Illustrator Penelope Dullaghan
has artistic talent in her blood. Her grandmother was a painter, her father a
draftsman and she has cousins in the Windy City who work as tattoo artists. "I
guess I come by it naturally," she says. Indeed, her drawings of a
bubble-blowing boy, flying elephants, and a red-seated tandem bike hint at
whimsy and a someone with a serious sense of fun.
click to enlarge
Penelope Dullaghan describes motherhood as both a challenge and an opportunity for her creative output.
"I always loved to draw,"
Dullaghan offers, while discussing the graphic design degree she attained while studying at the University of Indianapolis.
"I didn't think I could pay the bills with a fine arts degree," she says, which
led to her aforementioned study and an internship and eventual job as art
director with advertising agency Young
& Laramore. Dullaghan
worked with Y&L for nearly five years and loved what she did. "I would hire
illustrators and use my own stuff when it was appropriate," she says,
discussing kids' menus she did for Steak & Shake.
She spent about a year
moonlighting for clients and friends before she ventured into freelance work.
"I illustrated little books for people, portraits of houses for friends, stuff
for The Indianapolis Star and a bunch
of local stuff." She speaks of her then-"cutesy" style which she accomplished
with a rapidograf,
a technical pen most familiar to architects, engineers and anyone looking to
draw the finest of lines. "My style didn't expand the way I wanted it to," she
says of the watercolors and line drawings she did, resulting in a change to the
way she drew.
draws by hand -- her materials include India ink, watercolor, and charcoal --
before scanning her work and sending a digital file to a client, whose ranks
have included Crate & Barrel, United Airlines, Scholastic Books, and Vegetarian Times. Working with a digital
file allows her to make changes that a client might want. "I used to do full-on
paintings and give them to clients. They would request changes" -- an adjustment
to a color, for instance -- "and I couldn't really make them." Now that she
works with the finished product in Photoshop, however, she can easily make modifications
and produce work more quickly.
Dog was an assignment for Houghton Mifflin.
The past 10 years have
found Dullaghan working with "a lot of fantastic
clients -- I've been really fortunate." She's currently experimenting with line
drawings and patterns and would like to see that work go somewhere. She's in a
good position for diving into her work. With her 5-year-old daughter recently
starting kindergarten, Dullaghan's days are a bit more open. Previously, her work-from-home schedule was split between client work
and taking time for play. Of her daughter, Dullaghan
says, "She is by far my biggest inspiration. She is amazing."
Speaking with both
wonder and love in her voice, Dullaghan describes her
daughter's art. "I love the way she draws things, interprets things." The
artist doesn't draw anything her daughter requests, wanting instead to see what
her progeny comes up with. "I knew if I said, 'Here's how you draw whatever'
that she would change [her style] and I didn't want that to happen."
Tantrum was created for the Baltimore Sun.
"Most of my job is visual
problem-solving," Dullaghan says, explaining that
clients task her with conceptually finding solutions. "A visual speaks quicker
than a headline or caption, and I have to figure out how to do that." Because
that kind of work lends itself to a kind of rigidity -- needing to quickly capture
the attention of thousands of readers, for instance -- Dullaghan
is happy for the openness she is learning from her daughter. "Being more loose
and free with fine arts is a complete brain shift."
Freelance work isn't
always easy. Though Dullaghan has met with success,
she's "worked [her] tail off" and has to deal with the "artist's brain," best
described when Dullaghan cries out, "I SUCK, I SUCK, I
SUCK -- okay, that's not too bad," followed by a deep laugh. "There are so many fantastic
artists and people doing so much wonderful work. How do I make my work stand
out? That's a challenge."
battles the mania of the ever-busy mind by taking a daily walk with her husband
near their house. After dropping their daughter off at the bus stop, the two walk
by White River. "It's calming and a nice way to ground myself before the craziness
of the day starts," she explains. Once they return home, the spouses hole up in their separate offices and work until their daughter
gets home from school. "I'm done after that so that I can be a mom," she says
click to enlarge
A Liberal Amount Of Time is a visual comment on Dullaghan's experience with motherhood.
When asked if working
from home along with her husband causes any issues, she says no. "I think most
people would get sick of someone being all up in your cheese fries all the time,"
she says, but explains that they're both introverted homebodies. Being at home
allows them to bounce ideas off each other. "He says, 'Read this script' and I
say, 'Look at this drawing' -- it works well."
has been welcoming her art back ever since her daughter was born. "When I got
pregnant, my creativity was zapped. I became a stay-at-home mom and had to cut
back my workload significantly." The trade-off seems to be that Dullaghan was given the opportunity to just play. "I think
that helps ignite creativity," she says, adding that it's awesome now that her
daughter is old enough to explore how she commits an artistic idea to paper,
from the materials she selects to the style of work she chooses. "I'm trying to
work more free, trying to play," Dullaghan says.
Sending her daughter to
kindergarten was a big change for Dullaghan, who
didn't initially handle the transition well. Her print, "A Liberal Allowance of
Time," is the result of feeling lost. The print illustrates a woman on her side
in a body of water as though she is a river rock. The Thoreau
quote Dullaghan included at the
bottom of the piece came into her life right when she needed it most. Instead
of forcing herself through the change to her routine, she learned to take time
to just be. "I needed to stop trying to shape [the experience] into something
and just let gentleness happen." Now, just a few months later, Dullaghan says she is "on fire creatively" and riding the
wave as long as she can. "Everything changes," she says matter-of-factly.
View a selection of Dullaghan's colorful prints in her shop
before it closes at the end of the month. You can also find her on Facebook
or her favorite site, Instagram.
Chi Sherman enjoys writing essays and poetry, being a documentary nerd, and hanging out with her family and friends. Her work has appeared in NUVO, The Huffington Post, and, sporadically, on her blog.
This Saturday Clowes Memorial Hall will bring It Gets Better to the stage for a powerful and entertaining message of hope and support to the LGBTQ community -- and especially to its youth and their loved ones.