September Artist of the Month

Meet Picture Book Queen, Sheena Dempsey, our September Artist of the Month.

Sheena shares with us a refreshingly honest and insightful journey into her practice as a best selling picture book illustrator. Sheena took my class around 7 years ago as far as I remember….she was an outstanding student.

Sheena Dempsey author and illustrator

Sheena Dempsey author and illustrator

When did you first ‘feel’ like an artist?

I don’t usually use the word ‘artist’ to describe myself but I started feeling like a proper illustrator (that is saying it without hesitation when people ask what I do) about four or five years ago.

Do you have a ‘day job’? If so, does it drain or fuel your personal work?

I don’t have a day job right now, I’m very lucky to be illustrating full time at the moment. I spent years working in restaurants and bars to support myself while I was breaking into children’s publishing and I find the idea of having to go back there very motivating when I’m feeling a bit lazy! I think it’s good to work in these kinds of jobs at first because it provides you with perspective about how very lucky you are when you get to the point where you are making a living from your creative work alone. Who knows how long it will last though, I’m very busy for the next year and a half but nothing lasts forever. Fingers crossed the work keeps coming in.  

Where do you find inspiration?

Like most people, I’m interested in and curious about people, their life stories and experiences. Books, films, podcasts and human stories in general inspire me. Other illustrators and artists inspire me, of course. Silly animal videos on the internet inspire me. Travel and new places inspire me.  Any number of things can inspire me. It’s quite a hard question to answer in a specific way!

How do you research if you need reference material e.g. Pinterest, the library, personal photos, etc.

I use Pinterest to create boards when I’m working on a book, especially if it’s set in a house. As an illustrator you have to design lots of things in a book like clothes, houses, toys, living spaces, gardens, bedrooms etc. I use Google images a lot. I make folders on my desktop with interesting photos. I sometimes stage photos if I need to get a pose right. I do use personal photos already in my photo library sometimes, if they fit the subject matter.

Do you work from home or in a studio/shared space? What is that like?

I work from my studio at home and I love it. About five months ago we left London (where we’d lived for 9 years) for Folkestone (a seaside town in Kent) and haven’t looked back. In London, our living room doubled as my studio so it still feels like a massive luxury to have a whole room for work. There is nothing that makes me feel luckier than on a rainy day when I get to sit in my studio and make illustrations for the day, plus I have my greyhound Sandy for company. I’ve considered renting studio space so I can have the experience of camaraderie and sharing ideas with other creative folk but I keep funny hours and I don’t feel I can justify the expense when I have so much space at home.

Have you ever experienced creative blocks? If so, how do you deal with them?

I do get stuck with illustrations, often I can’t find a way to resolve something and things look stale or lacklustre or just plain bad. I heard on an illustration podcast recently the expression “you have to inhale as well as exhale.” That resonated with me. It’s hard to see the wood from the trees when you are sitting endlessly in front of the work. The obvious thing is to take a break, go and see something interesting, take some exercise. Coming back with fresh eyes makes it easier to see the problems clearly.  Since moving to the seaside I’m finding the coastal walks very restorative and helpful for unconsciously working things through.

Do/did you ever equate your self-worth with your artistic successes?

I try not to equate the two. It’s hard though, I think illustrators are generally quite sensitive people. In these social media-obsessed times there’s the increasingly common practice of putting your illustrations into the world where “likes” come into play. You can quickly be sucked into a damaging mind-set of likes, followers and praise being a measure of your worth as a person, but it’s hard to separate your work from your self when it comes from the deepest part of you. A writer friend of mine once said that writing (and I think this applies to illustration too) is a double-edged sword because you have to be sensitive and self-aware enough to make the work, but strong enough to withstand the rejection and disappointment. I think that is very true. And I suppose my identity is undeniably a bit tied up in what I do.

Are you a morning lark or a night owl?

I’m a night owl. Annoyingly, my most productive hours can often be between 9pm and 3am. I really have tried to train myself out of this bad habit so I can have a normal life, but the truth is I am just not as productive during the day. My worst hours are during the afternoon, I feel sluggish, unmotivated, sleepy and distracted. Morning larks don’t understand night owls, I find, I am often lectured by various morning larks in my life that I could easily change my ways if I wanted to! But when I am under pressure, my work hours always shift gradually into Night Owl Mode, it’s when I can get most done without interruption and I get a surge of energy that I can’t explain during the wee hours.

Does criticism affect you? If so, in what way and how do you handle it?

