Ollie Mcainsh

Freelance Illustrator.

Portrait of rapper Biggie Smalls in collaboration with Grace McAuliffe. Graphite and ink
Biggie Smalls in collaboration with Grace McAuliffe – Graphite and Ink

What was your key motivation in becoming an illustrator?

I have always drawn, so I guess it has just been the natural progression from childhood to adulthood. From crayons and poster paints to pencils and scalpels.

What was your first break as an illustrator?

Most people know me now as the person who drew the flowers and the butterflies on the new PIMM’S bottle, but I would say it was the portraits of hip-hop musicians that got me the invitation into Mother London in the first place. It was only because I was there, met the right people and worked hard that I got that commission. The portraits were also the fastest selling posters at PDYE2 last summer!

Portrait of hip-hop artist MF DOOM. Graphite image here
MF Doom – Graphite and Ink

How do you maintain an ongoing stream of work?

By giving myself some time away from drawing to break it up a bit. To look back at photos I have taken and drawings in sketchbooks I’ve done to see if I have stumbled across anything. I like having a project on the back burner as well, to return to when there’s a bit of a lull.

What importance do you put on your own personal body of work and how does this influence your commissioned work?

A great deal of importance. When not working for a client I have no time restraints, no restrictions to adhere to and no creative director to please – complete freedom. That freedom is what allows me to investigate new things and make happy mistakes, I am then able to return to these during a commercial project where I don’t have as much time to explore.

One of two editorial illustrations for Winchester Style Magazine, which looked at the traditional and contemporary use of British garments. This image shows the traditional use of the waxed Barbour jacket. Graphite, coloured pencil and Photoshop
One of two editorial illustrations for Winchester Style Magazine, which looked at the traditional and contemporary use of British garments. This image shows the traditional use of the waxed Barbour jacket – Graphite, coloured pencil and Photoshop

Congratulations on graduating last year! How have you found the freelance illustration sector as a recent graduate over the past year?

Thanks! To be honest, quite overwhelming! There are a lot of us “recent graduates” looking for the same things, and a lot of things that I started off knowing very little about. Licensing, rights, pricing etc. All things that weren’t covered at uni and all main reasons for joining the AOI.

As a recent commission you illustrated this summers Pimms Blackberry & Elderflower, which would have reached a huge audience. How important do you feel is the reaction your illustration has to its spectator?

It’s a three man ship this commercial illustration world. In it there’s me, the client and the audience. Once it was cleared by the client they were happy and I was happy, then there was the severe anticipation of the third person’s reaction. Thankfully it was well received, because otherwise we would have all got wet. And I am one for getting sea sick.

Illustration for the bottle label of PIMM`S Blackberry & Elderflower. Graphite and Photoshop
Illustration for the bottle label of PIMM’S Blackberry & Elderflower – Graphite and Photoshop

Who and what keeps you inspired?

I have a small list of contemporary illustrators that I try and keep up to date with. These include Roderick Mills, Holly Wales, Adam Batchelor and the sketchbooks of Pat Perry. Otherwise I try not to focus too much on what’s happening around me. I like to take trips to the National Portrait Gallery, look through the websites of photographers, listen to a diverse mix of soul, folk and punk music and keep a sketchbook with good friend and collaborator Grace McAuliffe.


7th March 2014
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