Maria Kisbodri was born to paint. From the time she was a little girl in Szeged, Hungary she remembers painting and drawing. As a teenager she specialised in painting chinaware in the fine arts secondary school she attended.
Unfortunately, the reality of living in Hungary meant that making a living left little time to focus properly on artistic endeavours. For some years she managed to channel her artistic energy by working as a shop window dresser and experimenting with watercolours when she could find the time.
Later she took a position for the Border Guard in Hungary that she genuinely enjoyed and sometimes still misses. ‘It was a very interesting job with a lots of responsibilities, I have done a lot of different jobs within the data protection group.’
She began to teach herself to paint in oils. She says that there is such a huge difference between chinaware and oil paintings that she couldn’t really apply the knowledge of what she learned in childhood. ‘So I had to get the hang of it. I think I succeeded and it energised me to do further painting.’
In the early ‘noughties’ Maria and her husband made the difficult decision to separate the family. Her husband and daughter would set out for Ireland in search of a better life while she and her son stayed behind. Finally, in 2004 mother and son joined them and have never looked back.
Maria was immediately taken with the kindness of the people, the beauty of the countryside, and the freedom to finally express her artistic side.
She took English classes and practiced constantly to learn the language of her new home. She found that even with this obstacle her life here was easier and the people moved her in the most positive way. ‘I love Ireland. I love the people. They are so friendly saying to me right away – Hello! How are you?’
Maria enjoys a better work/life balance here. She is a security guard at Bantry Hospital – a job she has valued and enjoyed for eleven years now. She also has the free time outside of work to devote to her art. For a decade she has exhibited almost constantly throughout West Cork in a long list of galleries and private showings from Inishannon to Clonakilty to Glengarriff and Skibbereen. ‘The first painting I ever sold was in the West Cork Arts Centre in the first year that I moved here.’
She has two grandchildren now. They live only steps away from her own home with Maria’s daughter and son-in-law. Her son who entered secondary school when he first moved here settled in quickly and is currently serving in the Irish Navy.
In these gratifying past few years Maria says that the natural beauty of West Cork has inspired her work significantly. ‘I see it with my artist’s eyes I see the green and colour so vividly.’
She often paints scenes that depict the moodiness of the sea, the spectacle of sunset and the cragginess of the local landscape. On her website she describes just how powerfully her new surroundings impact her. ‘The Ocean is indescribable with its frenzied power, sometimes quiet melancholy, with its variable colours. It appeals to me often in different ways, but the consequence is always the same: an enormous strength, which you can not only see but feel.’
A warm, energetic and generous character, Maria embodies this kind of strength. The strength to meet the practical requirements of living well, while clinging on to her own creative needs.
Maria continues to paint on canvas; but she has come back around to enjoying her first craft – painting for ceramics. She contacted well-respected local ceramicist Robert Lee to ask if he would teach her to throw on the potters’ wheel.
‘She had considerable experience painting onto ceramic and wanted to come full circle by making, painting and glazing the ceramic piece herself, to be an independent artist potter,’ remembers Robert.
Robert and Maria hit it off at once. They often work together on commissions in which Maria adorns Robert’s crafted porcelain. ‘Maria is technically brilliant when it comes to her art – she likes a certain look with her flower painting and has certainly mastered her art,’ says Robert.
To take her latest passion a step further Maria has designed a beginner’s course out of Robert’s studio in Skibbereen to share the joy of painting on ceramics. Only last summer did she begin teaching the 8-week course with rave reviews and an enthusiastic body of students who have convinced her to add an advanced class for them this spring.
She enjoys spending her time with new people and has taken to this new teaching position quite well. ‘As a class we were amazed and proud of what we had accomplished after just a few classes,’ says student Caroline Noonan. ‘I think this was down to the relaxed and fun atmosphere in the class.’
‘Her classes are well prepared and taught with Maria working hard to create an informal and social atmosphere where people can learn for the first time how to paint onto plates and tiles – once fired these will last a lifetime and beyond if cared for properly,’ says Robert.
Maria admits that even though she gets back to Hungary for visits she misses family and friends that she left behind. ‘I have two older brothers, a sister and my mother who is living in a Nursing Home, my father died seven years ago . . . we never know if we will see them again.’
But she is content here. Her children and grandchildren are happy and healthy and she has time to master the joy of painting in the inspirational wilds of West Cork.
Beginners ceramic painting classes began on January 20th. All materials supplied. To join the class or make enquiries phone Maria at 087-3133292.