Criticism does affect me but I am learning not to take it personally. I now welcome critique when it’s presented in a positive way because it helps me to grow and improves the work. I’m learning so much from the various art directors I’m working with and I feel grateful when their input is in-depth and thoughtful because I can take that experience and growth onto the next projects I work on.

Once I got a stinky review at the beginning of my career in a well-known slot of a national UK paper, it felt quite brutal and it knocked me for a while, worst of all because I actually agreed with most of it. It was humiliating at the time but it was probably good for me in the long run to go through that experience.  I was sort of stuck at the time and I had a choice to give up or keep pushing through and try to get better. It was a turning point for me.

What was your favourite commission to date, if any?

If I had to choose, I would say the Dave Pigeon series of books have been my favourite job so far. As well as being so much fun to illustrate (silly, bird-based humour in black and white) I’ve become great friends with the author Swapna Haddow, which has made promoting the books really enjoyable. We’ve travelled to the Middle East, Ireland and all around the UK with these books. Soon Swapna and I will embark on a new series together with Faber and Faber, so watch this space.

Is your work primarily imagination or observation centred?

I work from my imagination primarily.

Do you keep sketchbooks? If so, daily or now and again?

I have sketchbooks but they are mostly for scribbling down ideas or working things out rather than for making finished drawings in. They’re not very pretty. I heard someone say recently to think of them as ‘ideabooks’ rather than ‘sketchbooks,’ I think this takes the pressure off slightly. My sketchbooks are for my eyes only, I’d rather not show them to anyone else!

Do you enjoy location drawing? If so do you have a favourite spot?

I don’t do much location drawing. It’s not very cool or “authentic” to admit you don’t spend hours doing careful location drawing, which you then artfully convert from sketchbook into final artwork, but there you have it. I think if I was better at it I might do it more, but that would only happen if I did it more in the first place. It’s a chicken and egg situation!

Do you have a list of favourite pens, pencils, paper or art materials? If so what to you love about it/them?

For roughs, no pencil will do except the Staedtler Noris School Pencil, HB. It has a lovely flow and texture. I like to use this on a nice toothy cartridge paper. About three years ago I made a big change from hand drawing my final artwork in watercolour on paper to doing my colour work digitally. I bought a Wacom Cintiq 13HD, which I think helped my work get better faster because I was able to experiment more. My palette got bolder and I was able to push the work further without worrying about messing it up and having to start over as I had with paint on paper. It was very freeing once I taught myself how to use Photoshop. People say there are no happy accidents with digital work but I don’t agree. I had a desk disaster last year where my glass desk exploded spontaneously and the Cintiq got damaged, at the moment I am using an Intuos with my 27 inch iMac and Photoshop Creative Cloud. I love Kyle’s Brushes and Grut Brushes, there are so many amazing resources for digital art these days.  

Do you have any ‘tricks’ or habits, if for example, you are having trouble with a piece?

Sometimes when a spread won’t resolve itself no matter what I do to it, I will move onto a different spread and then come back with the visual language I have developed in that new spread and apply it to the tricky one. That sometimes works. Usually it is just a question of trial and error, and lots of it. Lots of deep breaths are helpful. Back stretches are crucial, for preventing pain and for taking a quick break. I used to get quite annoyed when I realised that a piece I’d been working on for a long time was irredeemable and I had to start over but I’m learning to accept it as part of the trial and error process of creating illustrations.

What does your inner critic say (if anything)?

What doesn’t it say, I can’t get it to shut up half the time. “You’re a fraud, you can’t write, you can’t draw! Imagine how much better this would look in X illustrator’s style! That’s been done to death!” My inner critic is quite toxic, but luckily when I’m working to deadlines I don’t have time to entertain him. I have to just push through and ignore the prattle. It gets easier to ignore that stuff the more experienced you become I suppose, you sort of develop a system and power through.

Which artists or illustrators do you most admire and why?

There are such a number of illustrators I admire I can’t even list them all but here is a condensed list of some of my favourites: I believe Sara Ogilvie is such a master of picture book illustration; her visual flow, loose linework, characterisation, colour and textures are outstanding. David Roberts has been a massive influence on my work, too. His draughtsmanship, style and humour are excellent. I love Tor Freeman’s beautiful comic book work, confident humour and uniquely lovable characters. I love Alex T Smith’s hyper stylisation and tactile pencil-work. In painting, I’m usually most attracted by beautiful colour and textures, and satisfying mark marking. Some painters I love are David Hockney, Van Gogh, John Singer Sargeant, Modigliani and Peter Doig.

