Careers in the Arts: Irish abstract pop artist Audrey Hamilton

Audrey Hamilton’s journey from LA acting dreams to running a successful art business

Irish abstract pop artist Audrey Hamilton has been taking social media and the art world by storm with her quirky, colour-saturated, statement paintings. Since her humble beginnings in 2017, she has become a notable presence as a contemporary artist in Ireland, raising money for great causes close to her heart, and running a 35k follower Instagram account (@audreyhamiltonart). However, before Hamilton turned her passion into a business, she had been pursuing a very different career path in Los Angeles – acting.

Hamilton and her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Jack Lowe had been living in the City of Angels for over two years when Hamilton bagged herself the role of a lifetime. Before the life-changing casting, she had been living the LA lifestyle: auditioning, auditioning, auditioning, and filming for ads and pilots. With auditions comes a lot of waiting, so Hamilton kept herself busy by dabbling in painting, creating pieces for her LA home with old makeup brushes and left over blue and white wall paint. She grew up in a creative household and was always making things in her youth, but was never formally taught in art: she received a degree in Journalism, Film and Media from Dublin Business School. Her life-long dream was to act, so she also went to the Gaiety School of Acting and RADA in London and worked hard to earn herself her very own trailer on a Netflix set. Everything was on the up for Hamilton when she was cast for the Netflix role, but the dream did not last long. On her first day on set, she was informed that the production company was not aware until that day that she was on a work permit, and they no longer wanted her for the role. Hamilton worked hard to have the right visa to achieve her dream, but the company did not want “to deal with paperwork” as she told Today FM. She had to pack up everything and leave straight away, so she was “glad [she] didn’t post it on social media.” 

Hamilton was understandably heartbroken, but she soon picked herself up after Lowe encouraged her to turn her hobby of painting into something more, buying her some professional paint and tools to “see where it goes.” There in LA, she created the first group of her iconic animal paintings, POSH PIG, HIS GIRAFFE, and HER GIRAFFE. Her friends and family saw potential, and on moving back to Dublin, she started sharing her work online. Hamilton worked on making prints on fine art German Cotton Rag paper to sell, working with The Copper House Gallery, who she still works with to this day. She began growing a following, and by April 2018, she made a TV appearance promoting her art on Ireland AM before holding her first art launch INSTINCT later that month. Hamilton’s vibrant paintings of animals and faces were being shown frequently at events and her business took off. In December 2019, she had her own pop-up shop in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre for three whole weeks. 

“Audrey Hamilton’s Instagram is a dazzling, vivid collection of her work, and her account is a true reflection of her bubbly personality.”

Audrey Hamilton’s Instagram is a dazzling, vivid collection of her work, and her account is a true reflection of her bubbly personality. As well as sharing her paintings, she chats on her stories and shares her daily life, the behind-the-scenes of her art business, motivational captions, her flawless makeup looks and colourful outfits that match her bright artworks. Hamilton has admitted that she only started dressing in such bright colours since she became an abstract pop artist. She told Elaine on Virgin Media that she “swore by black… my whole wardrobe was just easy.” She wanted to start “wearing what she was painting,” and became a fan of fun and clashing colour combinations. She also revealed on Elaine that she had been working on an apparel line that she is currently planning on launching this upcoming SS21. 

Hamilton has been working with charities and organisations since her early days in the art world, donating her HIS GIRAFFE piece to a Peter McVerry Trust fundraiser in 2017. When Australia experienced the horrifying bushfires in January 2020, animal lover Hamilton was haunted by the devastation. To help, she decided to paint KOKO, her adorable koala painting, to sell in order to raise money for WWF Australia. Within one hour, 100 prints were sold, and within a week the entire edition sold out, which had never happened before. She was blown away by the amount of money she had raised: €20,000, or AUS $35,000, that went straight to the WWF Australia fund. The Australian Ambassador of Ireland is even hanging his own KOKO in the embassy. She told VIP Magazine: “I still often think about how it really is through the power of social media being used in its most positive form, that we can all come together and help in areas that need it.”

“One of her most popular works of 2020 was ‘FEMME,’ which she painted for Breast Cancer Awareness month in October to raise money for Breast Cancer Ireland (BCI) who lost a lot of funds due to the pandemic.”

In the mindset of lockdown last year, Hamilton created works using similar colours to her KOKO painting, like MOTHER HEART, STAYCATION and TWOGETHER, establishing her Pop Art Shapes collection. One of her most popular works of 2020 was FEMME, which she painted for Breast Cancer Awareness month in October to raise money for Breast Cancer Ireland (BCI) who lost a lot of funds due to the pandemic. Her best friend, health and wellness podcaster Georgie Crawford, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, and since, Crawford has been an amazing advocate for breast cancer awareness. So, Hamilton teamed up with Crawford to create FEMME and fundraise for BCI and breast cancer research, and raised €21,000. Hamilton wrote on her Instagram that she “wanted to create a piece that represents all of the different shapes and sizes that our breasts come in, all around the world.”

Hamilton has truly been an inspiration for those who wish to turn their hobbies into businesses. She is not only admired by her followers, but also by many young primary school children who have used her art as foundations for their creative endeavours. She has been told by many teachers that their students have created their own animal portraits, even over Zoom art classes. Hamilton shared on her Instagram that this was “one of the most rewarding things in [her] career yet.” She is delighted that art is taken seriously in so many schools, as she believes that “it is such an important part of education that can’t be made secondary to others.”

“Hamilton recently released prints of her white, orange and purple on black work ‘THE LIONESS’ in 38×45, her largest print size yet.”

Hamilton recently released prints of her white, orange and purple on black work THE LIONESS in 38×45, her largest print size yet. There is a quiet yet vigorous strength expressed in the eyes of the lioness, and her power is something that is seen in Hamilton’s character. While her animal works are her most well-known, I adore her human portraits. Against bold primary colour backgrounds, the faces are dashed with yellows, pinks and blues to unveil the inner colours of these unique faces. My favourite of these is HOT MESS, not only for its title but the large splash of pink that hides one eye. I could scroll through Hamilton’s Instagram all day, and I hope to one day display one of her prints, or maybe even one of her originals, in my own living room. 

I asked Hamilton what she has coming up for Audrey Hamilton Art: “I’m working on a few bits at the moment that will be launching soon…. [I’m] just working away in the studio and will be doing some more pieces for charity this year too.” Who knew that a visa issue in the States would lead Hamilton from acting to owning an art business? She certainly never expected it, but as she told Georgie Crawford on Crawford’s podcast, The Good Glow, that upsetting moment on the LA set, a time in her life when she thought she had truly failed, in fact, brought her on the right path – one on which she “could not be happier.”