Artist and designer Donald Brennan enjoyed a lucrative 20-year-career working as a couturier in Dublin - designing outfits for celebrities and showbiz personalities - before heading to Malaga to concentrate on his love of painting and sculpturing. He now lives in Ojén and finds the tranquillity and beauty of the town the perfect hideaway to create his colourful abstract and nostalgic landscape works.
Born in Cambridgeshire in 1965, Donald grew up between the UK, and Dublin, the city he considers his home. He had many Irish relatives in Dublin and he went to an Irish Catholic school, so he associates more with his Celtic connection.
He began to show an interest in art in his early teens, although it would be during what he describes as "the next chapter" of his life that he would dedicate his time to his art.
At the age of 23, Donald headed to university in Paris and it was here that he would meet the person who would become his business partner, a student who was originally from Galway. This was an encounter that drastically changed the course of Donald's life.
After finishing their degrees, the couple decided to return to Ireland to open a couture house. They opened a business designing, making and selling fashionable custom-made clothing. During this period, which he calls the "highlight" of his career, Donald would dress actors, musicians, celebrities and politicians.
"We had numerous clients from the media and entertainment world, as well former Irish president Mary McAleese. She was a regular client and we designed pieces for many of her state functions, including the historic visits to Ireland of the British Queen and President Obama," Donald proudly explains to SUR in English.
In addition to his many red-carpet creations, he designed dresses that were worn to the Oscars by Irish nominees, notably Enya and her lyricist Roma Ryan for the Lord of the Rings Best Song nomination.
Change of direction
Donald's decision to leave Ireland and the couture business behind came in 2014 after he returned to the UK for three years to look after his ailing mother. Following her death, Donald was faced with the prospect of returning to Dublin to pick up from where he left off or embarking on a complete change of scenery.
"I have been painting and sculpting from my early teens, although it was not really until I left Ireland to nurse my mother that I got the chance to really dedicate myself to it.
"I knew at some point in my life that I would eventually move to the Mediterranean. It always resonated with me, especially the heat and the lifestyle. After mum died, I made the decision to move to Spain rather than returning home to Dublin," the artist declares.
He settled in the centre of Malaga in 2017, but, after two years, he decided to head inland to Ojén, a town he feels is "a magnetic region for artists and creatives alike". Without realising it at first, the culture, sounds, colours and light began to influence Donald's art. He found it particularly easy to connect with the Andalusians, as he found they shared similarities with the Irish in their humour and family values.
"The passion the locals hold for their culture and customs is contagious and I already feel more like a family relative of my Spanish friends. I love it here; I sincerely feel like I am surrounded by warm and friendly people. It's a wonderful community," he says.
The artist claims that his work is a reflection of his own personality, although he enjoys painting and creating in different styles rather than adhering to one genre. His LBGT+ collection is erotic and suggestive, while also focusing on drag queens and gay icons.
His gilded ceramic sculptures, which include intriguing busts of women, offer a different angle of the artist's vision.
Donald is serious about promoting his art and he is one of the artists that has moved with the times. His website offers virtual exhibitions that allow one to appreciate the artworks as they would in a real gallery.