Would you throw a piece away (or delete it!) if it was not working, or would you just ‘keep at it’ until you were happy?

Usually there isn’t the option to just abandon things if you have to draw them for a client or publisher, you have no choice but to keep pushing through! It’s different when it’s spec work or personal work, then you can change things around to make things easier for yourself if parts of it aren’t working.

What would you do if you weren’t an illustrator?

I think I would work with animals in some capacity if I couldn’t do creative work for some reason. I am a big animal lover.

A selection of books by Sheena Dempsey

A selection of books by Sheena Dempsey

August Artist of the Month

Meet Liz Rackard, our August Artist of the Month.
Liz shares some insights and secrets of her arts practice.

RHA Gallery Liz Rackard with her work, Eoghan. Recipient of The Ireland -US Council and Irish Arts review Portraiture Award.When did you first feel like an artist?
I loved drawing and colouring as a child so I decided I was going to be an artist or work in a kennels (I loved dogs too).

Do you have a ‘day job’?
Yes I work as an art therapist with children mainly but with teens and adults too.

If so, does it drain or fuel your personal work?
Because I love working with art materials I enjoy working with children in this way. Sometimes the work can be draining as you come across difficult situations but you learn to deal with it. Having the space to do my own work provides a balance. I couldn’t work full
time at art therapy, as I would find it too emotionally draining.

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. Nature, man made environments, people, TV, packaging, colour, debris on the footpath, I’m always looking – mind you what I see in my mind and what comes out on the page can be very different. I make masterpieces in my head but they don’t always translate. Also I tend to work quite slowly so while I have loads of ideas it’s impossible to get everything done.

How do you research if you need reference material e.g. Pinterest, Library, personal photos, etc.
All of the above plus observational drawing and doodling.

Sarah

Portrait of Sarah O’dea by Liz Rackard

Liz Rackard 20

Eoghan (Diptych) 2018 Oil on Canvas

Liz Rackard 19

Irish Arts Review

Do you work from home or in a studio/shared space?
I’m very lucky to have a studio in my garden. It’s a sanctuary.

Liz Rackard in her Dublin Studio

Liz Rackard, working in her Dublin Studio

What is that like?
It’s one of those purpose built wooden garden houses. It’s great, looking out onto the garden, away from the house but only takes seconds to get there. I can walk away from something and leave a mess without worrying that dinner has to go on the same table. It’s not huge, I sometimes wonder if I’d make bigger work if I had more space.

Have you ever experienced creative blocks?
Loads.

If so, how do you deal with them?
Just keep working. Sometimes what I have in mind and what comes out my hand is so way off that I think what am I doing? That’s when I have to leave the judgmental part aside and push through and keep working, it’s the only way I know. Looking at other work can be very inspiring too when you’re stuck but in the end you have to get back to the blank page, canvas or whatever. Just keep doing it, whatever it is.

Do you ever equate your self-worth with your artistic successes?
No! Way too dangerous. But it is a nice thing when there’s success in terms of jobs or sales and it’s good to celebrate that.

Are you a morning lark or a night owl?
A bit of both.

Does criticism affect you?
Naturally. We all want to be loved and praised.

If so how do you handle it?
I try to see if there’s something useful in it. Constructive criticism can be really helpful. Then I try not to take it too personally and go back to my own work bubble.

What was your favourite commission to date, if any?
A double portrait I did of a friend’s son ‘Eoghan’. Also a glass piece commissioned by the OPW for the Valuations Office. I made two glass books sandblasting old maps and valuations onto the glass. Designing stamps for An Post was great too. I like working to a specific brief.

Is you work primarily imagination based or observational?
It varies and can be both. I work from life and also from imagination.

Do you keep sketchbooks? If so is it daily or now and again?
Always have a sketchbook/ journal on the go, always scratching at something or other except if life is super busy, but always get back to it eventually.

Do you enjoy location drawing? If so do you have a favourite spot? Yes I like drawing from life in general. I don’t have a favourite spot as such – I like the challenge and stillness that comes from close observation.

Do you have a list of favourite pens, pencils paper or art materials? If so what to you love about it/them?
I like different media for different things. I love the Strathmore mixed media sketchbook for gouache and Posca pen.  Then I love working oil on canvas or acrylic or watercolour on paper. I like to work with a wide range of material depending on the piece and what mood I’m in.

