Mani-Q&A with Eirian Chapman, illustrator and graphic designer.

Aug 24 2018

We talked shop with one of Jackie Winter's finest illustrators Eirian Chapman. In exchange for a KB manicure and coffee, Eirian shared with us her tips for up and coming creative professionals and her new-found appreciation for Kanye West.

Eirian Chapman

A colourful breath of fresh air on paper and IRL, Eirian opens up a comfortable space to talk about the real pros and cons of working full time in the creative industries.

From being a stay at home cat mum to finding inspiration in the garden and for all your home body inpo read on.

Eirian’s coffee of choice: Flat white / CIBI

Mani colours of choice: Bubbelgum with a touch of Forest green

Tell us about your name?

My dad’s Welsh and so he gave me a really hard name for Australians to pronounce. I think it means silver in Welsh. I don’t know anyone else called Eirian but apparently, it’s a unisex name. I did find another artist called Eirian on internet and she does unicorn art. I’m like damn it, I want to do unicorn art.

What do you do?

I’m an illustrator, I used to be a graphic designer but then I went freelance and decided I wanted to draw. So now I am a full-time illustrator I work from home. I usually work with commercial clients, a lot of advertising and editorial. I also do my own art on the side.

Eirian Chapman

Photo - Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Eirian Chapman

What was it like stepping away from a full time paid job to freelance?

It was a bit scary. I thought if I don’t just quit I’ll just never do it. So after 3 years I just quit. I had money for about half a year and at the time we were living in a pretty cheap apartment in St Kilda, it was only like $400 a month. It was great because it was in the centre of St Kilda, but it was pretty dodgy.

When did you first realise that you wanted to be an illustrator?

Probably when I was working. I kept thinking ‘do I really want to be designing logos for accounting firms?’. I was following my agency (Jackie Winter) it was around 2007 that I first saw what they were doing and I thought, I want to do that too! So, I quit my job and spent the next year drawing and just taking on any job I could, mainly free jobs to build my folio.

Where did you study?

I studied communication design at RMIT and then I did my honours. I think it was a good grounding experience. They had a good illustration elective there taught by Georgia and Alex, they are really great!

How would you describe your illustration style?

I’d say bright and colourful. I also like to have a lot of undertones, I don’t like it to just be pretty. I like it to have some meaning. I do like there to be a little bit of darkness in there as well.

The meaning in your illustrations would you say it’s political or a kind of satire on the human kind?

Maybe subconsciously. Because I’m a commercial illustrator it’s hard to put a real emphasis on political or deeper meanings. But in my own personal work there is definitely commentary about that.

What triggers your creative mind?

It’s really hard I don’t even know. It’s just like a need to do it. Sometimes I’ll watch a movie and get really inspired by that period of time. At the moment, I’m really fascinated with clowns. I’m working on some babushka dolls at the moment inspired by clowns.

Eirian Chapman

Vector or hand illustration, which do you prefer?

I do vector because it’s easier to do for commercial clients. If it’s a vector I can make it really large and it’s really easy to alter if the client makes changes. But with my hand drawing it’s so much more spontaneous. I can’t sell them commercially because it just comes out and it can’t be replicated.

Who is your favourite commercial client so far?

I did work for Drunk elephant last year and that was really fun. Designing gift boxes for their holiday season. It was really fun because they said you can do whatever you want, we just have these themes. One was citrus themed, the other was garden party and one was hot date and I think the last was a wedding theme.

What sort of art do you gravitate towards?

I don’t like looking at the work of any other illustrators. I really prefer to look at contemporary art. The people I follow on Instagram are all contemporary artists. I follow Cindy Sherman her work is pretty creepy.

Where would you love to see your work displayed?

Probably the Tate. That would be pretty cool.

What is your dream collaboration?

I think I’ve had a lot of them. I wouldn’t mind doing something with some really great charity organisations. Sometimes when you think of big clients you think but are they evil? Then again there are some clients I have worked for and their practices probably aren’t the best but the project was really amazing. It’s hard to know where to draw the line. I was asked to work for the Spring Racing carnival and I said no. My partner works for the RSPCA.

