The Irish..And How They Got That Way

Posted by on Aug 22, 2016 in drawing, Illustration, Maine College of Art, pastels, Portland Stage Company | 2 comments

I have Irish blood, of course. My great great great grandfather, Patrick Hogan, left Belfast in 1817 at the age of 19 when he settled in Young’s Cove, Nova Scotia. But otherwise my childhood didn’t involve much in the way of Irish heritage. No Celtic music around the house, no Irish step-dancing lessons, no nuns.  I found my way to Ireland in 1980 during my Wintersession at Rhode Island School of Design, traveling on a photography independent study.

My photograph of Joe Malone’s captures only the composition of a typical pub exterior in Limerick in 1980.


Portland Stage’s current collaboration with the Maine State Music Theater of The Irish And How They Got That Way will be all about the Irish soul found within.

I reveled in researching all things Celtic, playing Martyn Bennett’s Bothy Culture endlessly to stir ideas with a bagpiper backdrop.

These are just a few of the early rough sketches presented. So much text!




I needed to satisfy not one, but two clients. I went on to do some revisions of the above. Do away with the bodhran, and add more people. Got it.



Whenever possible, I like to generate my own reference. It so happens a Maine College of Art illustration major is a fiddler, and was studying abroad last semester at the Burren College of Art. Could she send me a photo? Yes.

This is Heidi Hayden, playing in Prince Edward Island, a magnet for Celtic music every summer.


I dressed her up a bit.


The poster involved layers of images. I knew another MECA illustration graduate, Liz Long, had done a residency at the Burren. I looked at her photos posted online for Irish landscapes. This pastel proved too busy for all the other visual elements going on.


I decided to simplify the distant greens behind Liz here.


Photo by Izzy Dow

Next drawing:


The border was the most time-consuming, not that I minded. I relished tackling the intricacy. I found so much to love.


It all came together, and here it is on stage when Portland Stage debuted their new season in March.


I’ll be going with Heidi to see it, thanks to Portland Stage and Maine State Music Theater. Join us!!! Everyone can tap their Irish soul in this rollicking show.





  1. Fantastic! I want one!

  2. As always,Jamie, I just love the way you “draw” inspiration from all possible facets of design into what emerges as your final decision. The whole poster is perfect with the border placing the final dot over the “i”, so to speak.

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