Here we have Golden Acrylic, Golden Matte Acrylic, Posca Markers, Windsor & Newton Gouache, Caran D'Ache Luminance

Liz Rackard’s favourite art materials.

Do you have any ‘tricks’ or habits if you are having trouble with a piece? Walk away and leave it for a day, then look at it again. Show it to someone and ask their opinionLast option, bin it and start again.

What does your inner critic say (if anything)?
At one stage I didn’t have an inner critic, I had a panel of them. It takes a while to work through that and recognize that the inner critic is always going to be there, waiting to pounce. I’m very familiar with mine but try not to let them rule the roost. Recognition is half the battle; if you recognize it’s them you can tell them to zip it.

Which artists are you most jealous of, and why?
There’s so much work I love it’s hard to list it all. In illustration I love Lisa Congdon’s approach, Ricardo Cavolo, outsider artist Howard Finster and Mary Delaney (1700 – 1788) and her “paper-mosaicks”, she did her most amazing work from the age of 71 – 88.

Would you throw a piece away (or delete it!) if it was not working, or would you just ‘keep at it’ until you were happy?
Sometimes a piece can be rescued if you ‘keep at it’ but sometimes it’s better to walk away and start afresh. Mostly I tend to keep at it until something is resolved, new and unexpected discoveries can be made along the way.

What would you do if you weren’t an illustrator?
I’d be involved in making or doing in some way. I started out as a weaver so maybe working in textiles – I don’t really know but there would have to be colour involved!

 

July Artist of The Month

Fintan Wall is Our July Artist of the Month. Read All About Fintan and His Practice.

Artist of the Month July-Fintan Wall14

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  1. When did you first feel like an artist? I would have to say when I was really small, I used to draw and paint all the time, and one of my neighbours had one of my paintings framed in their sitting room and I remember thinking how cool that was!
    Artist of the Month July-Fintan Wall3
  2. Do you have a ‘day job’? My day job is a graphic designer. Art was my favourite subject in school so I always knew I wanted to do something in the art area. My first choice was animation but then after seeing the time-consuming nature of classical animation and how long it takes to create something, I started looking into graphic design and thought now THAT’S more my scene! I studied in IADT Dun Laoghaire and have been working as a graphic designer since graduating, and I am now a fully fledged freelancer. I absolutely love it!
  3. If so, does it drain or fuel your personal work? I think that they both compliment each other. Drawing is a great way to train your eye and this then informs the graphic design end of things. It’s finding the time to fit both in that’s the main problem, but I manage it (most of the time!)
    Artist of the Month July-Fintan Wall16
  4. Where do you find inspiration? It can literally come from anywhere! I find that a lot of ideas happen after having conversations with people, it might be just a turn of phrase, or a joke, or some sort of play on words and I’ll go, hmmmm, there’s an idea there. I carry a notebook with me pretty much everywhere and I’ll jot down a word or phrase and then go from there. I also am obsessed with instagram, there is such a huge array of talent on there and it is an endless source of inspiration.
  5. How do you research if you need reference material e.g. Pinterest, Library, personal photos, etc. As above, instagram for inspiration. I also like taking photos, and with camera phones now such high quality, you can snap away to your heart’s content. Google images is also a godsend, when you are looking for something specific.
    Artist of the Month July-Fintan Wall15
  6. Do you work from home or in a studio/shared space? I recently moved into a studio with MART. They have a bunch of studios throughout Dublin and I was fortunate to get a solo studio 2 minutes from my house! Makes the commute a breeze.
  7. What is that like? It is HEAVEN! I didn’t realise how much I wanted it until I was actually in it, it’s made such a difference to have a separate space from your home life, as prior to being in the studio, I was working from my bedroom and kitchen table, a special shout out to my eternally patient flatmate, he never once complained about the array of art materials strewn all over the place.
  8. Have you ever experienced creative blocks? If so, how do you deal with them? I think everyone has experienced creative blocks from time to time. They’re part and parcel of the creative profession. I find that my graphic design background stands me well in this respect, it’s amazing what the pressure of a deadline can do for unclogging a creative block. Usually, if something really isn’t working, I find getting away from it for a bit, maybe have a walk, or a coffee, or a pint and then when you come back to it, the solution presents itself.
  9. Do you ever equate your self-worth with your artistic successes? Almost never! At the end of the day, the only person you are really in competition with is yourself, so if something doesn’t work out quite how I want it to, I’ll go, well, next time, I’ll do it differently. And that usually does the trick!.
  10. Are you a morning lark or a night owl? 100% Night owl! I try set regular hours for myself, so a working day would generally be between 10 to 6, although, if I’m really stuck in to something, I could work on into the small hours. I am getting better at shutting that down though.

