Welcome to the world of Belfast-born illustrator Laura Callaghan. Laura is the latest focus of our ongoing Picsart x series, which shines a special spotlight on creators worldwide. Picsart x highlights standout talents across a diverse spectrum of creativity, including designers, musicians, artists, entrepreneurs, and more. If you’ve missed the first two editions with MegEmikoArt and Mojo Wang, be sure to catch up and check them out.
Like Meg and Mojo, Laura is a creator whose inspirational work is definitely deserving of your attention. She’s also a shining example of how you too can turn your passion into a professional pursuit.
Picsart x Laura Callaghan
For this edition of Picsart x we’ve teamed up with Laura for a special collection of Stickers, Backgrounds, and Templates, which you can use in your own creative designs. Her illustrations draw inspiration from the Spring Solstice, tarot, and astrology themes. They’re filled with so much color, character, and energy that they’re sure to get your creative juices flowing.
But, who is Laura Callaghan? Laura’s illustration work is so rich and distinctive that you’ll want to get to know her, so we sat down for a Q&A. Like Picsart, the Irish illustrator believes there are no rules when it comes to art. After all, in her own words, art is all about “bringing your own voice” to the creative process. Don’t be afraid to make yours heard.
Take a look at the behind the scenes making of one of her designs!
Now, let’s hear some more from Laura.
Q&A with Laura Callaghan
Tell us a little about your story. What first inspired you to become an illustrator?
I studied Graphic Design in college. Illustration wasn’t an option at that time and even if it had been, I’m not sure I really knew that ‘illustrator’ was a feasible job. During my final year of college I did a four-week internship in a graphic design studio and I quickly realized that it wasn’t for me. I had always found a way to bring illustration into my design assignments however, so I decided once I’d graduated to move to London and pursue a one-year Masters, to build my illustration portfolio and see if I could make money drawing. Although I was naive, I think that can be a good thing sometimes.
Having started out using traditional artistic methods, was it a challenge to transfer that skill set to digital mediums?
Not particularly. I work in a very analog way even with my digitally-colored work. I’ll always start with a pencil, paper, and ink, and then scan the illustration to digitize it and add color.
How did you transform your passion into a full-time pursuit?
Slowly! I worked full-time and part-time for seven years while illustrating on the side. It was tiring to do both, but not having to rely on my illustration to generate an income allowed me to experiment and make more personal work, which in turn led to client work. Once I had built up a client base and had a steady trade from my online shop – alongside some fallback savings – I felt confident enough to pursue illustration full-time.
Your work has a distinct and recognizable character and style. How tough is it to find that as an artist?
I don’t know that it is hard, necessarily. We all have a unique way of working, but it does require patience, and trying not to pay too much attention to what work is getting commissioned or featured online.
Art is repetitive. In lots of ways no-one is creating anything completely new. We’re all influenced by what has come before, but it’s about bringing your own voice to the page, screen, or whatever.
Are there any central themes that thread throughout your work that you find particularly important, both to you as an artist and to your audience?
I think the tone of my work rather than the theme is what ties it together. I’d say it’s darkly comic!
Do you ever hit a creative rut and, if so, what helps you start creating again?
[Laughs] Yes – it happens most months! I look forward so much to finding a window of free time outside of commercial illustration to make my own work that when the time comes there’s so much pressure to use it wisely, to create something great, that I freeze.
Getting away from my desk and going for a walk usually gets the wheels turning. I try not to feel guilty about setting work aside, so I watch a film or catch up with people, because often it’s doing those everyday things that sparks an idea.
How do you feel about the growing sense of community that your artwork has attracted? Is that something you’re aware of when you’re creating and does it affect what you do?
I try not to let it dictate what I make, but inevitably, it’s always there in the back of my mind. I’m aware people have come to my work for certain reasons and there’s an expectation to create more of the same, but I also don’t want my work to become stagnant. So it’s a balancing act.
What tools do you find most useful for creative expression?
Watercolor and gouache paints are my favorite tools. I find my illustration comes into its own when I use paint. There’s a certain amount of unpredictability to it which can produce surprising results.
Can you share a little insight into the creative process for these Picsart x Stickers, Backgrounds, and Templates?
The Picsart team and I discussed potential ideas for the series and hit upon Spring Solstice as an overarching theme. We wanted the artwork to be playful and colorful, which this theme really lent itself to. I looked to traditional tarot card illustrations for inspiration and tried to bring the graphic lines of those pieces to the work I created.
I started out by sketching rough options for the stickers and templates using lots of nature imagery, and considering how to represent the zodiac signs in a unique way. Once we picked the ideas that would work best in the format, I created some more finished sketches in pencil, and then I used a Lightbox to outline the artwork in an isograph pen.
I then scanned in the linework and digitally colored the illustrations. Again, I used the color palette of the classic tarot deck as a starting point. I wanted the final illustrations to be bold and impactful.
How do you feel about your Stickers, Backgrounds, and Template inspiring others to create something new?
I’m excited to see how people use the artwork. There are no rules when it comes to using the illustrations, so go wild.
Where do you see your creativity taking you throughout 2022 and beyond?
I’ll be working on some personal pieces for an upcoming exhibition later in the year. Personal work is so important to me. It gives me an opportunity to try out new things without any external pressures. I’m hoping to create some illustrated objects and just have some fun with my work this year.
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