The Daily Illustrator : Neal McCullough
It's that daily dose of The Daily Illustrator, today, featuring Bangor based practitioner, Neal McCullough (Hand Drawn Creative). Neal talks pretty candidly about his experience in the industry moving from a graphic design studio into freelance work, talking about favourite tools to use, current projects and inspirations. Read on to find out more and check out some examples of work. If you want to get involved with The Daily Illustrator, click through here and leave us a message. Thanks!
WHEN DID YOU FIRST START ILLUSTRATING AND KNOW WAS IT SOMETHING YOU WANTED TO DO AS A PROFESSION?
From childhood I was always drawing. My parents doodled all the time when I was a kid. Drawing was something we did for fun in our house. I never really stopped drawing for pleasure throughout school or university. I suppose I’d always wanted to illustrate professionally, but was always told by teachers and school friends that it could never be a realistic career option. It wasn’t until I’d been to University to study business that I realised I’d rather die than crunch numbers or sit in cubicle until I was 65. So I studied graphic design for a few years and got to work in the creative industries and after racking up 10 years studio experience as a Graphic Designer. At this stage I was putting a lot of research into professional illustration as a career, so once redundancy struck in 2009 (as tends to happen in Advertising) I was prepped and ready to go solo as an Illustrator.
WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR INSPIRATION?
I’m a massive fan of Americana; old diner signs, mid century furniture design and 50's pin up illustrations, so I surf Pinterest a lot for inspirational imagery and colours. Aaron Draplin’s instagram feed is full of goodies. Also, illustrators in the 90’s like Rian Hughes and Monsieur Z, who were re-imagining retro illustration using Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia FreeHand. These two european artists really inspired me to look into vector illustration as a medium. I also collect a lot of images when I’m out and about. If I like the colour of someone’s wall or see an old vintage sign I’ll snap it and save it for later.
HOW DO YOU GET THE IDEAS FOR YOUR ILLUSTRATIONS?
Spending 10 years in Graphic design had left me a little dazed – I was so used to working from a client’s brief or Creative Director’s instructions, I didn’t really come up with many of my own concepts. So when I’m drawing something for myself I usually keep it simple by drawing something I’m passionate about in my everyday life. Classic guitars, vintage trainers & cars, or favourite old cartoon characters like Judge Dredd or Dan Dare. I always keep a notebook handy if a new idea strikes me, I scribble down a note or make a quick sketch I can refer back to. I’ve got a real thing about classic watch design at the minute, so expect to see something wristwatch related in the near future.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEDIUM TO WORK WITH?
I’m a vector man, and have been since the mid-90’s. I trained myself to use Macromedia FreeHand, seeing an opportunity to make my (usually scrappy finished artwork) look really clean and polished, as well as having precise control over colour. Once FreeHand was discontinued, I jumped ship to Adobe Illustrator and really started to get serious. I still have a big box of markers and artpads though. Most of my ideas start as a sketch and I always draw my weekly newspaper cartoon (for the County Down Spectator) by hand.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU ARE CURRENTLY WORKING ON?
I rounded off 2015 with a great job for Harp Lager which saw my illustration wrapped around the front and back of the Belfast Telegraph. I’ve also just been invited to design with a Fashion company in America, I’m pretty excited to see where that goes. I’m also actively pursuing agency representation. I’ve spent a lot of time this month emailing agents all over the world. I’m keen to ramp things up internationally again after a year of work focused mainly in Northern Ireland
CURRENT PLAYLIST AS YOU WORK?
I mainly play podcasts in the office. Working alone is pretty quiet and there are times when you miss the old office banter. So I’ll put on anything from Marc Maron to Adam Buxton, or Mark Kermode’s movie review or Adventures in Design. But there are always times when you need music to help with creativity, I listen to a lot of Can, Stone Roses and Thin Lizzy these days.
ARE THERE ANY ILLUSTRATORS THAT YOU ARE A FAN OF THAT DESERVE SOME EXPOSURE?
Most illustrators I know are pretty well established and I’ve been surprised to discover more than a few of the best Illustrators in Northern Ireland live within a few miles of me. I’m always blown away by the humorous and crazy output from Andy Hamilton and the award-winning Jonathan McHugh. Both these guys live literally around the corner from me in Bangor. And of course there’s always Mark Reihill, who’s always been a great supporter of my work. That guy’s just a rockstar!