  11. Does criticism affect you? If so how do you handle it? It depends on how it’s delivered! You’re never going to please everyone, so the best thing to do is listen to any criticism with an open mind and take it on board, but also don’t take it as gospel. And constructive criticism is invaluable, sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can point out something glaringly obvious that you just won’t have spotted.
  12. What was your favourite commission to date, if any? I recently did some work for Dog’s Trust, they were looking to get illustrations for the reception area of their re-homing centre in North Dublin. I was really pleased with how the finished project turned out and it was so much fun to work on too
  13. Is your work primarily imagination based or observational? Definitely imagination. My observational drawing skills are pretty rusty. But I’m working on that!
  14. Do you keep sketchbooks? If so is it daily or now and again? I really should keep sketchbooks, but I don’t as such. I have a bunch of half-filled a4 sketch-pads lying around, and when the humour takes me, I’ll start doodling, but it’s very sporadic. (Also working on that!)
  15. Do you enjoy location drawing? If so do you have a favourite spot? Again, not a huge fan of location drawing, I would prefer to take photos and then work from them. I get a bit too distracted drawing on location, I would prefer to be by myself listening to music than out and about with the sketchbook
  16. Do you have a list of favourite pens, pencils paper or art materials? If so what to you love about it/them? I recently bought an iPad Pro with and apple pencil and it is one of the best gadgets I have ever owned. The amount of things you can do with it is unreal, especially with Pro-Create. It’s like having an entire store of art supplies in your hands without having to tidy them up afterwards. For traditional drawing, you can’t beat some Staedtler fine-liners and a decent set of pencils. I also really like Faber-Castell coloured pencils, there’s a real richness to the colour and also they are reasonably priced.


  17. Do you have any ‘tricks’ or habits if you are having trouble with a piece? Step away from it for a while! Go have a coffee, a walk, go to the cinema, anything to take a break and not think about it. Then when you are not thinking about it, the solution more often than not just pops into your brain.
  18. What does your inner critic say (if anything)? He says, “stop procrastinating!”
  19. Which artists are you most jealous of, and why? I wouldn’t say jealous of, but I have a lot of admiration for a whole heap of people. I love Andy Warhol’s prints, and Edward Hopper and David Hockney. I went to see the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition in the National Gallery and was blown away by it. Oliver Jeffers in my eyes can do no wrong, Here We Are, his most recent book is a thing of beauty. There’s a bunch of people I follow on Instagram that are outstanding, including @vince_low, @marcantoinecoulon, @eileenboeijkens @pixelgustavo @thebutcherbilly, @brandonjamesscott @frantheartist, @littlegoodson, @markconlan, @donnellyillustration, @gautiersalome, @mongequentin, @alegiorgini, @maas.art, @handsoffmydinosaur, @xxmmkoxx, @laughingliondesign
     
  20. Would you throw a piece away (or delete it!) if it was not working, or would you just ‘keep at it’ until you were happy? I never throw anything away, I’m a bit of a hoarder so I have countless folders with bits and pieces in them, and sometimes I come back to them, but I have a fear that if I throw something away, I’ll think of a way to fix or improve it so I err on the side of caution.
  21. What would you do if you weren’t an illustrator? Good question! My ideal job would be presenter of the TV show Total Wipeout, I am obsessed with it! Watching people getting knocked into water in an infinite number of ways and getting paid for it is the dream! But, failing that (as I’m pretty sure that show has been cancelled….rage!), I think maybe an art teacher of some sort, or maybe a photographer. Definitely something in the creative sphere.

Fintan Wall Instagram: @WallHello Facebook: @FintanWallDesign Website: http://www.fintanwall.com shop: http://www.shop.fintanwall.com

June Artist of the Month

Each month I interview one of my alumni, to see how they are getting on ‘post boot camp’. This month Clara Dudley chats to me about her work, plans and dreams.

Portrait

 

When did you first feel like an artist?

Since I could pick up a marker as a toddler. I drew constantly as a kid.

Do you have a ‘day job’

Yes, I have two part-time graphic design jobs; I work between a small creative studio called Mr & Mrs Stevens, and at Dublin City University (DCU). I’ve always thrived best doing multiple jobs as it always keeps things interesting. As side projects, I sell my illustration prints online on Etsy, and at various art markets in Dublin.

