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Working with Pictures: Eirian Chapman

Read Friday, 2 Sep 2016

Eirian Chapman is a Melbourne-based illustrator and graphic designer. Her work has appeared in Wallpaper, Monocle and GQ and she’s illustrated this year’s Big Issue fiction edition. Her advertising clients include Schweppes, Mercedes and many more. Eirian chatted with us about big breaks, bad advice and Fungus the Bogeyman.

Illustration: Eirian Chapman
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What was the first illustration you had published? 

Photo of Eirian Chapman
Eirian Chapman

In the year after I graduated from Communication Design at RMIT, I was published in Wallpaper UK’s Graduate Directory for 2007, representing Australia. They chose one of my drawings of a masked girl in a cat suit, drawn in black pen and gold paint. I was pretty stoked.

What’s the best part of your job?

The 2016 Big Issue fiction edition
The 2016 <em>Big Issue</em> fiction edition

Drawing all day, of course! Plus I really enjoy working from my home studio, especially in winter. I can blast some hip hop and cook my own meals, as well as harass the cat.

What’s the worst part of your job?

There are very few bad things about my job but sometimes the isolation of working by myself can make me go a little crazy. Luckily my partner works from home when he’s not at the RSPCA helping the kitties.

What’s been the most significant moment in your illustrating career so far?

I was really happy with the work I did last year for the Schweppes Lost in London campaign. In tandem with my agent, the Jacky Winter Group and the guys at [advertising agency] George Patterson Y&R, we worked on creating the visual story of a couple lost in the streets of London. The illustration was then applied to two limited edition drinks inspired by London. I was invited to the launch of their London pop-up bar to celebrate, but spent the whole time checking out contestants from The Bachelor who happened to be there.

Another significant moment was the illustrations I did for Monocle magazine in their edition dedicated to Australia. Monocle was on my wish list for ages and to work for them finally was a career highlight.

Illustration for March 2016 edition of Monocle
Illustration for March 2016 edition of <em>Monocle</em>

What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about illustrating?

Illustration for a story on Agatha Christie's poisons for February-March 2016 edition of Cosmos
Illustration for a story on Agatha Christie’s poisons for February-March 2016 edition of <em>Cosmos</em>

The worst advice I got when I decided to make the decision to quit working full time as a graphic designer, and start my freelance illustration career, was not to do it. I had a few people tell me that there was no work and no money in illustration, but there is, you just have to work for it.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself?

As I often do work via email and very rarely meet my clients I have often been mistaken for a man. I guess it could be the name? (It’s both a male and female Welsh name). In a way, I like that my work might look gender neutral.

If you weren’t illustrating, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

I’d do something that gets me out of the house more. Maybe become a billionaire and buy/protect all the forests, and save animals. You know, start small.

What’s your advice for someone wanting to be an illustrator?

Create lots and lots of work, set yourself a personal project and work really hard at drawing every day.

Do you buy your books online, in a physical bookshop, or both?

Because I work from home I buy almost everything online, including books. If I’m out and about, I’ll pop into a bookshop and maybe buy a beautiful-looking book.

If you could meet any character from a picture book, who would it be and why?

The gorilla from Gorilla by Anthony Browne. It was my favourite picture book growing up. Or I’d love to hang out with Raymond Briggs’s Fungus the Bogeyman, creeping into peoples’ houses to give them neck boils.

What’s the picture book or graphic novel that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work – and why?

Subconsciously all the picture books I read as a child influenced my career choice. I especially liked The Far Side comics by Gary Larson and since then I have always tried to include a dopey bird or chicken somewhere in my work. Recently, graphic novels such as Watchmen by Alan Moore and books my Jillian Tamaki and her cousin Mariko Tamaki; Skim and This One Summer have given me much joy and emotions.

What are you working on now?

I’ve been working on a large campaign for Zurich Airport over the past year, which should be out towards the end of 2016.

The Big Issue fiction edition is on sale until 8 September.

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