Meet the Sligo Artists

It’s #worldartday! Sligo is blessed with a talent of artists to rival most creative cities. A friend mentioned recently that she had bought a piece of art from a well known Sligo artist and told of the joy this painting gave her on a daily basis. From abstract painting, sculpture, film and portraiture Sligo’s art scene is diverse and enthralling. New aspiring artists are moving to Sligo to soak up the culture and experience.

We spoke with a few Sligo artists to see what inspires them and where they are heading next.

Cléa van der Grijn

Cléa van der Grijn is an International award winning film maker and visual artist. Cléa is currently completing her third film MUTE and is working on a series of deconstructed paintings and publication for her forthcoming show @ The Solomon gallery Dublin. Her work can be seen in numerous international public and private collections including the Victoria and Albert museum, London and The Irish museum of Modern Art.

Cléa van der Grijn
A Way Through Blue by Cléa van der Grijn
105 cm x 105 cm
Acrylic on linen 2021

Cléa’s last film JUMP was made in Sligo and has won many awards including the Oaxaca film festival , Mexico : winner of the best experimental short. Demetra Film Festival Paris: winner best experimental short. International New York Film Festival: winner best experimental short. ARFF Amsterdam:  Winner best cinematography + experimental short. Oakland film festival USA : Winner best experimental short. Austin Art house USA : semi-finalist experimental short. WRPN international film festival : finalist experimental short. LA Underground film forum : honourable mention. Experimental forum : honourable mention. JUMP was also DEEP FOCUS finalist.

JUMP 2019 by Cléa van der Grijn

See more of Cléa at Instagram @cleaelisa. Cléa is supported by The Arts Council of Ireland and SligoCoCo

Lorna Watkins

Lorna graduated in Printed Textile Design at the National College of Art in Dublin after studying at the Grennan Mill Craft School and Edinburgh College of Art.  

Lorna Watkins in her studio

She was selected for the 188th Open Exhibition at the RHA, Dublin and was awarded a fellowship by the Ballinglen Arts Foundation in 2019.   Her work has been shown in group exhibitions in London, Berlin and New York. In 2020, Lorna was awarded a residency at JOYA:AiR residency in Almeira, Spain and was selected to show work at the Zhou B Art Center, Chicago in Threads of Truth, curated by Sergio Gomez. In 2021, as part of The Drawing Box collective, her drawings will show in India, Cyprus, Greece and France.  

Salt Water on Our Skin – Lorna Watkins

Lorna told us “Travels and my everyday walks are recorded in notebooks.  Places, sounds and experiences remembered through text and sketches.  I consider what marks and colours translate from words recorded on site.  These ideas are transferred to paper or canvas using loose and experimental mark making with painterly layers upon layers of vivacious colours, fresh and energetic.  I love the physicality of painting, scraping, layering, veiling, the removing, the adding of paint.  There is an instant where paint is more than just material, becoming almost magical in a moment of transformation. It’s in that space that I strive to capture that frenetic energy of a memory, a word, an emotion.” 

Contact Lorna at or on her Instagram Lorna_Watkins.

Barra Cassidy

Barra Cassidy is a sculptor who lives and works in North Sligo. 

Barra Cassidy in the studio.

He creates figurative sculptures and abstract works ranging in size from small indoor pieces to large outdoor works in a range of materials including ceramics, cast and fabricated metals, concrete, found objects and mixed media.  Barra  is fascinated by anthropology, zoology and mythology and he likes to tap into these for subject matter. 

The Boy (Setanta) by Barra Cassidy

See more of Barra’s work at or on his Instagram barracassidyart.

Ronan Dillon

Ronan Dillon is a Dublin born artist, living on the west coast of Ireland. Coming from an urban upbringing and a designer background, Dillon is drawn to the inconspicuous artistry of the rural. Here, he has utilised his outsider’s eyes to capture the wildness of the land, through a new and daring perspective.

Ronan Dillion
By Ronan Dillon

Dillon is particularly inspired by the uninhibitedness of farmer’s marks, their unconscious and reasoned actions creating something raw and beautiful. The artist’s novel and innovative observations capture the sublime in the common, the everyday, the forgotten about and do so simply, colourfully, and effortlessly.

