I don’t come from an artistic background but I was always given space to draw, the materials and tools to draw with. The dining table was my drawing board/studio area, it was always the area where the family was near, I liked the engagement and enjoyed the comments. Comics were an integral part to my early art experience. Bold exciting images in Judge Dredd and 2000AD really left a lasting impression, they helped me to read, understand the visual narrative and pacing. I’d often create my own characters or my own comic stories, some short others over several issues. My mum was very good at giving feedback she could really look at my work and be critical, I didn’t always want to hear it but I think that is why I sat and drew at the dining table to get her critique.
I was always defined as the kid who could draw. That support from the teachers really fuelled my confidence and my skills in communicating. In secondary school my art teacher introduced me to the possibilities of a career in the arts and the support and guidance to get me to art college.
After University I worked with an interior design studio in Belfast, the owner had been impressed by my degree show, I’d written and adapted an illustrated comic of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, taking great care to properly visualise Nemo’s Nautilus, based on the strength of that design I went on to create art work for pubs, restaurants and nightclubs nationally and internationally.
Since becoming a freelance illustrator 15 years ago I’ve had the opportunity to work for a wide range of companies and organisations, each with a different idea of the purpose of illustration. Some want you to tell a very specific story, others to sell their product or visualise an idea. Versatility is essential and tackling these different expectations on a daily basis can keep things interesting and challenge my practice. Over the years I’ve often been presented with or sought out challenging projects, opportunities to draw tricky subjects or render difficult concepts in pen and ink. Feedback while no longer coming from the dining table, from clients offers the chance to reflect on my skills and approach it is often within the narrow context of the brief and there are few opportunities to discuss and develop my ideas with other creatives.
For my own professional development I will also create personal artworks with a focus on either trying something new with an idea or look of character or a personal take on an existing character. This is I suppose how I started my journey as a creative and I do this to unwind and for fun, sometimes they just stay in my sketchbook if I really like what I’ve done I will finish it off to go in my folio.
Keeping it touch with other creatives is essential and last year I watched in envy as my wife Ciara enjoyed the creative dialog between her and her sketchbook partners, I was really glad I could be part of 2017’s circle of creative people. I’m finding it difficult at times, as I can be a little spent creatively on commissioned work. I’m looking forward to hitting my stride and see where my partners can take me.