Sebastian McLaughlin is making it work in New York as both an artist and a musician. Painting a range of subject matters from portraits, landscapes, urbanscapes and life drawing as well as illustration work, he recently had a exhibition entitled "Place in Time" which was showcased in three different venues around the city.
He was also responsible for the repainting of the old Guinness signs outside of Paddy Reilly's in Manhattan as well as illustrating a children's sign language book for a company back in Ireland.
When he’s not painting, McLaughlin can be found playing folk music either on tenor banjo or mandolin. Playing mostly Irish and American folk music with Dubliner singer George Murphy and other folk acts around New York and the U.S., he played in Las Vegas with Murphy for St. Patrick’s day, recorded on Irish American folk singer Sean McNally for his debut album, and will be performing as part of the Sunnyside Sessions which will be broadcast on Irish TV in Ireland on July 20. For those of us on this side of the Atlantic, this programming broadcast will be available at a later date when the station begins broadcasting in the U.S.
No stranger to the Irish music scene, McLaughlin’s two cousins Ciaran Tourish and Martin Tourish are in the famous Donegal group Altan. Now this Buncrana, Donegal native is bringing two Irish art forms stateside for a taste of similar successes.
When did you arrive in New York, and where do you live?
I've arrived twice, originally in 2010 until late 2012, then home until I came back out in 2015. I live in Washington Heights.
I grew up drawing cartoons as a child, often winning art competitions, etc. Then when I was 16 I was introduced to oil paint and it's been quite a love affair ever since.
I've always loved painting and my surroundings have a huge affect on my work. This time coming back to New York is a little different for me so I wanted to express that through my work.
Moving from Ireland to New York often comes with a pretty heavy culture shock. What has been your main cultural highlight and lowlight since you got here?
Since I've been here before it's hard to remember the initial feelings of culture shock but there are some things that are different. Highlight is that you are pretty well liked and respected being Irish here. There is access to some of the world’s best art galleries and you can find great music here also. The city is busy and gives you a feeling of excitement.
Lowlights are driving (shockingly risky drivers here and no one seems to know what indicators are), everyone wants to be first and there are -- in my opinion -- a lack of manners or common courtesy at times.
Did you move to New York to find inspiration or did you already have ideas in mind?
I moved for both reasons.
What is the biggest risk you have taken?
Coming to New York City alone.
What makes you most excited about starting a new project?
Having the spark of a new idea and then the vision of what I want to achieve and then learning along the way.
Who have been your biggest influences both in Ireland and the U.S.?
Hard to say, in a way the people you encounter along life's journey. Sometimes just striking up conversation with a stranger and learning something from a new perspective can be very influential.
What do you miss most about home?
Family and friends of course, I also miss typical things like Guinness. I miss the quick witted humor and honesty of the Irish people. I miss the beautiful scenery and tranquil atmosphere of Donegal also.
What is the next project in the pipeline? And where can readers find you/your work?
I have a few things in the works. I am working on a series of paintings from around my homeland Inishowen in Donegal. An exhibition is to be announced but will be on my website and social media.
I have just finished recording with Irish American folk musician Sean McNally on his debut album and we will be appearing on Irish TV in Ireland in July and a later date here in the U.S.