A wedding, a painting, and 1000 smiles

It was a heavenly day there at Pellegrini, a New York vineyard on Long Island’s north fork. This was my niece Emily, and her new husband Derek, tying the knot last weekend. A beautiful ceremony on a beautiful day.

Somewhere in the gathering above, are two of my nephews, Garrett and Cillian O’Sullivan. Fine young lads they are too. They are two of the three sons of my dear brother Eamonn, who passed away in early 2009.

Eamonn and me holding Eamonn in our first home in Dublin

Now, on hearing the news of Eamonn’s upcoming wedding many years ago, I decided for his engagement I would paint an original art work of a scene from Ireland as I remembered it. We were living here in America at the time — thanks to my mother, a U.S. citizen who raised her children in Ireland with my Da, an Irish citizen.

I spent quite a bit of time on this particular piece and as it came together, I began to get compliments on how it looked. I’ve never really considered art as a full-time profession but always enjoyed it whenever I had enough time to actually finish a painting I had started — even if it took months to complete it. I called this piece “Connemara”, a reference to a part of Ireland’s rugged west coast as I remembered it long after I emigrated…

So, many months later when the painting was completed, I framed it and gave it as a somewhat non-traditional engagement present. Eamonn immediately loved it, and promptly hung it up in the center of the family living room. It hung there for many years and as we got together at Christmas, Thanksgiving, and any family occasion, it was always great to see it hanging up in the family home.

Now, Eamonn had three beautiful children, Garrett, Cillian, and Dylan. Time to meet the gang as they were many years ago…

Cillian (leftmost) and Garrett (rightmost), along with my own boys, James (beside Cillian) and Daniel (standing). And who else?? Well Emily, of course.

Sorry about the kid photos guys. No worries, it’s not a trend. No need to unfriend. But it is integral to the story…

And missing from the photo (and unfortunately unable to make Emily’s wedding last weekend), but by no means forgotten, is Eamonn’s other son Dylan. Meet the lad himself…

These guys, and the rest of us, had so much fun together here on Long Island over the years. Pool times, beach times, late night BBQ’s, movies (yeah, Blockbuster) and games. Here’s all five of the boys riding the waves out at Montauk one summer….

What a life! Indeed this is what you live for.

Now, full disclosure, Eamonn’s passing was not easy on any of us — least of all these three wonderful boys. And the years leading up to Eamonn’s passing were not easy on anyone either. For myself and the rest of my birth family, losing my other dear brother Michael only a few years prior, was huge hit.

So one day, not too long before he passed, Eamonn surprised me by giving me back the painting. It was a rough period , and I’ll leave it at that, but he said he thought I should have it back, all things considered. So reluctantly, and only when he insisted, did I accept it.

But this is a happy story. And in life, there’s good and there’s bad. And I’ve found nothing good ever comes of remembering or dwelling on the bad — except maybe to learn from it. I’d remember it all day long, every day — if only doing so would change a single thing about it ;-) Yeah, good times and happy is where it’s at in my story book.

And this is where the story gets interesting.

On seeing it back on my wall again after all of those years, my sister Valerie (Emily’s mom) wanted to know if she could have a print of it. So I made a high resolution image of the artwork and gave it to her. She in turn gave it to an artist friend and art professor at Long Island University, Dan Christoffel, who went ahead and made a print of it and had it framed for her. On observing the piece, Dan remarked how he liked it and thought he’d be able to get an exhibit set up for me in the New York area if I had ten or more similar to it…the story of Ireland in paintings as told by someone who lived and grew up there.

I met with Dan one day soon after that and we discussed how I’d go about producing a series. The final result, two years of part time painting later, was The Ireland Series. This was a LOT of work, especially for someone doing this on a part time basis. But the cause seemed worthy and it gave me a way to keep the memory of Eamonn alive in a positive way. I didn’t think too much about it. I just knew it was something I should do. So I did it.

An interesting and unexpected consequence of painting the series was that I found I had to paint the original Connemara piece all over again. I really did not want to have to do this. Though the original colors were fairly close to how I wanted the final series to look, I just could not get them to match the exact way I wanted. So I spent the time to paint it again, essentially from scratch. Now I had my Ireland Series — fourteen paintings in all and all in my favorite medium — Oil on Canvas. I also had an extra original of “Connemara” — the one Eamonn had given me back.

