Courage comes from serving the desires of my soul and heart.
Paddy O’Sullivan, 2003
When asked what he would do if he wasn’t a consultant, Paddy O’Sullivan said he always wanted to be an artist.
After two decades toiling in the health-care and corporate worlds, too many hours spent stuffed into an airplane seat, and a scary car accident, Paddy O’Sullivan had an art attack.
He bought some acrylic paints and canvases, and cleared the pile of books and CDs off his drawing table. With the help of his understanding wife, Sandra, the father of two got serious about painting.
Since his first public show in Sudbury in 2002, he has become part of the local art scene. In 2005 he was artist in residence at the White Mountain Academy of Arts in Elliot Lake. He has had solo exhibits at La Galerie du Nouvel Ontario and the Sudbury Theatre Centre, and has participated in numerous group shows. He has taken part in performance art events and has taught painting lessons.
Two of O’Sullivan’s paintings were selected for the Art Impact exhibit organized in 2011 by Artists on Elgin to celebrate the opening of the Vale Living With Lakes Centre. There were only 50 paintings selected from hundreds of entries by northeastern Ontario artists.
“The happy coincidence of my career path is I started by helping people exercise their hearts to become healthier. Now I create art to impact people’s hearts in a different way,” says O’Sullivan.
He grew up in Timmins and moved to Sudbury after high school to attend university. The artist’s great grandmother, Agnes McHugh Sweeney, came to Sudbury as a young girl in 1889, and was one of the original residents.)
He has an undergraduate degree in physical and health education, and a graduate degree in human development from Laurentian.
His early involvement with elite athlete testing and sports medicine led to his appointment as the first full-time co-ordinator at Memorial Hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation program. This led to an executive director position with the Heart Health Project in the early 1990s, an innovative prevention program to reduce Sudbury and area residents’ risk factors for heart disease.
“I had to work with different agencies and that’s where I acquired my facilitating abilities,” says O’Sullivan. He has formal training in group facilitation through the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) and holds an international certification as an inspirational coach from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland.
He has operated his own company for 15 years. Formerly called Group Insight Consulting, it has been rebranded as The Creative Moment. In his coaching and facilitation practice, he encourages clients and their staffs to exercise their creative muscles.
“For people to have truly fulfilling workplace experiences, we need to invite them to use their creative juices. This doesn’t happen by accident. It needs to be designed into the workplace,” he says.
In the early days, he was on the road to Toronto constantly and worked with clients around the globe. In November 1996 he was in a car accident on the 400 while driving to Toronto for a meeting. He was unhurt but his car was a write-off.
“That changed me. It may have been the beginning of opening up to the artist within myself.”
Then over dinner one night, his business partner asked him, “If you weren’t a leadership coach and consultant, what would you do?”
He liked to draw as a child and thought he might have what it takes to be an artist. He started to make changes in his life. While he continues to do consulting work, he is spending more and more time in his studio.
Originally O’Sullivan was inspired by the work of Jack Vettriano, a Scottish artist who like him is self-taught and had a midlife epiphany.
“I attempted to mimic his style. (But) I didn’t take courses because I didn’t want to be told there were rules.”
He wasn’t happy with the results. Then he got some advice from another Sudbury artist, Mary Jane Christakos.
“She said, ‘Maybe you are supposed to paint like Paddy O’Sullivan’.”
His paintings are a joy to behold. He paints with bright, bold colours; his lively strokes dance on the canvas and challenge the viewer’s imagination.
“I attempt to transmit energy to canvas…to capture love on canvas,” says O’Sullivan.
“I think he is a Northern Ontario original,” says Phil May, a musician who has purchased two of the artist’s paintings.
O’Sullivan participated in a performance art event at Little Montreal when May performed with the Sudbury jazz band Broche à foin.
“He makes a connection between art, music and the spoken word,” says May.
Broche à foin used O’Sullivan’s painting from that performance event for the cover of its album, People We Have Known. (It won Music and Film in Motion’s Album of the Year for 2011.)
“I liked the painting so much, I bought it,” says May.
Another O’Sullivan painting will appear on the cover of the new Phil May Quartet CD which is titled Sudbury.
O’Sullivan’s style is continuing to evolve and he is starting to express what is on his mind not just in his heart. And he has a lot on his mind.
“I have a very strong interest in using art and music, and the creation of art to assist with people who are battling health issues and attempting to heal themselves,” he says.
“I think art is a form of medicine that can help the psyche and the body recover from illness either by watching art being created or participating in the art making itself. The North Bay hospital has an artist’s residency program right in the hospital. I would love to help develop a similar program here.”