Michael O’Reilly is the editor of the Bray Arts Journal. He is very self-deprecating mentioning that he was sort of volunteered for the job. I joke about a volunteer being called for at a meeting and everyone else in the room taking one step back. He counters by saying ask a busy person to a job. Either way he is firmly at the helm and making changes as he goes.
Originally the journal contained minutes of meetings and updates about events. “But that can be done by passing around a sheet of paper at the next meeting,” he says.
Instead he has included non-fiction, poems, extracts of stories, sketches, reminisces – but with a bite. The articles are not soft art, they can be quite hard hitting and contemporaneous. I half expected copy akin to what Margo Leadbetter from The Good Life might have curated had she been editor and instead I read a mixture of The Stinging Fly meets The Phoenix. This is good stuff.
A platform for local writers
“I see it as a platform for local writers who want to hear their voice. It’s not easy to get published and often national writers can dominate even local events. My job, with my committee, is to seek as wide a selection of submissions as possible and then edit them down to suit the Journal. We only have 20 pages so space is at a premium.” Currently, Michael is especially interested in non-fiction, local history and black and white art submissions. “As well as the more popular fiction and poems.”
The timing to becoming editor suited Michael. He had taken early retirement from teaching as a result of heart failure and wanted to keep himself busy. Friends suggested he did part-time or locum teaching but he wanted a change.
Michael’s career has been circuitous in reaching the role of editor. He was not an English teacher but started his career as a primary school teacher. He has also worked for the National Council for Curriculum and was instrumental in designing school courses for the visual arts and music. His own thing is visual arts; painting, inks, drawing and water colours. He is interested in doing printmaking but does not have enough space in his Bray house.
Michael has very strong feelings on how visual arts are currently taught in schools. Often the teacher will encourage the children to copy rather than be the creator of their own work. This trend is also seen on television where during COVID there are more classes on how to copy work than how to paint originals.
Doodling rather than drawing?
We drift onto another topic which is how children draw a home. Typically, it is a universal symbol of a box with square windows – regardless of the nationality or actual home. As children grow they go through different well-documented stages of drawing and many sadly hit about age 11 or 12 when they struggle to make a drawing look like thing drawn and may decide at that point they can’t draw.
“What if we called it doodling rather than drawing – would that away the fear? No one would be under any compulsion to make their finished doodle look like anything in particular.
“People say too that they can’t draw a straight line – but everyone can draw a line, even wavy ones. Who wants to draw a straight line? Sometimes if you ask someone to copy an image but put the thing copied upside down so it is not clear what the finished picture should be, then they find it easier.”
Michael is a great advocate of art and suggests that giving up smoking can be helped by art. “Pick up a paintbrush every time you think you might like a cigarette.”
He also reckons it can help depression. “When you paint your brain is engaged and wiped clean. It’s better than mediation and mindfulness and you get a painting at the end too.”
Finally Michael reckons the Irish as a nation sort of got stuck at the impressionist era and have not really come to terms with more modern forms of painting.
“Sometimes people will look at more modern paintings, especially abstract ones, and say – my five year old could paint that* but they are wrong. In fact, there is even book of that same title explaining why this is not so.”
Interested artists and writers should send their submissions to Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That” by Susie Hodge