A Co. Down artist who specialises in painting animals takes inspiration from his brother-in-law’s beef farm.

Aidan Sloan is originally from Loughlinisland, and now lives outside the village, with his wife Dearbhla, a policy officer, and their three children.

Having left school with a GCSE in art, he was a labourer for a few years before joining the civil service. “I always had a passion for art, and produced pencil sketches on occasion as gifts for family and friends,” he said.

After seven years in the civil service, and the birth of the couple’s third child, he took a career break to pursue his love of art and look after the children.

The self-taught artist now spends his days and nights researching and experimenting with art to enhance his techniques.

Helping out on his brother-in-law, Michael Savage’s 50ac farm, gives him a valuable insight into life on the land.

“I help him out with moving cattle out of fields and sheds for TB testing and AI. I also assist with mucking out and checking on in-calf cows. I recently helped to deliver a calf.

“I call in and feed the cows, when needed. I also have attended cattle sales in Scotland and other farmers’ yards to look at cattle,” said the Down artist.

Sloan, who has his own studio a few miles from the farm, works mainly from his imagination and photos. He has painted some animals belonging to friends and families, attracting feedback that he had captured their character.

“I have painted my brother-in-law’s animals, Charolais and Limousin cattle. One is quite a placid animal, while the other is a bit cheeky, so I set out to capture that in the painting.”

He works mainly in acrylics and sometimes oils. He has also ventured into charcoal.

My favourite animal at the minute is the Highland cow. I love how adventurous I can be with the hair, and how it can be worked into an abstract style.

“Highland cows are very popular at the moment with customers. A certain character shines through in the paintings that people fall in love with. Cows in general are very popular.

“Saying that, I enjoy all the paintings I produce. If I don’t enjoy producing the painting and don’t feel it is working for me, it won’t be for sale.” His work has sold for between £300 and £1,500.

Farmers are among his customers. “I recently sold a painting of a Blackface ram to a farmer who fell in love with it because he has them on his farm.”

Sloan’s first solo exhibition ‘Canvas Creatures’ will take place in the Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick, in mid-November. It will feature domestic and farm animals and wildlife.

He launched his website in November, and uses social media – with Dearbhla’s help – to promote his work as an artist.

“I had a stall at an agricultural show for the first time, this year, the Balmoral Show. When my application was accepted, the organisers contacted me to express how much they loved my work. They asked if I would partner with them to launch their ticket sales for the 2017 Show.

“Together we ran an online competition to win a family pass, and a print of one of the cow paintings. With three children, it’s difficult to get the time to run as many shows as we would like.

However, we are hoping that over the next year, we will be able to take the advice of people both in the art business and farming, to scope out future shows for attending.

“Recently a cafe in Newcastle, Co. Down, has requested to show some of my paintings,” said Sloan.

He relishes the opportunity to get out of the studio to interact with his brother-in-law and his family in the open air and the fields, while watching the animals.

“My sister helps out on the farm too. Although we are not from a farming background, we’re not afraid to get our hands dirty. I admire the work and research my brother-in-law has put into running the farm.”