Interview with Blanket Magazine (Aus) 2007

1 February, 2009 |  by
Interview with Blanket Magazine (Aus) 2007

 

 

Would you mind giving us a quick run down on your career to date?
I finished up college in Dublin in 2001. I had studied graphic design but I wasn’t crazy about the course to be honest. I moved to Hong Kong with two friends two months later, we had a great tutor called David Lui from Hong Kong while we were in college that we had kept in contact with and he helped us out. We taught english for a while but then I started taking my portfolio around and getting illustration work. I had done a few odd illustration jobs in Dublin while i was at college but it wasnt until i was in Hong Kong that i started getting properly paid illustration work. I was pretty lucky and got a quite large ad job there and then I travelled around asia until I ran out of money. Then I moved back to Ireland. I worked part time at a music venue designing posters and press ads for a while but there wasnt that much creativity in it really. I was just tacking dates on most of the time, and Dublin is too small to be for illustration really, so I moved over to London. Its great here. Ive been in London for three years. I was pretty much broke when I arrived so i had to do part-time work, I got a fulltime job in an animation company called Studioaka, worked there for a while then I left that 2 years ago when my freelance work started picking up and have been freelancing since.

 

Where are you currently based?
In London, in Hackney

 

Do you find being in the UK helps you to do what you want with your career?
I love it here. Actually, a lot of my work seems to come through the website now and the email contacts ive kept from here Dublin and Hong Kong so really I suppose i could be anywhere, but its very inspiring to be here. I do get a few jobs or hear about companies and people by being here i suppose,  I’d never have got involved with People Tree either if it wasn’t for being here. There’s so much going on that it’s just a great place to be anyway.

 

Do you consider yourself an Illustrator first and foremost?
I do now i suppose, i do a bit of animation too and other random graphics stuff but its generally based around illustration.

 

How do you find your inspiration for your work?
i think i go through phases of liking different things, i used to love japanese prints and i copied them to death and then i went off them a bit. I tend to do that quite a lot. I love the V&A here too, and the British Museum, I really love the ethnic patterns and textiles in there at the moment. Rugs are great!

 

Your style has a very innocent, organic and childlike qualities, explain how it came about?
I dont know. I draw a lot of different characters each time i make a drawing, some are better than others but i generally go for the one with the wonky eye or the badly drawn head or something, just because they have more character, is that what you mean? I dont like very slick perfect drawings, and sometimes I touch up drawings and after a while i realise that ive kind of ruined it. The quicker and more spontaneous the drawing is the more character it has, thats why i find it very difficult to draw on the computer i think… it needs to be drawn in an instant to properly capture movement.

 

Explain the process you go through when creating your work?
I generally have an idea, sketch it out a few ways, scan a few of them in and mess around with them on the computer. usually i get rid of some elements… i kind of simplify the drawing i have, sometimes ill scan more elements in then for the final drawing… i dont use most of it, there’s an awful lot of waste.

 

What mediums and materials do you work with?
I draw most of the bits with a pencil, i make a lot of the textures with charcoal or graphite. and a few times ive got my inks or poster paints out but mainly its just pencil.

 

What about the computer? How far do you take your work on there?
I do most of it on the computer really, but i never ever start work without scanning something in… ive tried to do that so many times but it always ends up just looking bad. i never figured a way of doing it…
I used to work at this animation studio that only had one scanner in the whole building between about 15 animators/ designers, i used to use it so often that it got moved onto my desk.

 

What kind of projects have you worked on to date?
I generally do pretty varied illustrations for editorial and advertising, i work quite regularly for the guardian here, but ive definitely had some very random jobs, being freelance you have to be pretty adaptable to keep yourself going, but i think its good to do that too, id get bored if i was just doing the same type of work all the time.  I did an ad campaign recently for the UK government agency for anti-drug-driving. That was great fun to do, they had a pretty progressive attitude to the issue which made it very engaging, the title was ‘stupid things you do on drugs…’ so i had to do all these characters doing stupid things on drugs and then the last one was ‘get into your car and drive home’. It turned out pretty well and was good fun to do. I did an ad campaign in Hong Kong one time where none of the art directors spoke English and i can’t speak Cantonese, it worked out great because they could only give me very basic directions and i was free to ignore them if i didnt like what i heard. I did a wine bottle recently, and last year I did a mural for a shop in Tokyo and one in London. Ive done visuals for a quite big outdoor music festival in Ireland and a very glamorous (!) ad campaign two years ago for a cystitis antibiotic. I kind of art-directed a photo shoot in France a few years ago too because i had to then draw swirly images on top of the photos (I’d never even been on a photo shoot before!)

 

And what has been your favourite, or most inspiring?
I love working with People Tree, the projects that i have done through them that have come off well with them are my proudest projects. I enjoy animating too but sometimes that can be a bit frustrating. It takes so long to do but in the end it can be much more entertaining and engaging than a still image.

 

You are heavily involved in Fair Trade and People Tree, would you mind explaining a little more about these?
People tree are great, Im so glad to be involved with them, I was a bit disillusioned with design for a while because all the jobs i was working on at one point were these very slick ad campaigns and I was going to marketing research meetings in ad agencies and I was very cynical about it. I kind of felt a bit hypocritical.
The work People Tree do is great. I met the Safia (the founder) and we got on really well, she is very inspiring to talk to and i really was very excited to work with them. It was a kind of a revelation to be able to produce nice work that was also helping to sell products that i wanted to see being sold.
They have a network of very small cooperatives and projects set up all over the world, about 60 fairly small sized producer groups ranging from 10 to 150 full or part-time workers in 20 different countries. They mainly set up projects based on the local handicrafts and products, handmade paper notepads and cards in Nepal,  t-sh
irts made from small cotton farmer’s cotton in India. All of these small groups are then able to sell their products worldwide through people tree on the people tree site. (peopletree.co.uk) The network cuts out the middle-man and helps the small producers compete. Many of the producer groups and projects are set up to employ either women who may have been divorced through domestic abuse or disabled people who would not be otherwise be able to earn money outside of their family.
They help get extra income into some of the poorest areas and increase self-esteem and independence amongst the disabled people who work at the projects. The producer groups also get design input and advice on quality, product feedback etc from the people tree designers. as well as all that people tree places a strong emphasis on ecological production methods by supporting organic cotton projects.
We still have a long way to go though, it can be frustrating work sometimes and its a constant struggle to do nice work under limited resources but its very fulfilling.

 

As an Illustrator do you think its important to seek creative avenues in other areas in order to develop yourself as a creative? If so what do you do?
 I love travelling, anytime i find myself with a bit of money (which isnt that often) im off backpacking about, I like to read as much as i can when i have the time too. Other than that i can’t think of anything.. I dont play a musical instrument or anything… I get very creatively drunk when I finish a project!

 

What projects are you currently working on?
All animation at the moment actually! Im doing a new little animated spot about fair trade, which should be really good fun to do, another short animated spot for a documentary film through nativevoicefilms.com where i do little animated breaks in a documentary about how micro loans help independent producers in the middle east. Im also designing six ten second animated adverts for a large department store in the UK which will be produced through Studioaka. (studioaka.co.uk)

 

Lastly, do you have any interesting collections of objects? (this issue is our collection issue)
Ive got a pile of books that i keep buying and i never get through them, ive got about thirty books i havent read stacked beside my bed. I need to take a year off to get through them all i think.
Ive been taking hundreds of photos over the past few years too since i started using a digital camera… ive got about 9000 on my computer now i think… I have no idea what im going to do with them, I’ve barely even looked at most of them..!

 

 

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