If so, does it drain or fuel your personal work?

I love graphic design so much; it is definitely a support to my personal illustrations, as it has provided me a total skillset for learning about printing and marketing, thinking critically about composition, and the basic skills of setting up and creating artwork digitally. I like the diversity of projects I get to work on in design, and the communities and colleagues I have.

Where do you find inspiration?

The content of my work is inspired largely by dreams, nightmares, memory, mythos and storytelling, place and landscape; there are often political themes and symbolism that inform my artwork, particularly environmentalism and climate change, feminism and gender, violence, nature, capitalism, and history. And sometimes, I just like to simply draw beautiful things. The visual styles that inspire me draw from graphic novels and comics, classic fairytales and children’s book illustration, folk art, and science fiction. I sometimes refer to my illustration style as “sci-fi folk art.”

How do you research if you need reference material e.g. Pinterest, Library, personal photos, etc.

I use a lot of Google image searches to find reference images. I also sometimes “cast” my friends or family as center characters, or use personal photography for landscape images.

Do you work from home or in a studio/shared space?

For my personal illustration art, I just work from home. The expensive state of Dublin is such that I could not continue to afford a studio space of my own, though I did have one briefly. A studio is so important as it is a truly dedicated space for the sole purpose of creating.

What is that like?

Working at home – I find it comforting, though at times distracting.

Have you ever experienced creative blocks?

Yes, I have. Though I always have ideas to draw on, sometimes too many – that can be the issue sometime. If I have too many ideas at once it can be hard to get any of them out in a clear way.

If so, how do you deal with them?

I permit myself to take breaks from art – especially because it is not my primary mode of income; I can produce as much or as little new work as I want, so I’m ok taking breaks if other work or personal stuff doesn’t allow for a lot of art time. But if I’m frustrated with a creative block, I usually just look at the piece very critically for a while and think on it until ways to solve the issue come to me over time. Music can help a lot with visual inspiration.

Do you ever equate your self-worth with your artistic successes?

At times, yes. It can be hard not to if it is such an important and huge part of who you are that you are putting out there to the world. But I’ve relaxed quite a bit about it – I think my artistic success is based on a clarity of vision and voice that matters a lot to me, and my satisfaction when a piece means a lot to someone and they actually buy it just to have an enjoy. That makes me pretty happy, and is one of the best aspects of making art.

Are you a morning lark or a night owl?

Notoriously, a night owl. But I’ve learned to enjoy mornings much more now than before! Partly because I enjoy my work and don’t mind getting up and doing that for the day.

Does critisism affect you?

Not really. I’ve always been confident in my artwork; it is just a part of me I carry everywhere, and I can’t really be shaken from it. I often get rejected from competitions or artist call-outs – but I just don’t really care because if I am making the art that I really love making and it didn’t work for that opportunity, than I’m better off. I’m just happy doing my thing, and as long as I can do that I don’t mind rejection or criticism. Incidentally, one of the lowest grades I got in college in my short-lived tenure as an Art Major in California was for a painting series – a series that I loved doing and that others’ gravitated to. And then years later they were picked up for a literary journal, Puerto del Sol, and they were published inside and on the cover. So I didn’t care in the end about that initial criticism; I knew what I made had expressed exactly what I intended it to, and it proved to be powerful work that wasn’t impacted negatively by one person’s criticism. If your art and creativity is a part of you, no one can take that from you – and it will speak to others from a genuine place.

If so how do you handle it?

If I were to really be impacted or shaken by criticism, I do think it is worth listening to – especially if it is from someone whose opinion or perspective you respect. I think it can only help in the long run to be open to that feedback, and have a critical mind to balance that with your own opinion. There’s no reason to change something only to meet someone else’s view, but if they have a good reason or good insight, there’s no reason to simply reject that either.

What was your favourite commission to date, if any?

I have only had a few so far, but my favourite recently was for Totally Dublin’s “12 Illustrations of Christmas” special in December 2017, which featured 12 Dublin-based illustrators and our interpretations of what Christmas means to us. It was a great and fun opportunity to make a piece that reached many people and I was really happy with the result.

Is you work primarily imagination based or observational?

Imagination based. I rarely do observational artwork.

Do you keep sketchbooks? If so is it daily or now and again?

I do keep sketchbooks but only to develop very rough compositions and ideas – stick-drawing-level rough! I tend to keep ideas very loose until I confirm the layout, and then develop the final piece directly on the paper.

