Born in Ennis, County Clare, in 1958, Mick O’Dea studied at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, 1981 – 1999, he also lectured at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology; Saint Edmondsbury in Lucan and Portlaoise Prison. A visiting lecturer at Sligo School of Art; The Crawford School of Art, Cork; Limerick School of Art; The Burren College of Art, Ballyvaughan; University College Dublin, Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School; University College Dublin, School of Art History and Cultural Policy; Trinity College Dublin, Public History and Cultural Heritage; The National Gallery of Ireland; Irish Museum of Modern Art; Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane; The Ulster Museum, Belfast; Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University; Falmouth College of Art; Lyme Academy of Fine Art, Conneticut USA; The Education Units of Portlaoise Prison; St Patrick’s Institute for Young Offenders; Wheatfield Prison; Youthreach, Kilrush, County Clare and the Department of Art at Canterbury Christ Church University. O’Dea served as the first Principal of the newly revived RHA School, 2006 – 2011.
He has won many awards, including four at the National Portrait Awards Exhibition sponsored by Arnotts in 1985, 1989, winning the over 35’s award in 1993 and 1994. He received the KPMG prize at the Annual Oireachtas Exhibition in 1992 and 1998. In 1986, he was awarded the Arts Council of Ireland’s main visual arts bursary for an individual artist to assist his ongoing documentation of people living life on the social fringes in Dublin. In 1990, he received the ESB Keating McLoughlin Medal at the 1993 Annual RHA Exhibtion and was elected an ARHA the same year. In 1995, he was awarded the Taylor de Vere prize for work of distinction in any medium at the Annual RHA exhibition, and in 1996 he was elected to the RHA and a member of Aosdána. In 2013 he was awarded The Ireland US Council / Irish Arts Review Portraiture Award in Dublin, followed by the RUA Portrait Prize in Belfast. He was elected President of the RHA in 2014.
O’Dea has participated in residencies in Ireland and abroad, including; The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, County Monaghan, 1991 – 1992; The Ballinglen Arts Foundation, Ballycastle, County Mayo, 1998 – 1999 (awarded Fellowship); The Cill Riallaig Project, Kerry, 2000 – 2001 and 2005; The Inis Lacken Project, Roundstone, Connemara, 2002 – 2014 and Áras Éanna, Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, County Galway, 2003 – 2004. He has participated at the Watercolour Symposium in Lativa, 1990 – 1991; at the Centre d’Art i Natura in Catalunya, Spain, 1996; The Vermont Studios, USA, 2002 (awarded Fellowship) and in 2006 he showed work in Paris as the culmination of a residency at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris.