1. Can you tell me about your background; when and how did you decide that you wanted to be an illustrator?
I think I always wanted to do something with drawing. I wanted to do fine art in the beginning but when I got into art college I was sure that I wanted to do something with computers because it seemed like that’s where a lot of the interesting things were happening. Computers seemed to allow more creativity, so I took the graphic design course.
2. Where were you educated?
In NCAD in Dublin, Ireland. I studied graphic design. I finished in 2001.
3. What material/technique do you use in you illustrations. Has this changed since you started or did you stick with a particular technique?
I use pencil and paper most of the time. If I need a particular texture I might use charcoal or ink or sometimes collage. I then scan these in and play around with them on the computer. I probably use the computer a lot more now than I did a few years ago!
4. I am very interested in animations and moving image, what programme do you work in when you do your animations? How do you go about doing them?
I do most of my animations in after effects. I do most of the work in photoshop actually and just make it move in after effects. Its all very very basic!!
I just do a drawing in photoshop duplicate the layer and redraw it in a different position. Then I take that into after effects and show or hide the layers.
5. Can you tell me about some of the projects you have worked with? Is there any in particular that you found challenging, interesting or exciting?
Im very interested in fair trade and im quite involved in the company people tree.
Its very satisfying to get to do work that I enjoy and is really of use to people.
Working in advertising made me very cynical for a while!!! They have such a low view of humanity!!!! So I wanted to stop doing so much of that.
I also love to do animations or any work with narrative.
Im doing a childrens book at the moment with a Korean publisher which is really nice to do. Its my first childrens book!
One of my favourite jobs was for a UK government agency called THINK! It was set up to stop young people doing drugs and driving. (Do they really need an advert for that??!!)
They took quite a progressive approach and admitted to themselves that people were going to do drugs anyway. The slogan was ‘Stupid things you do on drugs’ and I illustrated 8 stupid things people do on drugs… and then the last one was ‘GET INTO YOUR CAR AND DRIVE HOME’ I had great fun doing that job!!!
6. I am very interested in your fair trade project with People Tree, can you tell me more about that?
There is a good interview I gave earlier this year…!
That says it better than I can!!!!
7. Your illustrations seems to have a lot of content and often a message to them, is this important to you? Do you find that your work gets better when you work for a good cause?
Illustration and the process of being commissioned is often quite useful because it forces you to add more and more content to your work.
If I was just working for myself I would be happy to create work that had one dimension to it but clients are always looking for more and more elements and messages and that ultimately forces me to push in different directions than I wouldn’t usually do.
I worked for a while for a quite creative animation studio (studioaka.co.uk) where I was doing some interesting creative work but in the end I kind of decided there is more important things to do with my life than making commercials for companies I don’t believe in.
I used to spend a lot of extra time on the different projects because Im a bit of a perfectionist sometimes, and then I hated to think that I was spending all my own time and energy (and weekends!) on nothing more than making a very rich multi-national company richer!
I don’t know if the work I do is creatively any better but it feels a bit better!
8. How important do you think moral is for illustrators? Would you work for a company you didn’t approve of if it was a great project/good money?
I have only turned down a few jobs because I didn’t agree with the company.
One was for a coffee brand (Kenco) that seemed to want to be seen to be fair trade when it wasn’t. I think they liked the fact that that my style was associated with fair trade. I would not work for anything like that for any amount of money…! Usually I just quote really high for a job if im not that interested in doing it. If they still want to use me then at least we are both happy!
9. How do you start with a new project? What do you do if you get “illustrators block?”
To be honest I don’t really get illustrators block…! Im usually too busy!
Sometimes if a project has no deadline it tends to never get started because it keeps getting pushed back. At the moment I have quite a few ideas that id love to work on for myself but im just too busy at the moment. Too many ideas rather than the opposite! That’s one of the great things about working to briefs because it always adds new ideas to your work and vocabulary. Each successful new brief usually adds a few ideas to my head! Most of which I never get around to using!
10. Your illustrations have a unique style, do you have any advice for students that have a hard time finding their own style?
I think just keep doing work that you like and keep pushing the boundaries of what you do.
I did an interview that mentions that too…
Take a look here..
11. Do you ever find it hard to compromise with the clients you work for? (If what they want is not what you want to do)
All the time! They ultimately are paying for it! I try and win them around but it can be very frustrating. More recently people have been approaching me because they liked my work from a previous job… which makes it likely that we will have a fairly similar taste ….but not always! The odd time ill put ‘my version’ of the finished piece on my site… so that at least its not a totally wasted effort.
12. How did you get your first illustration job? Do you have any tips on how to break into the business?
I got into a magazine in Ireland through a friends brother who was designing it.
Id say that just make yourself a site (or even a myspace page etc!) and get it under the nose of as many art directors as you can. The internet is a fantastic way to promote yourself.
11. What are you working on right now?
Im actually in India teaching a course on Illustration. First time I ever taught really!!! Its great though! Really enjoying it
Besides that im doing an illustration for a german arts festival and I just finished an animation for a fair trade company.