I distinctly remember being fifteen and deciding I wasn’t going to stay in Ireland. I first moved to the UK ten years ago. London and the UK in general is definitely at the forefront of commercial illustration, so it’s a great place to be.
However, if you’re an illustrator these days, once you’re business savvy you can easily live anywhere in the world and it won’t impact your career. I think with social media, Skype and FaceTime, the world is your oyster. I’m constantly working around the UK, Ireland, France, Asia, etc. and I encourage all illustrators to actively pursue international work if they want to sustain and grow their career.
I got my Bachelor of Design in Visual Communication from DIT, Dublin but I was never a Designer. I was just mad into screen printing and liked the environmental and consumer psychology elements to the course more than anything else. In third year I did an Erasmus in Surface Design at LCC, which was basically a year of screen printing on anything. As the term ended I got a six-week internship as a PA in Print Club London that got extended to the whole summer. That led to me co-curating their Annual Show Blisters Blackout that year. By April I was close to graduating and got a letter offering me a Studio Manager position for all three of their studios once I had graduated – so two months later I legged it to London!
The Association of Illustrators (AOI) was set up in 1973. We are the only organisation providing highly-trained direct advice to illustrators, pushing industry and commissioners for better fees and conditions. We now advise well over 2,000 illustrators, agents, universities, commissioners and other societies around the world. I’m the Membership Manager there so I’m the main point of contact for advising all our members on pricing, licensing, client negotiation, copyright, contracts, etc.
The prestige that comes with the AOI being based in Somerset House, on South Bank in London cannot be underestimated. To be able to host our World Illustration Awards here each year and then tour is also another plus. The final exhibit showcases the full shortlist of 200 works. It explores what illustration means today, how it shapes our world and understanding, and how the artform itself is changing.
I’m very proud of the progress we are making, and am aware that it is often the countries where the work is most outstanding where the conditions are often the worst. I’m grateful to have people around me to let me pursue these connections to bring those countries on par with the UK and push together for our rights as a global industry.
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