Blaise Smith from Gowran is an associate member of the Royal Hibernian Academy and his work hangs in Waterford City Hall and in some of the major galleries, including the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Last year, The Office of Public Works and Waterford City & County Council commissioned Mr Smith to create a new, large-scale painting that reflected a 21st century view of Waterford city. It is a companion to the famous 1735 painting of the city by Dutch painter, William Van der Hagen.
The Kilkenny artist was before Athy District Court charged with driving without insurance on a date in September of last year.
Before his case was called, Judge Zaidan noticed Mr Smith leaning against the wall with a sketch-pad intently drawing him as he worked through the other cases on his list.
The Judge stopped proceedings, asked Gardaí to find out what was going on and then ordered the artist to leave the courtroom. “I am a human being and I am entitled to my privacy,” declared the Judge.
When Mr Smith’s case was eventually called, solicitor Conal Boyce apologised on behalf of his client and explained that no disrespect was intended. Mr Boyce then handed in a copy of Irish Arts magazine that featured Mr Smith on the front cover. Accepting his apology, Judge Zaidan told the artist if he was looking for models he should go elsewhere.
As far as the case was concerned, the court heard that Mr Smith had insurance on two vehicles and one of them had lapsed for a short period without him knowing.
Referring to the unfinished sketch, the solicitor said: “I could go on here and say that my client could put the court in the way of a painting worth thousands of euro by way of a fine.”
Judge Zaidan replied that the subject could not be him and then gave Mr Smith the benefit of the Probation Act.
I had a look at Mr Smith’s website and he really is a successful and distinguished artist. He sometimes accepts portrait commissions but even a very small likeness of a person’s head starts at almost €3,000.
I certainly intend no disrespect but I can’t help think that Judge Zaidane missed a golden opportunity!