Dublin based illustrator Fuchsia MacAree has a range of work full of unusual characters, bright colours and quirky maps.

She’s been freelancing since finishing college, working with a regular client base, taking on bigger projects and teaching part-time in NCAD. Dublin.ie sat down for a chat to find out more.

Dublin.ie: How did you get into illustration?
Fuchsia MacAree (FM): I’m from Killaloe originally. I studied Visual Communications in NCAD. I thought I wanted to do graphic design, then outside of college, I was illustrating for local magazines. I realised, illustration didn’t feel like work. So I thought, “Could I get away with doing just this?” I then did a Masters in Illustration, and started freelancing when I left college.

Dublin.ie: Do you think people misinterpret your job as an illustrator?
FM: When I say to people that I’m an illustrator, their response is often “Oh that’s nice”. I want to say “No, it’s actually a real job”. I don’t just draw pretty pictures. It’s hard to do well as an illustrator; you have to be conscientious to make work that’s actually successful. People respond well when you put loads of yourself into something. It’s more than just drawing for decoration. It has to work stylistically, but it has to have an idea or concept behind it.

You want to draw something that couldn’t exist as a photograph. There is a reason that publishers commission illustrators, rather than photographers.

Dublin.ie: Do you have a lot of freedom with your work?
FM: If it’s an editorial, I will receive the text of an article, dimensions and the colours. I am quite free to do what I want, and it is a challenge to do something that is not literally what someone describes. You want to bring something else to it, something a bit abstract, or emotion. If it’s someone walking down the road, you don’t want to literally draw that. You want to draw something that couldn’t exist as a photograph. There is a reason that publishers commission illustrators, rather than photographers.

Titanic – Fuchsia MacAree

Dublin.ie: A lot of your illustrations are of Dublin maps, can you tell us more about them?
FM: I illustrated a book with O’Brien Press, which is ‘Walking Tours of James Joyce’s Dublin’. That is what most of them are from. I did maps for the 1916 Event Guide and Parade Map too. Although there is only so many maps of Dublin I can draw, before I start repeating buildings.

Dublin.ie: Do you ever draw people you know in your illustrations?
FM: All the time. Any crowd scene. I was drawing someone recently and I had just bought a new dress, so I drew someone wearing that dress. I used to do a lot of maps and, for the crowd scenes, I would populate them with my friends. It’s easy to draw friends who have really curly hair, big glasses or something distinctive. There was a flight zine last summer, one of my map illustrations was in it. I was on a flight with about 8 of my friends on the way to a wedding. All the people I had drawn in the map were my friends on the plane!

Dublin.ie: What are you working on at the moment?
FM: I just finished a mural on the Google Data Centre in Dublin. Myself and a guy from Belgium made designs for the outside of the building. I designed it, and then a company painted it. They scaled it up onto architect’s paper, plotted it out, and then painted it using a giant colour-by-numbers chart. I just gave them the designs, and they didn’t tell me anything until it was finished. It’s on film, a clip of me seeing it for the first time. It’s mad! I went up to it, and one of the character’s heads was so big compared to what I had drawn. It’s amazing to see my work at such a huge scale.

The Data Center Mural Project

Keeping Cool in Dublin

Dublin.ie: What exactly is the Data Centre?
FM: It’s where the internet physically is, where the cloud is. If you send an email, it goes through there. It’s weird to think that this place exists, and now my illustration is on the outside. I went in, and it felt like a movie or something. It’s head-wrecking to think information goes through there, but physically so fast. It’s something I never even thought about before, until going there.

Illustration work for NCAD

Dublin.ie: You did a residency in Facebook. What was it like?
FM: They basically get artists or designers in to run workshops, make zines, prints, murals, basically make whatever they want. It’s all internal designs for the staff. They have analogue labs, which are rooms full of art and design equipment. If you make a run of prints, they send them to offices all around the world. If you are in the New York office, there is a range of prints that people from all the other offices have done.

Dublin.ie: What do you think of the Dublin art and design scene?
FM: The last few years, especially with more contemporary illustration coming in, we seem more on par with European cities and European design. I teach in NCAD part-time. Every year, I notice a few people who are really amazing. Talent is growing.

Dublin.ie: How do you spend a day off in Dublin?
FM: On Sunday I went for a cycle around the Phoenix Park. If the weather is moderately ok, I would go to Seapoint for a swim. Probably have a few pints after that, maybe a few chips! I really like The Little Museum. Screen 1 of The Savoy is really good too. I like getting out of the city. I get itchy or cooped up if I’m in the city for too long. Dublin is great, it’s so quick to get out of the city and into a suburban area.

If you’d like to see more of Fuchsia’s work, check out her website: WWW.MACAREE.IE

Genevieve is a sunset child from the west of Ireland, now living and working in Dublin as an advertising creative. She doodles, she dreams, she travels, she schemes.

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