Interview with Becky Donnelly
Originally from Dublin, Becky Donnelly is a London based artist with a background in animation. However, deciding in favour of keeping traditional media at the core of her work has led her toward illustration, giving way to her wonderfully curious creations.
Becky is exhibiting at The Cluster Illustration Exhibition which celebrates emerging illustrators from different backgrounds with a diverse range of styles.
The exhibition runs from 27 Sept - 2nd Oct at The Old Truman Brewery.
Tell us about your upcoming exhibition as part of the Cluster Illustration Art Fair?
I was approached by Cluster a few weeks back about taking part in the exhibition, which is focused on providing a platform for emerging illustrators to showcase and sell their work. The exhibition is starting on Thursday 27th September at The Old Truman Brewery, and is open until Tuesday 2nd October. And yes, this is my first time exhibiting, so it’s safe to say I’m pretty nervous!
How are your illustrations created?
My work always begins with sketching on paper. Once I’m happy with a design I transfer it to watercolor paper and start painting, and subsequently I add line work with pen. I do the odd digital painting now and again, but I’m happier working with traditional media. Most of the time I only use Photoshop to clean up scans of my work.
How does your modelling tie in with your artwork?
I think a large part of any illustrator’s work is a response to the world around them, so being in the fashion industry has had an automatic influence on my mine. My illustrations are character based, and in some ways I find working as a model quite similar, as you are providing a visual extension of yourself.
Is there any underlying commentary to your drawings?
I think the central theme of my work is identity, more specifically, the contradictory nature of it. As a kid I was always drawn to monsters in stories; the fact that they are inherently flawed makes them more interesting and relatable as characters to me. So I guess with goofy creatures or sassy skeletons I’m trying to expand upon this. When a character is scary but funny, hideous but beautiful, or menacing but fragile, are they really a “monster” at all? Aren’t they just as human as us?
That being said, I’ve never felt a need for my work to be taken too seriously – sometimes I just feel like painting a one-eyed gremlin wearing harem pants and a party hat, and it’s really no more meaningful than that!
Your work has been featured by major fashion designers, how did
this come about?
The majority has happened through social media, which I still find pretty nuts. I’m immensely grateful for the response I’ve had from designers, it’s definitely not something I had expected. I’ve never really pictured myself as a fashion illustrator, despite my background, but I do enjoy putting a dark or humorous twist on the conventional ideas of fashion illustration. The fashion industry is controversial, and I guess my illustrations explore, even gently poke fun at, some of the stereotypes surrounding the topic.
Would you describe yourself as more of an independent artist?
So far I’ve worked independently, but the idea of collaboration has always appealed to me. I’m starting an MA in Illustration at Camberwell College of the Arts in October, so I’m hoping to have opportunities to work with other students on collaborative projects during my time there.
What type of paper do you think works best with your printed artwork?
I’ve had a lot of difficulty in the past finding suitable papers for producing prints of watercolor work, but the Hahnemuhle Photorag paper I’ve used for my exhibition prints has been a dream. The slight grain and matt finish really replicate the watercolor paper I use for my paintings, so the prints have retained the integrity of the originals. Honestly, side by side it’s hard to tell them apart!
It seems that your lifestyle is very much your career too. How do you take time out?
Pretty normal stuff really – hanging out with friends, binge-watching TV shows, expanding my useless ornament collection. The usual.
Tell us about your other upcoming projects.
With my MA just around the corner I’ll be focusing on that for now, and I’m looking forward to the opportunities that will bring!