Today we are sitting down with the wonderful Chelsea O’Byrne – a freelance illustrator who calls Vancouver home. She loves a needle and thread and can create whimsical illustrations made from masking tape to graphite – she’s a mixed media queen!
Your work is full of texture and your use of different kinds of media makes us want to touch our screens, what inspired you to explore the world of paints and papers? Have you always been a creative bean?
Thank you! My mom is an artist too so I kind of grew up around lots of different art supplies and craft materials. When I was in university I was surrounded by people making stuff with all kinds of materials, so that was when I really got inspired and started collecting a huge stash of art supplies. I started getting really into sewing and making my own clothes a couple of years ago too, so that hobby has introduced me to the equally vast world of textile materials.
Building on this, if there was only one material left on earth (other than paper) for you to illustrate with, what would it be and why?!
I’d have to go with a good old needle and thread. There’s something about embroidery that feels kind of alive; the work can move and twist and blow around in the wind. I find the act of embroidery very meditative and almost spiritual. I feel like it connects me to my ancestors who would have made and mended their own clothes by hand.
Chelsea studied at Emily Carr University and graduated with a BFA in Illustration in 2016. How did you find education as a whole? Did you enjoy studying a creative subject and did you find that it helped you develop as an illustrator? Is there anything a lecturer/tutor has said that has really stuck with you?!
I really loved my time at Emily Carr. It’s a very academic art school. About half of our courses were lecture-based and most of the studio courses had strong critical writing components to them too. I think the emphasis on critical thinking is what really helped me grow as an artist and a person, and the technical education was complementary to that. I was fortunate enough to have some of my all-time favourite artists as instructors and classmates, so their feedback was an essential part of my education too. The most useful piece of advice that I received in school was to just draw and not worry about it always being good.
We noticed that you love to feature female forms in your work, is there any particular reason for this or do you simply enjoy drawing more feminine characters?!
I took a lot of art history courses in school, and felt very frustrated with the fact that representations of women in the Western canon were almost exclusively created by men. I made a lot of work that pretty much only featured female characters. I am proud of that work and still think it’s empowering for women to represent ourselves, but lately I've been trying to branch out a little and draw some more diverse characters.
We love how history has played such a big part in the creative you have become today! Taking from this, what is one piece of advice that you would like to share with others?
You need to draw regularly in order to feel inspired, it doesn’t happen the other way around.
Living in Vancouver, what is the creative/art scene like in your corner or the earth?! Adding to this what are your favourite artists and illustrators that really inspire you to keep on creating?
I think Vancouver has a few different, smaller art communities rather than one homogenous one. This isn’t the easiest place for artists to live, so our art communities are pretty small compared to other cities like Toronto or L.A. But we have a lot of very tenacious and passionate people as well as some new initiatives like the Vancouver mural festival, so these things keep me motivated.
I am obsessed with childrens' book illustration (all of it, every era) and I am also inspired by many of my friends’ work. Some of my all-time favourite picture book illustrators are Ludwig Bemelmans, Adrienne Adams, Tove Jansson, Errol Le Cain. Some contemporary illustrators that I admire are Laura Carlin, Amy Cutler, Julie Morstad, Komako Sakai, Joao Ruas.
We love children’s books too! Finally! - what is a motto you like to live by?
Work hard but not too hard, enjoy the simple things, drink lots of water.
Thank you so much Chelsea!
If you’re a creative with something to share, don’t hesitate to get in touch! Check out our ‘contact’ page for more information!