Next in the new series chatting to artists and craftspeople about the process of bringing their ideas to life and starting a business, I spoke with Muralist & Illustrator, Holly Pereira about her creative process, thinking big, and how ideas don’t just happen.
1. How did you first get into large-scale work and murals?
In 2015 I was asked to draw some illustrations on the bathroom wall of a restaurant. I had never done it before, but I figured that if I could draw small, I could probably draw big, and on the vertical. It has been a massive learning curve of trial and error since then!
2. Typography is a big part of your work – but do you find that your designs start with the lettering, colour, or design first, or is it simultaneous?
It changes all the time. I used to think about a particular lettering style or technique that I wanted to try out, but in the past year or two, I think about colour first, and then let it set the tone to inform the design. The more I think about colour, the more I appreciate how it affects our experience in the world.
3. What’s your typical process like from brief to completion? (And how much creative freedom do you usually have in this?)
The typical process after receiving a brief from the client is to do some research about the kind of work they would like done, the type of company they are, their core values and brand. Then it’s a process of creative-shoehorning my style and way of working into what they are looking for, so it turns into a more collaborative piece.
Obviously this depends on the type of job it is; if it is a shop sign or something, there’s little-to-no shoehorning. But more and more I’m hired to do work that is specifically within my practice.
4. How much has your process changed over time?
I’ve definitely streamlined it in the ten years I’ve been practicing as an illustrator. I was a fine artist (painter and sculptor) for the ten years
before that, so I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. I think the foundations of my practice will always be drawing, and the re-presentation and evolution of that drawing work.
5. Do you have a dream mural you’d love the chance to create?
I think part of why I like murals is the scale. Any good illustration on a screen looks good; if you blow it up and put it on a big wall, then that’s
a different story. It’s about context – where is the work? Who sees it every day? How will the colours affect the people on the street who pass it on the way to work? There’s also the human factor of seeing work that is literally bigger than you. For me, it changes the way I exist in the world: it’s like looking at the stars in the night sky – suddenly I feel small, like an ant, and it’s comforting.
So in answer to the question, my dream mural is big – I mean twenty storeys big.
6. Do you have any personal favourites of the work you’ve created so far?
I really like the work I did for The Norman Way in New Ross this summer, commissioned by Wexford County Council through The Walls Project.
It was the biggest wall I’ve ever painted – almost four storeys high, and about twenty metres wide.
The piece was my interpretation of The Norman Landing in the south-east. I got to research contemporaneous artwork (medieval, French, the Bayeux Tapestry, etc) and base the motifs from that research. I love how flowers, animals and boats
were depicted in a time before perspective was widely used as an artistic device – the hierarchical layering of objects to show space and distance. Symmetry and pattern were also employed as a design feature. The fun thing about painting that mural was trying to make sure there was exact symmetry in the whole piece. But as I was painting it by hand with no projection, it involved going up and down on the scissors lift to see what I’d done on one side, then going back up and painting the other side. It was painstaking, but so satisfying to look at. There is only one part that is not symmetrical, see can you spot it!
7. What advice would you give other artists?
Ideas don’t just happen. They come with doing, with practicing. So just start, just do it. Ideas are like gremlins. It’s like the more you draw, paint, and practice, the more they spawn other ideas; they multiply in the doing.
As for advice, be serious about what you do, but don’t take yourself too seriously. For a long time, I didn’t take my work seriously for fear of rejection.
Too many times in the past, I have imagined a whole audience of naysayers, ready to condemn my work for not being good enough. The fact is that most of the time, most people don’t give a shit about what you do. It’s just another voice in the canon!
So if you had the luxury of working under this cover of anonymity, what would you make? It’s back to that comforting feeling of being small: that anonymity is the very freedom most artists crave. Then you can work from what makes you tick, what makes you excited in your very body. And for me, that’s where the good stuff comes from.
8. What’s your proudest moment so far?
In 2018, ahead of the Repeal the 8th referendum, myself and my friends Emma Cafferky and Rory Mulligan painted a Yes for Repeal piece in Dun Laoghaire, with the support of the building owners and alongside the Together for Yes campaign.
I was really proud to paint that piece, because when art and meaning come together in a beautifully visual way, that is the best thing.
To find out more about Holly’s work, follow her on Instagram.
Holly has done an amazing amount of work! And she just keeps getting better. Great interview. Thanks!