Drawing Pictures for a Living | Cathal Duane

Originally from Galway, Cathal Duane is a freelance illustrator now based in Sample Studios in Cork city. Here I asked him about drawing pictures for a living.

Fun Fact about Cathal: He sometimes eats cereal with a small spoon because it makes him feel like a giant.

self portrait_cathal duane
Self Portrait | Personal work, by Cathal Duane

How did you get started in illustration?

I have always been drawing ever since I was young so It was just a matter of figuring out how to make a career out of it. I studied Fine Art in Galway and started to really focus on illustration about 3-4 years ago.

What are the best and worst things about what you do?

I draw pictures for a living. The worst thing about this job is not getting enough work!

schadenfreude_cathal duane
Schadenfreude | Personal work inspired by the German word which translates to the joy found in the misfortune of others, by Cathal Duane

Your personal work is very dreamlike and imaginative. Where do your ideas come from?

I love a good juxtaposition and visual metaphor! While it is hard to say where any idea for my work comes from I do have a process of coming to an idea which is basically just simple old brainstorming and word association.

Can you talk about your process from idea to finished illustration?

With most of my illustrations, personal and commission, I tend to start off researching and brainstorming. I write down words I associate with the theme, subject or concept. Personally I try to avoid sketching at this point because I would be worried about stunting the thought process. Once I have exhausted myself thinking of words and using google to define said words I start with rough sketches and from this point on it is kind of like auto pilot until the finished piece which is usually done on photoshop or illustrator.


mountaineer_cathal duane
Mountaineer | Personal work from an ongoing childrens book, by Cathal Duane

How do you balance your personal work with your commissions?

While personal work and commissions are different I find they both feed into one another. Where commissions help to sharpening skills and processes, personal projects help develop new techniques and new perspectives. It can be seen in the work of a lot illustrators how the two aspects grow and develop along side each other as opposed to being two completely separate entities.

Where do you find inspiration?

I can’t pinpoint any specific thing that inspires me, it is more of a jumble of random and not so random things and thoughts. It could be anything from an interesting detail on a building to something funny I heard walking down the street. I am not very precious about where I draw inspiration from because I consider that the organic part, developing it into a finished piece is the part I have the most control over. Whatever makes me do a bit of a cough laugh out of the side of my mouth is what I try and focus on.

Listowel writers week_cathal duane
Listowel Writers Week 2016 | Competition submission, by Cathal Duane

How do you find the community of illustrators in Ireland?

I am a member of the group Illustrators Ireland which contains some of the best illustrators in Ireland. When I was starting out I got in contact with quite a few illustrators, mostly based in Ireland, some abroad, for advice on starting a career in illustration and I found that the majority got back to me and were incredibly empathetic to my situation and were very forthcoming with hints and tips. So I think the community of illustrators in Ireland is very strong and welcoming.

I hate to assume….. but I assume that there is not much difference between being an illustrator in Ireland and being one anywhere else in the world. I would question the importance of geographic location because of this thing called the internet. The Internet, if you can wade through all the top 10 lists and videos of of cheaters getting caught out by their spouses is actually a great platform to showcase your work to national and international clients and audiences. Of course every illustrator with access to the internet has the same platform so there is always the possibility of being drowned out. I think this problem applies to most creative endeavours not just illustration.

What are you working on now? What’s next?

I am currently stepping into the world of screen printing. I am working on a series of illustrations and prints based on a game of hide and seek.

the stranger_cathal duane
The Stranger | Personal work inspired by Albert Camus’ The Stranger, by Cathal DUane