and learning as an artist. It wasn’t ideal for delivering my paintings as every month I was driving home with a boot full of pieces to deliver! I wouldn’t change it though, I loved finding new homes for my paintings. It’s something that makes it worthwhile knowing they are bringing life to peoples’ homes.

Bristol is an amazing city to be living in as a creative. Everywhere you look there is street art, galleries, museums and music pumping from everywhere so there’s lots of inspiration. There’s an incredible charity called ‘Art Space Life Space’ which is an organisation set up to convert abandoned buildings into creative hubs. It was a great place to meet people and experiment and my studio was in the middle of the city centre in a reclaimed old police station which definitely influenced my work at the time.

After almost two years in Bristol, I moved back to Dublin in early 2023 and I’ve loved being home. I’m such a home bird so it’s nice to be back surrounded by my family and friends. I’ve found new inspiration being here with more open space in the mountains and back to the sea. It’s really changed my approach recently. There were lots of emotions following the move back home, and I was going through a tough time mentally but I found great solace in sea swimming – the shock of freezing Irish water does wonders for mind and body! I’m always inspired by my surroundings and have found myself mainly making fluid acrylic pieces recently which makes sense considering my affinity with the sea.

What is your mission?
My mission is to make art that connects people and inspires a sense of hope and joy. Art has a special way of elevating the energy of a space and I love being a part of that for the people who own my pieces. Aside from that, I just want to always be creating because that’s when I’m my happiest!

What kind of pieces do you specialise in?
I use my surroundings to inspire my art and specialise in colourful abstract art and fluid acrylic on canvas. For now, I only stock original one-off paintings, however I hope in the future to add prints and maybe even apparel as I grow. I’ve just finished a new collection of paintings which I’ve named “Submersed”. These paintings are colourful fluid acrylic on circular canvases ranging from 20cm-60cm. They are inspired by my time spent in the sea over the past year, and similarly, my time in the studio covered in paint! Both happy places for me.

Other Irish artists you love
Lola O’Donahue, Eadoinn Glynn, Maser.

Most useful learning since you started painting
I’ve learned the most important thing is to just keep showing up. Especially when you don’t feel like it! Pushing through that fear of failure helps you to grow and build your confidence. To borrow from Bob Ross, There’s no such thing as mistakes, just happy accidents”. That’s a motto I try to live by in life and with the art that I make.

Proudest moment so far
By far one of my proudest moments is having one of my pieces in an exhibition in Bristol. To see my painting among my peers and other artists I respected was an amazing feeling. To be honest, though, every time someone sends me a picture of one of my paintings in their house/space I get that same feeling.

I want my work to be remembered for… its vibrancy, colour and messages of hope

If I could work on a commission for anyone, it would be… probaby Joanne McNally, I love listening to podcasts while I’m painting and her style is so bold and colourful!

Follow Leah on Instagram @leah_daria_art or visit her website for more information. 

Photography by Cathal Harnett