Conor McClure is a Belfast based illustrator who graduated from the University of Ulster. In 2014 he was given the opportunity to take part in the Artist In Residence program within the University, gaining valuable lecturing experience as well as continuing to work in the creative environment of the studio spaces.
He has continued to built up a portfolio of work centred around the music and film industry, which incorporates many mediums, including pen and ink, screen print and spray paint, with a passion for a hands on approach of mark making and experimental use of texture and layout before working digitally. His client list is ever expanding and diverse, ranging from local Irish folk and punk bands, skateboard companies and street art murals for the National Trust, as well as a personal interest in photography, which is often incorporated into the documentation of his work.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST START ILLUSTRATING AND KNOW WAS IT SOMETHING YOU WANTED TO DO AS A PROFESSION?
Like most creative people I have been drawing from a very young age. I still have little comic strips and short stories that I illustrated when I was a kid. One of the first times I actually felt proud of something I had drawn was winning a Beatrix potter illustration competition through Waterstones when I was maybe 8 years old, for decorating Peter Rabbits living room. It may seem silly now, but it was probably the first realisation that drawing could be more than just a hobby, and with enough time and effort could actually be something I was alright at.
Through secondary school the majority of my time was spent in the art rooms, to the determent of my other subjects and annoyance to the rest of my teachers. But painting and drawing was one of the few things I was really passionate about. I would happily sit up all night cutting out stencils or doodling on my bedroom walls.
When it came to choosing what I was going to study in university, it seemed like going on to do the foundation degree was the obvious and only choice, with no real clue where that could take me. In school we where never really introduced to other mediums besides painting whats sitting in front of us, or working with clay or making completely impractical dresses, so when I first got to try out illustration and experimental ways of working, without the intention of making something necessarily beautiful and accurate I pretty much instantly fell in love. This combined with my passion for working digitally and playing about in photoshop seemed to be the perfect route to go down.
I still struggled to decide whether to concentrate on photography, design or illustration for some time, but after 3 years of working a design job and resenting the 9-5 life In the past 2 years I have made the conscious decision to dedicate my time almost solely to illustration, and haven't looked back since.
WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR INSPIRATION?
I love photography, particularly film photography so I try and work my own photos into my work wherever possible, even if it is just to document the process, but through the years I have accumulated a large collection of photography magazines and books which have endless imagery to draw from. Whenever I am really stuck for ideas on what to draw I have a photography book by William Wegman with the most ridiculous array of dogs in costumes that is always fun to draw from. I also have the luxury of living right next to the forest and a duck pond so can always go for a walk to escape for a bit and clear my head and come at an illustration with fresh eyes, which I find to be a massive help.
HOW DO YOU GET THE IDEAS FOR YOUR ILLUSTRATIONS?
Most of my illustrations are based around current events, twitter beef, the latest TV series I am bingeing, just whatever is floating around in my head at that moment. Recently I have been making a conscious effort to take an interest in American politics, and this has been a constant source of inspiration, as well as amusement just from the sheer ridiculousness of the whole thing. I cannot claim to know a lot about politics, but when the opportunity arises to make an image taking the piss out of someone with any kind of power I will happily jump at the chance!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEDIUM TO WORK WITH?
Most of work is usually hand drawn with pen and ink and then scanned in and worked on digitally, so often I don’t add colour or overly consider layout until I am working on the computer. I do prefer the hands on approach and actually getting messy and covered in paint. Probably where I am most in my element is while screen printing, although I don’t get to nearly enough these days, but the satisfaction of lifting the screen off the page and seeing an image appear is one of the greatest feelings in the world to me, as sad as that sounds.
I also really enjoy working with spray paint on a large scale. I've been lucky enough to recently have the chance to paint a big mural of butterfly wings outside the Duke Of York as part of the National Trusts spring campaign.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU ARE CURRENTLY WORKING ON?
I am currently working with 2 skateboard companies based in Belfast, on some new board designs for ‘Wireless Skateboards’, as well as a range of clothing for ‘Hoods’, with some pretty humorous designs dropping soon. They are both small independent companies, and although my skateboarding days are long past me its cool to help out a scene that I have followed from such a young age, especially growing up admiring skateboarding graphics and cutting up skate magazines!
CURRENT PLAYLIST AS YOU WORK?
I am a big fan of podcasts, after only really discovering how good they are to work to in the past year, so at the minute I am following ‘The worst idea of all time’, which in brief is 2 Kiwi comedians watching the worst movie they could think of every week for a year. So far I have listened to roughly 100 hours of them talk about Sex and the City 2 and Grown Ups 2 and following their inevitable demise into insanity. Apart from that, ‘This American Life’ is always good for an interesting story, and I have recently been suckered into paying for Spotify premium so trying to get my moneys worth with some old school hip hop playlists!
ARE THERE ANY ILLUSTRATORS THAT YOU ARE A FAN OF THAT DESERVE SOME EXPOSURE?
I am lucky enough to currently be working with Belfast's first illustration agency, Usfolk, so am surrounded by the best talent Belfast has got to offer, which is great to motivate you to keep making more and more work!
I am a big fan of Jacky Sheridan's work. We took part in the Artist in residency program in the University of Ulster together and have many fond memories of blasting Wu Tang and doodling rappers with classes going on in the next room. Her style is so darkly humorous and never fails to make me smile when I see it pop up online!
John McFarlane is another insanely talented illustrator who I had the pleasure of working alongside in uni, and who has just released an awesome looking game called Wailing Heights, by Outsider Games, with all the comic art done by himself! I haven't got a chance to play it yet, but I am looking forward to giving it a go! The amount of work that has went into is pretty amazing, he has more patience than I ever could, so I highly recommend you give it a download and try it out!