Do you enjoy location drawing? If so do you have a favourite spot?

I don’t do much location drawing – it was never a particular favourite of mine, as I usually develop fantasy or concept-driven pieces. However, I do think the act of drawing from direct observation does help develop your skills significantly.

Do you have a list of favourite pens, pencils paper or art   materials? If so what to you love about it/them?

I only draw with black markers/pens; I use different sizes of Staedtler pigment liner pens, Sharpies, and thick black markers. The only paper I use is Daler-Rowney smooth heavyweight A3 size 220 gsm. I colour my work in Photoshop after scanning at 300dpi in Text mode on my scanner – that picks up high-contrast black tones only, and makes the scan much easier to colour.

Do you have any ‘tricks’ or habits if you are having trouble with a piece?

I try to always check in as I am working on a piece: does it stimulate a strong and engaging feeling or emotion? Is it having the effect I intended? Are all areas of the piece functioning together in a harmonious way? If it is not working, what are the trouble areas or elements that keep nagging at me? Because I work with digital colour only, it is a great and flexible way to experiment with different palettes until I get to where I want it to be – and if it’s the drawing itself that is problematic, I can re-arrange or edit the elements digitally as needed.

What does your inner critic say (if anything)?

“That is so cliche!” If I am thinking that, I’ll ask myself: what is the main motivation behind my piece, and am I sticking to it? I try to stay close to the personal concept, and not follow a visual zeitgeist or “trend” just because I think it’ll be a popular choice.

Which artists are you most jealous of, and why?

Probably large-scale muralists. I have never done anything large scale, but would love to do a major painted piece one day!

 Would you throw a piece away (or delete it!) if it was not working, or would you just ‘keep at it’ until you were happy?

I have definitely admitted defeat on a few pieces! But I keep them, no matter what, in case I can come back to it later and see how it can be fixed.

What would you do if you weren’t an illustrator?

I’d just be a graphic designer, I guess! But alternatively, I’d love to work in documentary media or journalism, be a creative director or magazine/print media editor, or start a food business.

Oh, What a Night!

This time last week we were all revelling in the success of our show, Voyagers Good Eggs and Beasts. We really did have a blast and the weather was amazing. Lots of red dots, and merchandise sold at the PopUp Shop. Most of the students, if not all, were exhibiting for the very first time.

Illustrator Carolina Medina Fuentes

Illustrator selling her first piece of art

The venue, Studio 10, Wicklow Street, Dublin 2, and owner JeannieWenham took on my class of 33 illustration students for their all important end of year show, after Filmbase closed its doors in March this year. It was at very short notice that I contacted Jeannie through word of mouth. From the beginning to the end of our show Jeannie was the kindest, most accommodating, flexible and professional person I have EVER had the pleasure of dealing with. She employed a professional technician, Pete, to hang our work (a lot!!!) and he worked miracles. Her venue is top notch with fabulous views out of the big bay window. Tons of light and atmosphere, making our event even more spectacular than we ever could have dreamt.

here are some shots of the evening, taking by Marie-Claire Byard (available for event as photographer and videographer as well as social media marketeer: 086 836 8448

 

May Artist of the Month

Each month I will interview one of my alumni, to see how they are getting on ‘post boot camp’. This month I met Tarsila Kruse, a super talented and lovely lady, who I remember for her big smile and can-do attitude. Tarsila was a 2010 illustration boot camp student.

tarsila_profile_2018

When did you first feel like an artist, Tarsila?

I first felt like an artist as a little child – as a matter of fact I used to say that when I grew up I would be either an Artist or a Dentist. Here we are!

Do you have a ‘day job’

Making children’s books and commissions is my job. Many creatives have a “day job” and pursue art as a secondary income stream and that’s very honourable too!

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere! In my son’s daily shenanigans, in the things I hear people say, in observing the world around me, listening to podcasts, reading books, watching movies and TV! Inspiration is everywhere; all we have to do is pay close attention.

How do you research if you need reference material e.g. Pinterest, library, personal photos, etc.

I prefer doing “in loco” research, if possible. Live observation is much more interesting as you can obtain not only the physical appearance of something, but the energy from it too. I also use personal photos as reference and the occasional online search.

Do you work from home or in a studio/shared space?

I work in a home studio within our house.

What is that like?

I have allocated a special space to work both on creating and administrative tasks. I find it cosy and inspiring all the same! The downside of working by myself is not sharing thoughts and ideas with other creatives, that’s why I like meeting friends and colleagues on a regular basis to keep my personal and professional life interesting!

