We first spotted Cathy’s work popping up a few months ago over on her Instagram and we were immediately drawn to her beautifully illustrated visuals. We love how Cathy’s work is really personable and welcoming, with friendly, fun colours and visually pleasing patterns, Cathy’s talent will surely take her far.

First up, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?

I have been living in Cork city since graduating from Limerick School of Art & Design in 2018, where I studied Graphic Design. I have had an interest in illustration for as long as I can remember. My mum is an artist so she encouraged me from a young age and I picked a lot up from her growing up. I have memories of her teaching me about light and shade before I could ride a bike. Illustration was always something I found fun, starting with crayon drawings to MS Paint to entering art competitions to angsty teenage sketchbooks. I have a passion for design which greatly influences the way I draw. I was always quite bad at maths and languages, but art is a universal language that makes sense to me. It was only until after college that I realised illustration could be a career, and people actually do this for a living.

What is some of your favourite personal work you’ve done and why?

Some of my favourite pieces of work come from having no plan, just sitting down and letting it happen. A few illustrations that I like the most are The Waiting Room, a piece of work I did recently, inspired by sitting across from someone in a waiting room and not knowing where to look! I like the retro feel to that one.

Another illustration of mine that I think came out well is the poster I did for the Creatives Against Covid19 campaign this year entitled “Soon”. The composition of this is what I like about it, the huge block of distance between the two is amplified in that it takes up nearly the whole page. Also, this colour palette is my go-to at the moment.

“Watching Over” is the final one I’d like to mention, as it was inspired by growing up surrounded by hills and farms in the Tipperary countryside, and the use of blue tones gives it an eerie atmosphere.

Who are some of your favourite illustrators and who inspires you?

Illustration by Quentin Blake

Growing up I loved reading, and I was greatly inspired by Nick Sharratt and Quentin Blake (illustrators for Jacqueline Wilson and Roald Dahl books) along with anything shown on Cartoon Network.

These days I am inspired by illustrators such as Frederique Matti, an illustrator based in Amsterdam whose work I came across a few years ago. I really admire the colourful, long limbed characters she creates using clean lines and colour.

Illustrations by Marc Conlan

Mark Conlan is another person I look up to. He is an Irish illustrator based in Melbourne, who creates beautiful figure illustrations and has a sketchy style.

Illustration by Fuchsia Macaree

Fuchsia Macaree, based in Dublin, is also a huge inspiration of mine. Her use of colour and humour in her work is what stands out most to me - something I’m definitely trying to incorporate. I am also constantly inspired by illustrators all over the world through Instagram every day.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time and what’s your dream project to work on?

In 5 years time I see myself with my own website and extensive portfolio. Selling prints is something I’d love to do! I would like to work either part time in a design agency, part time illustrator, or be a full time freelance illustrator. I love design, and I’m very lucky in my job that I can incorporate my passions into the work I do. However, illustration is the way forward for me - I just have to find my feet and see if I can make it work as a career. My dream project to work on would be illustrating a book of some kind.

How do you schedule in so much awesome illustration work around your full time gig?

I wish I was doing more! I try and look at it as another job, even if I’m not getting paid or it’s just for practice and no one will see what I make. It helps to keep a goal in mind. It’s so easy to switch on Netflix and not bother, but once I start it becomes a form of meditation for me. I tend to zone out and really focus on what I’m making (which is rare as I’m easily distracted!) The hardest part is starting.

What’s your work station setup & favourite tools etc?

I work at the kitchen table! The dream is to have my own studio and desk one day. Occasionally I would draw sitting on the couch but I find some sort of chair/desk situation a lot better. It does need to be quiet though with no distractions. I usually use Procreate on the iPad for illustration. The Apple Pencil is an excellent tool for drawing and Procreate has so many brushes and features. I also use Adobe Illustrator and sometimes a Wacom Intuos tablet with that using my laptop. I normally draw a rough sketch first in Procreate before going over it. I do sketch on paper to start off with but my sketchbooks are always a mashup of scribbles mixed with shopping lists or random loose pieces of paper. I wish I was the type of person that kept sketchbooks as pretty as the finished piece!

And finally, what would be your 4 top tips to illustrators looking to make it but are struggling to stay motivated?

My top 4 tips are:

  1. Start small but have a goal. I’m guilty of thinking of the big picture constantly and not being present in the moment, looking for success straight away. This leads to overthinking possibilities with little to no outcome. Focus on the task at hand, be it one illustration, a practice sketch or creating a colour palette. I have learned that this is a slow process, and you won’t make it overnight. Plus - you are always learning and growing, there are no experts in this field and everyone has to start somewhere.
  2. Don’t worry too much about your style. Make what comes naturally to you and try not to force it. Take inspiration from work that inspires you but try not to copy. This can be difficult at the beginning but if you stick with it your own style will develop naturally. I thought I didn’t have a style, but people tell me they recognise a piece of my work straight away. Find what works for you and run with it, and if it changes that’s okay too!
  3. Don’t compare yourself to others. It is so easy to scroll through instagram and immediately feel inadequate. This leads to over analyzing your own work and comparing until it stops you from creating. There is no right and wrong way to do things. Everyone is unique and art is subjective. If you do what feels right for you, there are people out there who will appreciate that and will want to see more.
  4. Continually work on practice projects and conceptual work! The Illustration Briefbox set is a great starting point if you're looking for some inspiration of what to work on and I'd highly recommend checking out the practice projects available at Briefbox :)

Cathy Hogan is an illustrator based in Cork, Ireland.
You can find more of her work over here: https://www.instagram.com/cathyhogan_illustration