Interview AnswersI was recently interviewed by a student who is in an illustration program. I had a lot of fun answering her questions. I thought maybe you would like to read it too.


Name: Penelope Dullaghan (the g is silent)

Where did you study/attend school? I moved around A LOT. I actually went to 3 colleges. But I ended up getting my degree from University of Indianapolis.

When did you first start drawing? Any early influences? I first started drawing when I was very young with my grandma. She was an artist and painted. She taught me what texture was and showed me brushes and paints. She encouraged me to draw what I saw around me. I think I was 4 or 5.

I used to ask my mom to draw me things so I could color them. One day I asked her to draw me a bunny and when she did I laughed and said, "no, mom. here's how you draw a bunny." She never drew anything for me again.

I was influenced by artists I read about in books. I copied cartoons and watched how their shapes twisted as they moved and tried to do the same things with my drawings. I went to the library and borrowed "how to draw" books.

Are there any artists that you admire/appreciate/respect? Oh yeah. I get huge crushes on artist. Some last a very short while (Klimt) and other last years on end (Frida Kahlo, Amedeo Modigliani, etc). Right now I'm really into Paul Klee. I love reading about their lives and how they thought... how they did things...what influenced them. I'm also really into Mexican art. Retablos. Wow, they're incredible. Each artist I fall in love with teaches me something new. From Klimt I learned how to use intricate pattern. From Kahlo it was how to be strong and live through things. From Modigliani it was form and texture, and from retablos it was story telling. I love learning about art. There's just so much to know.

Can you describe your creative process? Where do you start and how do you know when you are finished with an illustration? I usually draw from my head. I have a pretty good idea about what I want to communicate with an illustration. If it's something I've never drawn before I usually research how it looks. Say, a lilly...I don't know off hand what that flower looks like so I'll look it up. And then do my interpretation of that. I start with a pencil sketch. Then I use pen and ink to go over my sketch. Then I use color. Watercolor and gouache usually. But I also use colored pencil and oil pastel. I kind of just know when the illustration is complete. I just look at it and know that if I add or take away I will like it less. Then, I'm done.

Where do you seek inspiration for your work? I watch people. People are interesting. That's why I like to draw them a lot. I am also inspired by the artists I research. I go to the library a lot, looking at old WWII posters and psychdelic art... a lot of different thigns. You can learn from every genre, I think. I also get inspiration from attending art shows in my city. I love to see what other people are doing and ask them about their work.

Do you feel that you have a philosophy that you use in your work? If so, can you please explain? My philosophy is just communication. Illustration is not just drawing things you see. (sometimes it is) But there's usually an idea you want to get across. So I try to tie ideas together to communicate one idea. Is that philosophy? I'm not sure.

How would you describe your personal artistic style? I would describe my artistic style as light hearted and evolving. I'm going through a time right now where I'm here one moment and two jumps ahead in the next. I recently quit my day job to pursue illustration full time and it's changing me. Changing the way I do things and think about things. It's strange to know you're evolving. So, I'll answer this question more stably in a year or two.

What do you find to be the most frustrating part of being an illustrator? Quoting prices is the most frustrating part. I hate talking money. I'd rather just give my stuff away. But then I wouldn't be able to pay my mortgage. I'm good at the keeping track of invoices and billing, just not talking about how much it costs. I don't want to charge too much. But I also don't want to undersell myself by not charging enough. But it's getting easier with time.

Another frustrating thing is not having anyone to bounce my ideas off of. It's kind of difficult to know where you are and how you're doing when you're isolated. I'm battling this by forming an illustrators group in my city. We've been meeting for lunch once a month and I really look forward to it. We talk about issues we're dealing with, get feedback on our work and just talk shop. It's a really great thing.

What do you find to be the most rewarding part of being an illustrator? I love creating. Plain and simple. I love to draw. I love to express ideas visually. I love to see what spills out of my pen on any given day. And I love being my own boss. (although I'm way harder on myself than any boss ever was. My husband calls me a work-a-holic. And he's probably right).

I also love being a venue for others to express their creativity, too. I recently started Illustration Friday, where I post a topic each Monday and whoever wants to participate has till Friday to come up with their own interpretation of that topic. It's awesome to see a creative community forming. And to feel like you belong somewhere. I do fun stuff like costume contests and advent calendars just to try to get people to used their creativity. I feel so blessed that people participate.

What is your preferred medium for your illustrations? I used pen and ink and watercolor and gouache on paper mainly.

What is the one tool that you couldn't live without? Good paper. Good paper makes all the difference in the world. Don't skimp on paper.

Any new tools/ that you are coveting? Yes, I've been hearing about a Gocco machine. It allows you to do small print runs in your studio (no printer involved). I'd like to try that. I also want to take a silk screening class. I did long ago and loved it. I hear you can do it at home...but I have no space!

I'd also like to get every ink color under the sun. I buy about one a month, but I want them all now. (patience is not a virtue I come by naturally, can you tell?)

Do you use any Digital Illustration or Design programs? If so, which ones? I can do digital illustration. And I have done so for some projects, but I prefer to work traditionally. I am very skilled in Illustrator and Photoshop (due to my background in advertising), and I need those programs for scanning my work. Recently I've been playing with added textures and things with photoshop. Not sure how I'm feeling about that yet.

How do you feel your web presence affects your work? I think a web presence is necessity. Potential clients can easily see what my work is like by checking out my online portfolio. Aside from that I love being challenged to come up with new illustrations for Illustration Friday. I love pushing myself to do better, for myself, but also to encourage other people that they can do the same thing. Being on the web helps me communicate and reach out to others. I love that. I've met some really good friends online and they encourage me, which helps my work.

Do you have any advice for art/design/illustration students? I would advise students to learn all you can while in school. Take every class that you think is even remotely interesting? including non-art related classes. The more you learn about the world, the better illustrator you are. It's ideas. Go to art shows, participate in group shows, see movies, read books and if you can, TRAVEL. I wish I would have gone overseas in school. But I moved so much I was never able to take part in those programs.

Oh, and I'd advise forming an art group. You can learn so much from other people...bouncing ideas off each other and collaborating.

Come to think of it, that's good advice for people not in school too. And for myself. You can always learn and grow. Ever evolving.

Comments Thank you!