Claudine O’Sullivan has used the same pencils for the last 15 years. But while her stationery may have stayed the same, her life has changed immeasurably since the days of teenage doodling.
I was always taught to work really hard and do what I love, but I never really put two and two together and thought ‘I’m going to be an illustrator’
Today her distinct, vibrantly coloured illustrations have garnered international acclaim and a client list including MTV, Island Records and Apple. However, this is a path she never expected to follow.
“I was always taught to work really hard and do what I love, but I never really put two and two together and thought ‘I’m going to be an illustrator’” admitted the Dublin-born artist. Instead Claudine opted to channel her passion into something more vocational, moving to London to study graphic design at the London College of Communication. A day job in design followed, while her art was relegated to evenings and weekends, as she slowly amassed freelance commissions. It was only last year when the work began piling up and she was “unable to sleep very much or have weekends” that she decided to take the plunge and set up as a full-time freelance artist. While she describes having her own illustration business as “mad” she has relished having a studio space to now separate her home and work lives.
The clients have kept coming too, although managing such widespread demand has its challenges. “My clients are all over the world, I’m working on a job for a client in Tasmania and also LA at the moment so I’m on all the different time zones,” said Claudine. “There are emails at 10 o’clock at night and also 2am.”
If I can keep doing this full time, working for myself, doing what I love, calling it a business, that’s the most important thing
Despite the pressures Claudine refuses to take shortcuts with her work or be influenced by industry fashions. “I try to not look at other illustrators, it’s such a trend driven industry, it’s almost like you’re going to subconsciously copy people if you’re devouring the work of others all day long,” she said. She seeks inspiration the same way she always has. “I’m observationally focused, so it does just come from me staring at whatever I’m drawing for a long time, taking lots of photos and just getting to see things in real life. That’s what’s really important,” she said. That includes regularly attending wildlife drawing classes in London.
She produces her illustrations by hand using coloured pencils, before they are scanned at a high resolution and digitally printed. Claudine also works digitally, hand drawing directly onto an iPad, a new process that resulted her winning the World Illustration Award for advertising earlier this year.
While Claudine is humbled by the plaudits, she is typically modest about future success. “If I can keep doing this full time, working for myself, doing what I love, calling it a business, that’s the most important thing,” she said.
So what is her advice for budding artists thinking of taking the leap into business? “Work hard and be nice. You’ll get a lot of jobs from being nice and good to people,” she said. “Meet new people, try to be confident in your work and it’ll work out.”
Check out Claudine O’Sullivan’s website here.