When artist Julie Potter walked the corridors of her old school recently she said 'things looked exactly the same.'
19 years earlier, the Sligo woman left the Ursuline to embark on an artistic path that has led her back to where it all began.
The Woodville native has just finished an art installation at Ursuline College and after working her magic, the place now has a different feel.
As a past pupil, Julie was delighted to get the call from Principal Sr. Mairead to 'bring a bit of colour and life into the old building.'
Through word of mouth the school had learned about 'Julie the Genie', her brand new business.
"The idea behind the name is that I go into a school and transform the place quickly. All of my art is done off site to minimise disruption," explains Julie.
"If you can transform a space, you can transform performance. The environment impacts on your mood, and mood impacts performance," she adds.
And 37-year-old Julie knows all about the school environment. She has worked as an art teacher in Greenhills Secondary School in Tallaght, Dublin for 11 years. It was here that she first started transforming communal school spaces through art.
Now, the talented teacher is spreading her wings. On a career break, she's back in Sligo with her budding new business.
"People do warn you that teaching is so all consuming at first that you risk losing your own creativity," says Julie, who admits that did slip somewhat.
So she made a conscious decision about 4 years ago to explore and enhance her own creativity, resulting in a new found love of art.
She began painting bleach and acrylic on black cotton, a unique combination making for striking paintings.
"I paint the everyday moments and through my methods try to capture and transform them into something mystical and beautiful," she says. The more time Julie devoted to her own art, the more she thought about pursuing it full time which led her to taking a career break last year.
The youngest of four children, and daughter of Breda and Padraic Potter, Julie has always had an artistic flair.
"It was the subject I did well in without trying," she recalls, "It just came naturally to me."
Inspired by her homeplace of Sligo, it was fitting that the talented painter's first ever exhibition was in the Hyde Bridge Gallery in the Yeat's Society buidling.
Julie says: "It was a nice feeling, you create the work for yourself. You have a compulsion to create a piece and then others get to enjoy your art. Someone described my paintings as scenes from a movie, unexpected moments. I work from photos a lot to get that snapshot effect. The paintings that happen naturally are the best, when you paint intuitively."
Julie admits that she sometimes looks on her work with pride thinking 'did I just do that? One such example is when her artwork 'Allure' was shown on a 50ft billboard in London a couple of years ago through an agency called talenthouse. Julie says: "I won a competition from over 500 entrants to have my work exhibited. The original of this painting now hangs in a private collection in Australia. Talenthouse is a global creative community that gives artists opportunities to be seen and heard."
Her latest educational project is an exciting new chapter for the young artist. She says: "I look for what is unique and individual about each school I visit."
Julie's permanent installations vary from positive affirmations to giant colouring pencils, outdoor murals to painting corridors.
She explains: "I like to focus on the people rather than the building. Your wellbeing matters. How students and staff feel in a space matters. Inspirational quotes such as 'Instead of saying I can't, say I'll try' work well. I sometimes use mission statements.
"On the steps of one school I wrote welcome in different languages, representing the diversity of the pupils attending the school. I create everything off site and come to schools with the finished prodcut."
On completing her work in the Ursuline last week, Julie says: "It feels right to have done my own school, like I've come full circle. I worked on a supporting grey wall outside beside a seating area with a beautiful big tree.
"Now when you arrive into the carpark it is one of the first things you see. The installation includes a quote from St. Angela, ' Those who instruct others unto justice shall shine like stars for all eternity.' The vice-principal Anne Watters told me she finds herself smiling every morning when she sees it."