Questioning Creatives


This article was written on 30 Jan 2013, and is filled under illustrators.

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Laura Callaghan

I’m a 26-year-old Irish illustrator based in South East London. I graduated with an MA in Illustration from Kingston University in 2010 and have been working freelance ever since. As well as contributing a weekly fashion illustration to The Sunday Telegraph I have produced work for clients such as Zizzi, BUST, American Apparel and Vioro magazine. Alongside my own work I’m also the current Illustration editor for Oh Comely, an independent magazine which focuses on intelligent journalism, art craft and culture.


When did you decide you wanted to be illustrator?
Midway through my third year in my Graphic Design BA. Illustration is not offered as a sole subject in Ireland so the idea of it hadn’t really crossed my mind before then but the majority of work I was producing was illustration based so my tutor gave me a nudge in that direction, which was lucky as grids and typography aren’t really my strong point!

Would you recommend studying at art school?
Yes, I think it offers a chance to immerse yourself in a subject and surround yourself with like-minded people, Having said that I wish I had researched my courses more thoroughly and had known what to expect, it’s worth asking current students for their thoughts before deciding on a University.

How long was it before illustration became your primary form of income?
I worked in the accounts department of a biscuit factory for the first year and a half out of college. I was broke and it was soul destroying. In a way it spurred me on though, the thought of working with Excel spreadsheets for the rest of your life will do that to a person. I was lucky enough to nab a weekly illustration job which covers my rent and meant I could leave full time employment but I’m still working on being financially stable!

Could you describe your typical day?
I try to get up around 8 – 8.30am depending on how late I’ve been working the night before, going to work at the same time as everyone else tricks my brain into operating like a normal sane person. I’m not great at getting on with work straight away so usually spend the first two hours of the day reading emails, doing any admin stuff, updating twitter/ the blog and researching illustrators for Oh Comely. I try to work on commissioned stuff before 7pm and then get stuck into my own work as I get my best ideas between the hours of 9pm and 3am. I work from home, in my living room actually, so it’s incredibly difficult to separate life and work. I’m doing a really bad job of it at the moment and don’t wind down until 2 or 3 in the morning but if a piece is working out I prefer to see it through, I hate going to sleep with the feeling that something is unfinished. Plus I take my weekends off now so that’s nice.


What do you wish you’d know when you first started out?
The importance of social media and self promotion, I’m still learning on those two fronts and think it’s something you should be on the ball with before you leave college. Also I wouldn’t have worried so much about trying to fit my style into my idea of what was commercially viable and just have trusted my gut. Your style is your selling point so why should it look like something that’s out there already?

What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
Being paid to draw (when that happens!) is a ridiculously fun way to earn a living. There’s a satisfaction that comes with creating something from scratch that you just don’t get from other lines of work, it means you take a lot of pride in what you do and the process becomes almost artisanal. Not having to get dressed for work is a perk too, not gonna lie.


What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator?
The unreliability. Some months things pan out but you never get away from the possibility that there may be tumbleweeds on the horizon, you’re constantly playing catchup with yourself. It’s also a pretty lonely profession, I spend the majority of the day on my own and it makes me a little twitchy. I’m looking into getting a studio space this year though so fingers crossed!

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
If I wasn’t involved in something creative then probably something medical, I was very into biology and am a freak who likes hospitals. I always liked the idea of midwifery, my younger sister is studying it now and I do get jealous of her scrubs.

Any other tips you could share?
Keep in contact with fellow illustrators to avoid going insane and don’t be that irritating person on who tweets about the same piece of work ten times in one day!


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