Have you ever experienced creative blocks?

Of course! Everyone does! Creative blocks can come from so many sources: overwhelm, fear, tiredness and much more!

If so, how do you deal with them?

I embrace the flow of my creative block. We’re humans and not machines so there’s no point in expecting 100% efficiency at being creative all the time. We all have limited resources of time and energy and it’s important to respect some boundaries so we don’t fall into the burnout trap. To free my mind from a creative block I tend to let go of things – I go for a walk, take my dogs for a long stroll or go to the gym – upon returning I make a plan of action, but the most important thing I find, is to get started on the project without trying to make it perfect. Just get started and get the ball rolling. It truly helps!

Do you ever equate your self-worth with your artistic successes?

Not anymore. Most professionals probably make that connection, because everything we create is inherently connected to who we are, but if you think about it, our creations ARE NOT the full representation of who we are and our self-worth as people. The more success one has professionally can reflect positively on how one sees him or herself but it shouldn’t be a reflection of his or her own self-worth.

TarsilaKruse_Sketchbook

Are you a morning lark or a night owl?

Morning lark all the way! Out of bed by 6 and back into it before 10!

Does criticism affect you?

Criticism is an important part of being a creative person. The same way our creations shouldn’t equal to our self-worth, criticism shouldn’t affect too much what one creates. It’s important to listen to constructive criticism to develop and grow – in your craft, relationships and life – and to take fake criticisms (aka hate/envy) with a grain of salt.

If so how do you handle it?

I listen to what people have to say with attention and try to see how I can learn from that experience. People will say what they want to say, so it is up to me to deal with how I receive criticism.

What was your favourite commission to date, if any?

I have many commissions that I love! All of my books have been fantastic experiences, but I have to say that the very first commission I received for a children’s book – Ná Gabh ar Scoil! (Futa Fata, 2015) was the most powerful because it was my entryway into the industry.

Is you work primarily imagination based or observational?

Primarily imagination with observational inspiration!

Do you keep sketchbooks? If so is it daily or now and again?

Yes! Sketchbooks are the regular training of an artist! A sportsperson needs regular training and so does an artist! I work on different medium on a daily basis, I have my “Experimental and bad drawings only” sketchbook and I also work on the iPad to develop ideas and sometimes I just grab pieces of paper and have a go at them!

Do you enjoy location drawing? If so do you have a favourite spot?

Yes! Anywhere, but cafés tend to be my favourite spot since lots of people come and go and I get to see a wide variety of gender, age, dressing styles and hear the most different things!

Do you have a list of favourite pens, pencils paper or art materials? If so what to you love about it/them?

I do not have a list because I love trying new things. I experiment with different pens and sketchbooks all the time. I try to use them up before trying something new and I like mixing and matching pencils and pens and art materials to see what kind of effects I can get from them.

Do you have any ‘tricks’ or habits if you are having trouble with a piece?

When having trouble with a piece I usually take a break from it. Having a cup of tea or taking my dogs for a long walk does the trick of reigniting my creative juices. Also talking to other creatives about a challenge in a piece helps. I have many artist friends whose strength might be in a different area than mine, and if I know they will have an interesting insight on my problem I get in touch to see what they think about it.

What does your inner critic say (if anything)?

My inner critic is one that many carry within themselves. When I start a project things usually evolve like this: It’s a great idea, it will be amazing! Well, it’s not so great. It’s bad, very bad. It’s horrible. What was I thinking?! Hey, actually it’s not so bad. It’s actually kind of good. I really like this! OMG, It’s amazing!

Which artists are you most jealous of, and why?

I’m not jealous of other artists, what I carry is deep respect and admiration for the accomplishment of so many great people and that fuels me! Oliver Jeffers, David Roberts, Sarah McIntyre, Mike Lowery, Shelley Couvillion, Geneviève Godbout, Giovana Medeiros, Paula McGloin…The list is endless! I’m just a big fan of all of them!

Would you throw a piece away (or delete it!) if it was not working, or would you just ‘keep at it’ until you were happy?

I’m happy enough to delete or keep things but I don’t have to be working on them. I keep a lot of roughs and ideas and someday they might develop into something. If not, they’re a great record of my development as an artist and I enjoy seeing how far I’ve come.

What would you do if you weren’t an illustrator?

Little me would be disappointed I’m not going to say dentist! I have taught before and I often run workshops so I believe I would work in education, exercising my own creativity and helping others do the same!