Belfast-based illustrator and designer, Karen Murray works under the moniker, A Rose Cast. Here's the final instalment of The Daily Illustrator until next month. Karen applies her aesthetic to a range of products from prints and brooches to stationary and homewares on Etsy and Society 6. Karen shares some common ideas with us at Deadbeat about collaboration and promotion for other creatives which she talks about on her blog. Read on for the interview and some examples of Karen's work. Cheers!
WHEN DID YOU FIRST START ILLUSTRATING AND KNOW WAS IT SOMETHING YOU WANTED TO DO AS A PROFESSION?
I used to draw all the time as a kid and did GCSE and A-Level Art & Design. It was always my favourite subject and I always dreamed of becoming an illustrator. But by the time university came around, making a career out of it seemed impossible and I started to study Interactive Multimedia Design instead.
After eight years as a web designer, the job was becoming more and more orientated on making things work well, whereas my passion was in making things look pretty. The job just wasn’t giving me any satisfaction. By this time it had actually become possible to make a living for yourself as an illustrator thanks to online stores like Etsy and Society6, working with global companies remotely, and the ease of promotion over social media. So after saving up a bit, I stopped with the web design jobs and went full into learning how to become an illustrator.
WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR INSPIRATION?
A lot of it comes from modern feminist culture and somewhat alternative fashion. I tend to focus on drawing strong women, who often have vividly dyed hair and a tattoo or two, so I’m always drawn to those kinds of images. Looking at photographs of those things often starts my mind bubbling away and creating a concept for a new portrait piece.
HOW DO YOU GET THE IDEAS FOR YOUR ILLUSTRATIONS?
In the online world, Behance, blogs and Instagram; I follow a lot of makers and other creatives, and they help to keep my ideas bubbling away. In the real world, I just try to pay attention to what my eyes naturally lock onto, whether it’s a girl wearing something I love or who has beautiful hair, or even just interesting shapes.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEDIUM TO WORK WITH?
I’ve always loved watercolour. It’s what I found myself gravitating to back in secondary school, so when I started to train as an illustrator, it was the first medium I decided to try out again (as well as it’s cousin gouache). And different types of B pencil for line work and shading. I really like soft, dark pencils as they give a good level of contrast against the paint.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU ARE CURRENTLY WORKING ON?
Recently I’ve been branching out from solely selling prints and illustration work for clients, and into designing jewellery. So far these have been laser cut wooden pendants and brooches with my artwork printed onto them. It’s something I’m having a lot of fun exploring, and it means that people who like my work but don’t necessarily want an art print have another option. So at the moment a lot of effort is going into creating these pieces, especially as from March these items will be stocked in a well known store in Belfast city centre. I’ve also been working on a series of prints dedicated to my favourite author, Haruki Murakami, and working on a few fun bits of fan art for Q-Con.
CURRENT WORK PLAYLIST?
I’ve been really boring with music lately. I’ve been so busy with work I tend to stick Radio 6 on and leave it at that. Other than that, I normally have a little bit of Skunk Anansie, Regina Spector or St. Vincent on the go.
ARE THERE ANY ILLUSTRATORS THAT YOU ARE A FAN OF THAT DESERVE SOME EXPOSURE?
Tuesday Bassen - Playful and subversive illustration, focused on girl gangs and feminism.
Frannerd - Quirky and cute illustration, I love the way she uses watercolour. Also her videos are a great watch for budding illustrators
Megan Lara - Modern art nouveau, often combined with fandom. The things she is able to do with digital art are staggering
Helen Green - Another watercolourist who often focuses on the music industry