Conor Nolan is an illustrator, printmaker and designer currently based in Dublin. You can spot Conor’s work through its bold shapes and bright, limited colour palettes inspired by the aesthetics of screen printing, risograph printing and collage. His work consists of a variety of characters and motifs, with interesting expressions, and always a touch of humour.
Conor also shared with us some of his inspirations, personal projects and plans for the future.
Take some time to get to know a bit more of his work. Have fun reading the interview!
1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? where you are from, your background, etc.
Sure! My name’s Conor Nolan, I’m an illustrator from here in Dublin. I graduated from NCAD in 2016 and since then have managed to keep myself busy doing illustration in a variety of ways including printmaking, animation, packaging design, murals, brand identity and a bunch of other areas.
2. When and how did you first start making art?
So I was always drawing as a child as I think most people do, but I think most people stop when they get to a certain age and I kind of just didn’t. I was interested in art the whole way through school and when it came time to finish up, it was the only thing I could really see myself committing to. I was initially really interested in animation and at one point almost studied fine art sculpture, but ended up going down the route of visual communications and getting a solid base in graphic design which I think is still largely incorporated into what I do.
3. How would you define your artistic style?
It’s changing all the time and has a few different branches, but most of what I do is informed by bright shapes and characters, lots of texture, and a reduced and layered approach to colour and composition that’s largely influenced by screen printing, risograph, and collage.
4. What or who are your inspirations? (Where do you take your inspirations from)?
I think inspiration can come from really simple places. I draw a lot and any opportunity to make an interesting visual is a lot of fun for me. When I first got into art I was really interested in street photography by people like Garry Winogrand and Robert Frank, and I think their interest in small interactions they have with people has sort of rubbed off on me – subtle gestures, things people say in passing, that kind of thing. On the other end of things, the work of printmakers like Corita Kent, Marcus Oakley, Nathaniel Russell, really stand out to me, and I think there’s something in that combination that keeps me curious.
5. What is your creative process like?
It changes constantly, and it’s different with different projects. I have a very short attention span so I’m always trying to find new ways to keep me interested, like taking one small idea and trying to draw it over and over again multiple times, or making lists of things I don’t draw enough and filling pages of the sketch book with them. Once you start drawing, I think ideas can organically come out if you’re open to them, and often once I’ve thought of something I find interesting I’ll begin to take the drawing further to a finished stage. And if it can keep my interest to the end then I will generally see it through.
But that’s different to working in a collaboration or for a client, where there’s a problem solving element of you trying to make something to fit someone else’s request, and I find the practical aspect of this really interesting at times.
6. How do you see the local art scene?
I think there’s a huge amount of talent in Dublin, and since Covid has placed so much emphasis on sharing art primarily online, I think Irish art from outside of Dublin is coming into view more, which I think is great. There are a lot of really talented people making work and I’m hoping the scope of Irish art can become larger and more diverse as a result. I’ve worked with open-access studio Damn Fine Print for about three years now, and a big part of what we do is try to promote both new and established artists alongside each other, so I always have my eyes peeled. I’ve enjoyed getting in illustrators like Ross Carvill, Bronagh Lee, No Bad News, and artists based in the UK like Holly St Clair, Molly Fairhurst, David McMillan. I’m really fascinated with other people’s process so it’s really rewarding to be able to work with these kinds of people and I hope we can put some of that energy back into the community.
7. What are the biggest challenges for you as an artist in the current world scenario (covid-19 pandemic) and how did you manage to adapt to this new reality?
Honestly on a day to day basis things haven’t been hugely different for me, and I’ve been very lucky in that. I was working from home anyway when this all started and I’ve tried to use the few lulls in work to think about what it is I want to make, and take the initiative in putting a bit more focus on things I can do myself, like selling work through my shop. That aspect of things has been challenging, exciting, rewarding; and when projects have come in I’ve tried to be grateful for the opportunities to make some really cool work.
8. Can you tell us a bit about your latest projects?
I recently got to work on an animation for Seachtain na Gaeilge through the great team at Tenth Man, where I got to do some animations that were made into a great video by them, and the result was something I was really happy with. You can see it on my Instagram.
I’ve also been doing some artwork with a band I play drums in called The Bonzai Pipeline, which I’ll probably be sharing soon!
9. Any new plans/projects for the future? Could you tell us a bit?
I’ve tried to shift my focus into projects into things I can carry out on my own as opposed to those that are collaborations with a client or agency. I love that kind of work but, and it might be because of Corona and how it seems harder to rely on external influences to make things happen, I really like the idea of making more prints, apparel, things I can sell in my shop and really immerse myself in. I specifically want to screen print more, and have a few ideas for prints.
10. Where can people find more about you and your work?
Well, I’m over on Instagram which is where I tend to post most of my work. I’m also on Twitter which is kind of like Instagram but without any kind of quality filter if you’re into that, and my website and shop are over at conornolan.net.