In conversation with World Illustration Awards winner Claudine O’Sullivan

The internationally acclaimed Irish Illustrator opens the doors of her studio for us at Spare Street.




Born and raised in Dublin, Claudine O’Sullivan has always been fascinated and intrigued by nature, colour and form. Claudine moved to London 8 years ago where she successfully completed a foundation degree in Art and Design at London College of Fashion and achieved a first class honours degree in Graphic Design at London College of Communication.



Claudine’s vibrant and coloured style ensures her work stands out from the crowd and has appealed to established brands such as WeTransfer, Tiger Beer, Derwent Pencils and MTV – the latter asking Claudine to decorate the walls and glass doors of their headquarters in Camden. Her distinctive works have gained international spotlight thanks to her feature in the worldwide Apple Pencil Campaign - her first experience with digital drawing. For this campaign, she has won the award for the professional advertising category in the World Illustration Awards 2017. Whilst she has a diverse commercial portfolio and large client base, Claudine still thinks of drawing as an act for herself: to relax and to connect with nature and her surroundings.



We met Claudine in her studio at Hotel Elephant, Spare Street to find out more about her winning project, her studio at Hotel Elephant and to get her advice for those starting out on a creative career. 


Hi Claudine! Congratulations on winning the advertising professional category as part of the world illustration awards 2017! How do you feel?

Great! I found out a few weeks ago and it was a massive surprise, I’m really looking forward to seeing all the other category winners and shortlisted entries.


Can you tell us a bit about your winning project?

This project was commissioned by Apple and consisted in creating campaign imagery for the Apple Pencil and iPad Pro. The brief was really simple, as I just had to work in my usual way but swapping traditional colouring pencils for the Apple Pencil. Initially, I was quite worried as I’ve been working with the same pencils for over a decade. The leap to digital was quite daunting, but it actually came surprising naturally once I tweaked the pencil setting to match. I created two illustrations, an owl and a bear. The whole process was on the iPad Pro, and has been recorded as a time-lapse using the Procreate app.



You draw a lot nature and animals in your work, can you tell us a bit more about what draws you to these subject matter?

 I’m a huge animal lover and have always connected with animals since a small age - like most kids I used to always draw my dog - I was obsessed with dogs and horses! l try to capture a sense of life and movement in my illustrations, and find nature a challenging inspiration. I travel out of London as much as I can to sketch and photograph, and I attend wildlife drawing classes every couple of weeks which are great! They’re run in different spots in London with a mix of different wildlife sanctuaries and charities.


How important do you think it is for illustrators today to embrace digital technology?

 I think the most important thing is to be different and to continuously develop. For me, working in traditional pencil has always been my most comfortable tool, this is where my aesthetic style has developed. That said, some of my personal favourite pieces are those that have pushed me in a new direction - be it through digital technology or larger scale murals. I think it’s important to try new things as an illustrator, which can be daunting - especially if you’re known for a very specific style.


You’ve had a space at Spare Street for nearly a year now - What do you like the most about working at Hotel Elephant?

 I love having a studio! I started freelancing full time about a year ago and was initially working from home. I found it quite hard to switch off - my desk and all my stuff was crammed into the small 1 bedroom flat I share with my husband. Having somewhere within walking distance that I can go to every day, put my head down, and then leave is really beneficial. It’s made me a lot more productive between 9 and 5 and I’m getting better at switching off and relaxing too.


Can you tell us a bit about how you use your studio at Hotel Elephant?

 I’m there almost every day Monday-Friday and occasionally at weekends if I have a deadline. I’ve got quite a simple set up - my desk is huge so it fits a drawing board and pencils and also a room for my laptop and iPad. Other than that I have a printer, bookshelf and some storage. I don’t have much in terms of decoration etc - I like to keep it as minimal as I can. At the moment it’s covered in plant leaves for a personal project I’m working on.



At Hotel Elephant we’re interested in creating a creative community and encouraging collaborative working - How important do you think collaborative working is to your industry?

 It’s definitely important! I think a lot of us creatives can be naturally quite introverted, even If I only speak for myself. Getting out of the house, meeting people, sharing ideas - all these things have fed my creativity, built up my confidence and have created a lot of opportunities for me.


Do you have any advice for recent graduates or those just starting who want a career as an illustrator or in the creative industries?

Work hard and be nice to people. Value your work and time - try not to work for free even when you're starting out! 


Claudine’s digital illustrations for the Apple Pencil campaign will be showcased at the World Illustration Awards Exhibition 2017 at Somerset House from Monday 31st July to Monday 28th August. Organised by the Association of Illustrators, in partnership with the Directory of Illustration in California, the exhibition will present 50 shortlisted projects across the eight award categories, from advertising and design to books and editorial.

Don't miss Claudine's solo exhibition ‘Leaves’ at Spare Street as part of London Design Festival 2017. She will be launching a new plant based print collection alongside an exciting plant display from Sprout London. 

Join us for the launch event on the 21st September 6pm - 9pm 

Exhibition will be running until Sunday 24th September, Open daily 10am - 6pm. 

Follow Claudine here: 

Facebook: claudineosullivanillustration

Instagram: @claudine_os

Twitter: @claudine_os 

(Words by Daniele Nolè)