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.
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.