Featured Artist: Denise Gallagher
We found Denise’s illustrations on the Brooklyn Art Project website. Denise obtained her BFA from the University of Southwestern Louisiana. As a lover of illustration and design, she became a graphic designer upon graduation.
Denise continued creating illustrations but did not have a style she could call her own. About seven years ago, Denise realized that although she was enjoying a creative career as a graphic designer, she had stopped doing anything simply for the joy of creating. When Denise was a child, she drew constantly. In college, she was never without her sketchbook. But as an adult graphic designer, she got to a point where she couldn’t remember the last time she had drawn for fun.
This was when Denise decided to start drawing again. She gave herself an assignment and a deadline each week. She had no client to please and no creative director to impress. Denise described how she regained her joy of creating artwork:
I loosened up, experimented, played with color and as I kept going, week by week, my style began to emerge. Even now, my style is continually evolving. As I worked, I posted my illustrations to a blog and after a year or so, I began to garner attention. I was invited to show work in a few art galleries and then had a couple of solo gallery shows. My works were included in the Society of Illustrators New York’s 51st Annual Show, the Society of Illustrators Los Angeles’ Illustration West 50th Annual Show and most recently, the Communication Arts Illustration Annual.
Most of Denise’s pieces left me with the impression that she was trying to narrate a story. In her own words:
I have described my work as glimpses of a grand and sprawling tale that has yet to be written. I like the viewer to wonder at the story behind each piece — to imagine what could have proceeded the scene or what may happen next. I tend to envision specific scenes, often when I am unable to get to my sketchbook. I create entire pieces in my mind and when I find myself with a pencil in hand, the entire illustration just tumbles out. The story meanders, with recurring themes and characters, but I let them do as they may — and even I am curious as to what the future might hold.
Denise was kind enough to answer our questions about her work.
Animals and their interactions with human beings are the focus of most of your artwork. Is there a theme that you would like to convey to the viewer?
Even as a young child, I was fascinated with animals. I was especially drawn to the unique or unusual — narwhals, aardvarks, sloths. I am still intrigued by the sheer wild-ness of beasts. Yet I long to be surrounded by them. So I play with the juxtaposition of wild things — snakes, bears or wolves — with infants, innocent and unafraid. And I play with the animals’ scale, their surroundings and sometimes grant them human attributes. Perhaps I am silently conquering deep-rooted fears or imagining an unachievable utopia.
Please describe your creative process and who has inspired your creativity?
I always begin an illustration in my head. I may think about an idea for days, soaking up tiny details in my surroundings — something I’ve read, a song lyric, a conversation. And when I’m quiet and still, the images come to me. And then I draw. I use a very sharp pencil and I draw. And when my drawings please me, I scan them. I work digitally, playing with layers — pushing and pulling the colors, patterns and textures. Working digitally allows me the freedom to play — to work until I am happy and when I feel that the piece is complete.
And as far as who inspires me? I wouldn’t be where I am without my family. My husband has been a driving force in my illustration career. He initially convinced me to start drawing again. He helps me with self-promotion and he cheers me on daily. And then there’s our son, Oliver. Oliver is six-years old and helps me to slow down and to see the world through his eyes. I am surrounded by their love and support and am inspired by them both.
As an illustrator, how do you market your artwork?
My illustration career has only recently taken off. I’m still learning a lot about the business, but I’ve found that networking has been the most useful (and enjoyable) marketing tool.
I attended ICON (the Illustration Conference) in Providence, Rhode Island this summer. While there, I was able to meet and discuss the business with many well-established illustrators. I was also fortunate enough to meet several art directors who responded favorably to my work and who gave me plenty of helpful self-promotion tips. I really learned a lot in one weekend!
I plan on attending more conferences as well as becoming a member of illustration societies such as the Society of Illustrators New York and the Society of Childrens’ Books Writers and Illustrators.
By doing these things and by continuing to market my work, I’m hoping my illustration career will flourish and you’ll find me happily drawing and creating in my little corner of the world for many years to come!
If you would like to contact Denise, please click here.