In the eight years or so that followed (I completed the series in 2010), I was lucky enough to to have 12–14 exhibitions in and around the New York area — mostly on and around Saint Patrick’s Day each year, but also a few that were year round. I sold prints at the exhibition openings and throughout the year, but only on a small scale — again, I do this only as time permits and not as a real business.

Interestingly, I left the original Connemara (the one I did for Eamonn) in storage for some of those years. It was for sale (remember, I repainted the original Connemara, the one that started the whole series, to better suit the other thirteen paintings) — but folks always passed on the original, being more interested in the less expensive prints. This went on for years as I exhibited my work.

And this is where it gets weird.

After eight years of exhibiting the series and, on the very day before Emily’s wedding, a woman walks into one of my exhibits (a local cafe called Apiary) and calls me that same day to inquire about buying one of the Connemara prints hanging there. But — midway through the conversation, Christina inquires about buying the original instead. It was to be her mother’s 80th birthday on the following Saturday and the whole family (grandchildren and all) wanted to pitch in and get something really unique for her. Christina just happened to walk into Apiary on that particular day and saw my prints hanging up.

Long story short, the family pitched in and I met Christina the next day (the actual day of Emily’s wedding) to hand off the original Connemara artwork (Eamonn’s one) for her and her family…

Christina and family

“We cannot tell you how much joy your painting brought to our family…. we gave it to our Mom for the 80th birthday. She loved it when we gave it to her and even more now that it’s hung in her apartment. It will have a wonderful Home.”

The Battalia Family

Here’s where the story goes from weird to statistically improbable to spiritual in my story book…

That very same day, the day I sold the original I gave to Eamonn all those years ago, was also the first day in nine years that I saw their children, my nephew Garrett and Godchild and nephew Cillian again in person. They were coming in from in Tennessee for Emily’s wedding. Thanks Emily and Derek!

Now, whether you are a spiritual person or not, you really can’t argue with the math here. The original was for sale via those 12–14 local exhibits for at least the last six years, if not more. No one seriously inquired about it in all of those 2000+ days. Then, on the EXACT same day I first see Garrett and Cillian again, the original I gave to my brother many years prior all of a sudden goes to a new family. I was blown away. Good old Eamo was there on that bright sunny day that Emily and Derek started their new life together. Blue skies. Nothing but blue skies. Here’s a photo of the cousins the day after Emily’s wedding…

Garrett, Cillian, Jason, Neal, Daniel, James, Emily and Tara.

So….I wanted to find a way to use the proceeds from the painting to continue to do some good in Eamo’s name. I gave some of it to charity and I gave some to the good folks at the Apiary. I also wanted to make some new memories and take Garrett and Cillian out in NYC with my own lads that weekend. But between Dylan not being able to make it to the wedding and Cillian having to get back to Tennessee, it just wasn’t happening.

So in explaining this to Garrett, he asked if there was a way for him to have a print of the painting. I honestly did not think of this earlier — or if I did, I thought with Eamonn giving it back to me ten years earlier, the boys would not want it. Not true apparently.

Garrett said he and his brothers remembered Connemara fondly as part of their childhood — the happy childhood you see in the photos above. The ones with all of the big smiles — a thousand or more of them. Seeing it would remind them of this and of all of the childhood memories they had as it hung in the family living room for all of those years. I checked with Cillian and he felt the same. So all three of them are getting nice, framed prints of Connemara shipped down to Tennessee soon.

And with whatever is left, I am going to get myself a decent camera to take all new photographs with. I don’t get much time to paint anymore but I have no doubt I will create some new art with that camera in the years ahead.

So how many ways is that that Eamonn gets to live on in our lives today? He was there at Emily’s wedding and he is here now. I think you can say the same for anyone you may have lost along the way. The facts will always remain the same and yes they are indeed lost and gone forever — at least in the physical sense.

What it means to you here and now though, whether good or bad, is really just a matter of how you choose to look at it. For me, I’ll take happy over sad any day of the week.

Thanks Eamo. Love you bro.

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Founder, CEO, Artist, Musician

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Daniel O'Sullivan

Daniel O'Sullivan

Founder, CEO, Artist, Musician

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