As an artist in Melbourne can you describe the art community as you see it?

It’s really supportive. When I first started out illustrating I knew another illustrator who was on Jackie Winter's roster and I loved her work. She was vector artist as well and I asked her if she could give me some advice. If you email an artist they are pretty giving in helping you out and giving you advice. I have never felt like it’s been closed off to me.

Eirian Chapman

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

I make breakfast for my partner. We’ve had the same breakfast for 7 years. Is that sad? We have fruit with Greek yoghurt and homemade granola. I probably wouldn’t eat breakfast if I didn’t just make something. I’m normally angry by 10 or 11.

Walk us through your beauty routine do you have any cult products you can’t live without?

I just use Argan oil and sunblock face moisturiser. I don’t like using foundation.

What’s the most memorable holiday you ever took?

Alaska. It was last year. We just went to this weird hotel that looked like The Shinning. Outside of anchorage in an old gold mining town called Girdwood. It was the most beautiful place on earth. When people go for walks they have to take a mini boom box to scare the bears away.

Who’s your favourite person?

I’ll say my partner. He writes fiction books. He's had two books published. His name is Chris Flynn his first book is called ‘A Tiger in Eden’ and it’s about an Irish backpacker in Thailand, it’s pretty sexy.

Tell us about your cats?

I have two cats Ripley and Electra. Electra is a stripper name, it’s also based on a Greek god’s daughter who has daddy issues and that’s what Electra has. Ripley a grey cat we think she might be a Korat, is mental. Electra is a Bengal. Chris brought both Ripley and Electra home from the RSPCA. Electra needs a lot of attention, lucky we work from home so we can give it to her.

What’s your favourite way to relax?

Reading that’s the only way that I am not doing anything and sewing.

What frightens you?

I have two fears. One is drowning and the other is space, you know when your head explodes. My partner wants to go to Mars and I’m like no thanks.

What makes you truly happy?

Literally sunshine. In August, I get the blues that’s the only time I get really depressed. I just need some sunshine.

What were you like at high school?

I was a clown and hard working. I was a slow learner. That’s why I learnt to draw because I needed something to show I had talent.

When do you do your best thinking?

Outside in the garden. I find if I’m not inside at my desk it’s much easier.

Where do you live at the moment?

We live in a really trendy suburb called Balwyn. Its next to Camberwell and Kew. If you’re really old it’s great.

Eirian Chapman

Quick fire.

Morning person or night owl? Morning

Favourite city in the world? Melbourne, it’s boring I know. I never go to a city where I’m like this is the best!

What are you binge watching right now? Westworld new season. And I’m dying up here, is really good it’s about comedy in the 70’s. One of the producers is Jim Carey! I just love it for the clothes.

What do you listen to when you illustrate? I’ve been really getting into Kanye West. I always dismissed him on the count of him being a dickhead. But I was always wondering why his albums were so highly rated. I just started listening to ‘808 and Heartbreak’ and I was like that’s really good. Then I found a podcast called ‘Dissect’ where they dissect Kanye’s albums and it blew my mind. It’s just amazing.

What animal do you most identify with?The Anchovy

What’s your signature cocktail? Amaretto Sour.

How do you stay disciplined working at home?

I have commercial deadlines. When I’m working for Jackie Winter I have mini deadlines and I’ve got to meet those deadlines. It’s not as though I get a brief and I have to produce the final artwork. It’s all little steps, which is great. I do the sketches first then I get that signed off then I can work on colour. If I just thought about the finished product I’d get really stressed. I like to have one or two projects on the go but at the moment I have 3. With creative work, it’s really hard to be creative all the time, to just switch that on. Especially if they are wanting me to do all the conceptual work too. Sometimes I get a brief and the Art director has already thought of the idea and I just have to make it. If I have to think about everything it’s a lot of work and brain power.

Do you have any holidays planned?

No not yet. But I want to go to Japan maybe at the end of the year. I feel like I need at least one holiday a year.

Any advice for young up and coming illustrators?

It’s tough. You’ve got to be in it if you love it. If you love drawing. Don’t be in it for the money.