Triptych SQ by Ronan Dillon

See more of Ronan’s work on his website Ronan Dillon or on his Instagram ronodillon.

Michael Wann

Michael Wann is a contemporary visual artist who’s work is exclusively drawing based.

Michael Wann at Culture Night 2016

His work has been selected for the Royal Hibernian Academy’s Annual Exhibition since 2004, where in 2006 he was awarded the AXA Insurance Drawing Prize and in 2016 the ESB Sean Keating Prize and RHA Silver Medal.

In 2010 Hughie O’Donoghue selected Michael’s work for the Tom Caldwell Drawing Prize and the Rowel Friers Perpetual Trophy at the Royal Ulster Academy’s 129th Annual Exhibition. 

In 2013 he was awarded a merit prize by the trustees of the Golden Fleece, and in 2019 his work was selected for exhibition in New York by the U.S. branch of the Florence Academy.

Shadow Stream by Michael Wann

His work forms part of public and private collections in Ireland, U.K., France, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

You can follow Michael’s work on Instagram michael.wann or view his work in person by appointment, from his studio at The Model Sligo, email for more information.

Dan Leydon

Sligo based illustrator and designer Dan Leydon aims to capture personality with energetic line work, a keen eye for detail and a warm sense of fun.

Dan Leydon and his art work.

His dynamic and ever-evolving approach has seen him work on countless projects with global brands and consistently explore new methods of sharing his art with a growing audience.

by Dan Leydon

Find our more about Dan and his work at or his Instagram danleydon.

Heidi Wickham

Another artist we spoke to is Heidi Wickham, she told us “I draw mostly animals, starting in charcoal and then introducing colour pastels and acrylic paints. Photo realism is not my bag , the lines are loose , the marks suggested, but for me , the bones of the beast need to have a level of accuracy or you’ll become preoccupied with a wonky eye or a weird leg and loose confidence. I’ve been shown in all of the Royal Academies , but the RA in London was a particular goal for me ( from about the age of seven )  and I had no idea of the ceremonial ritual that ensued : we processed , got prayed for in a big church and then got loads of free grub inside the Academy. My comfy old work boots were in such a state , that I sprayed them with black car paint the day before the gig and they looked rather splendid. A lot of the others really dressed up for it.

Heidi Wickham

I’m working on a collection called ” Inside The Circle : exploring cold spaces” for The Hamilton Gallery as recipient of the Hamilton Award at the last Cairde Visual Exhibition. It’s basically an amalgamation of the imagery , colours , sounds and textures of the Arctic and should be opening in June.”

Inside the Circle by Heidi Wickham

View more or Heidi’s work at or her Instagram heidi_wickham.

Kari Cahill

Kari told us “I characterise my paintings as gestural and experimental, based on an attempt to capture the essential aspects of colour, texture and emotions that I find rooted in landscapes. Imagery is not grounded in representation but rather a reimagining of the essence of a site. Visually, I create bold, visceral works that stretch between two and three dimensions. I drip, scrape, bruise and blush colour onto surfaces.  I contrast factory produced colours with inks and pigments I create at various locations. From wild foraged materials  to discarded urban remnants, I have built up a unique site-specific paintbox of colours.

Kari Cahill in her studio in The Model

I have been using the landscape as the source of ‘bio colour’ to create artworks that respond to that specific landscape; gathering materials such as rocks, seaweed, lichen, berries, industrial scraps, sea water, and bark and processing it into live inks and pigments. 

Painting by Kari Cahill

I work collaboratively with artists and communities to produce large-scale exhibitions and residencies which are presented in remote, wild locations, inviting audiences to experience the works in situ. I will be presenting a temporary cliff painting on the shores of Sligo this summer.”

See more of Kari’s work at and her instagram

Emerging Sligo Artists

Other artists who are emerging from the creative chrysalis so to speak are always worth keeping and eye on. Check them out below.

Lorna Golden – Instagram – brick_photo_design , Victoria Hambsch – Instagram : vic.hambsch or Aisling – Instagram : aiswing

White Rabbit #1 by Lorna Golden

Sligo Hub