I always wondered what it might be like to work as an illustrator in the real world and work with an agency. Cat O’Neil is an Edinburgh College of Art graduate from 2011, who has achieved notable success since finishing her illustration degree. Curious to find out more and showcase her incredible work, I asked her about what she did after graduation.
She says that rather than taking a break from an intense final year and degree show, she continued working and did a huge self promotional project, sending off her work to 30 prospective clients. She also went down to London and on recommendations from various people, visited a few agencies. She took her work to Eastwing, and immediately felt she fit in. They offered her representation on the spot and after some deliberation she decided to take it on. Over the summer she was kept working hard, doing many short projects, mostly product and editorial briefs, from which she received lots of critical feedback. At the start of the next term she was taken on as the illustration graduate studio assistant, and I remember she definitely worked very hard to offer help to all the illustration students, in particular, passing on her knowledge of programs such as photoshop and illustrator.
Over the past year, Cat did over 60 projects, hard work especially considering most were only one week long, however every one of her illustrations is still beautiful, quality work. She is half Chinese and you can see how her work has been influenced by some eastern art. Her line work has a flowing, calligraphic quality, and the warm, rich and vivid colours certainly have appeal that can be applied to a diverse amount of briefs.
Cat says that she believes experimentation is really important to keep your work fresh, and travelling is a good way to get inspiration — she recently travelled around Japan and Hong Kong. As an illustrator you definitely need to have the ability to make something interesting out of a non-interesting subject, its not just drawing pretty pictures.
At the moment she is an artist in residency position at ECA, taking on some evening and life drawing classes alongside various projects from her agency. She is also working on a very exciting project, doing illustrations for a graphic novel. She showed me some “roughs” from this (which look almost like clean, finished pieces in themselves) and I have to say I can’t wait to see it when its been completed. Doing a graphic novel is a daunting task for any illustrator, the amount of work involved is actually pretty insane, so hats off to Cat for taking on the challenge.
She has also had her work exhibited in various galleries and recently had her work published in 3×3 (a contemporary illustration index publication) so she had her work at the Somerset house exhibition earlier this year.
You can tell from the way Cat talks about her work how much enthusiasm and passion she has for illustration. She is incredibly hard working and knowledgeable so I have no doubt that she is going to go very far.
Visit Cat’s website , and if you like what you see don’t forget to like her facebook page to see more beautiful work!