This is Penelope Dullaghan. Penelope is an illustrator.
I read on your website you used to be an art director.
“Yes, I started off as an art director for an ad agency. I worked there for close to five years. I kept getting illustrator's promos across my desk and thought, 'Oh man, there are people actually working as illustrators! What am I doing hiring illustrators, when I could be the illustrator?'
So I started using my own illustrations for clients. [A fast food restaurant] was one of my agency clients at the time. I hired myself to do their kids' menu. That went well, and was fun, so I started moonlighting at night as an illustrator. After about a year, I felt ready to make the leap to full-time freelance, and my career as an illustrator took off from there!”
“I did an event this past winter at the Indianapolis Museum of Art benefitting their teen art program. I don’t generally do my art in front of other people. It’s intimidating. I prefer to be alone in solitude. At the museum event I was so nervous! Just walking in and seeing all those people watching the other artists [made me want to] turn right around and go home! But it ended up being really fun. I did three pieces that were auctioned off and they sold right away! That was a good feeling.”
You have an agent. How did that come about?
“I’ve been with Scott Hull for over eight years. I approached him in the beginning and asked him to rep me. He said I needed to do more work. It sucked hearing that at the time, but it was the right thing to say. I appreciated the honest feedback. So I went to work. To get my portfolio up to speed and pad my portfolio, I started a website called Illustration Friday. The weekly assignments kept me accountable. From those self-assignments and some client work here and there, [my portfolio grew.] I would keep Scott updated on what I was creating. About a year later he wrote me back and said, 'I think you’re ready!'
“I no longer run Illustration Friday, but it's still a great site to inspire personal work for newbie illustrators.”
Does he find you most of your work or do people contact him wanting you?
“I think most clients contact him directly. After you've been doing illustration for awhile, people see your stuff places and want to work with you, too. Sometimes clients contact me directly, but I send all new business through him. It’s much easier. He handles all the paperwork, budgets and timelines. Stuff I don't necessarily enjoy. I get to [focus on] the art.”
How did you get started in watercolor?
“Watercolor is a pretty recent medium for me. I used to do mostly acrylics and digital. Two years ago we moved to a house with a river right behind us, That inspired me to try watercolors. I walk down by the river almost every day. Then do paintings based on my observations. Watercolors are great because they're pretty immediate. I can record my thoughts and observations quickly. As soon as I return home. A lot of these paintings end up in my shop. For my illustration work with clients it’s more of a mix. Some watercolor, acrylic and digital too.”
I see you’ve been experimenting with Lino cuts.
“I have. I’ve been doing this pattern-a-day series on Instagram. It’s really fun. I do them Monday through Friday and take the weekends off. Lino cut is an easy way to do them quickly. I also work with watercolor and drawing. It’s all experimentation seeing what works and what doesn’t. I love that it’s been influencing my client work so much. I’m more playful in my illustration work because of the daily pattern making.”
Are you experimenting with any other new-for-you processes?
“Yes. I’ve been playing with making stencils. I’m experimenting with different ways to make a mark, rather than just paint or pencil. It may be the beginning of something new... We’ll see. Even if it doesn't go anywhere 'productive'. I think it’s always fun to play and explore with art. It’s how I learn the best.
“It’s also really fun watching my six year old daughter do art. Witnessing her progress and watching her try different things. She’s been my number one source of inspiration. She’ll say, 'Look how I drew this cat,' and it’s the most bizarre, awesome thing! She's not judging or reining herself in at all. That's so inspiring!”