Jacky Sheridan’s work always begins in black, hand-drawn ink—a hardened practicality most artists can’t shake. In observant detail the Irish illustrator conveys complexity in simple outlines and colors, giving way to to life’s details without hindering its absurdity.
Ever eloquently, Sheridan’s personality sheds past the boldness of her pieces without discrediting or deterring from the emblazoned message, giving personal merit where merit is deserved. Her work forms itself over various channels, from anti-street harassment PSAs to literal profanity; drunk graffiti tags to chunky book-jacket lettering. Everything speaks volumes when it’s executed with zeal.
She proves there’s always room and reason for written typography (always.), and with personality-clad lettering we see portrayals paired with context, visuals with their literal counterparts, giving broader meaning to both art and language with each illustration. Always initial and always with permanence, her unique etched aesthetic pairs with free-flowing colors, reeled in by those purposeful loops and bends of the pen.
Sheridan’s sharp Irish wit translates through her images and farce-titled work. Every piece is it’s own unique being, yet innately derivative of the thoughtful, ambitious woman—and it shows. We welcome you to get to know Dublin illustrator Jacky Sheridan:
Give us the Jacky Sheridan low-down: who are you?; what do you do?; why do you do it?
I’m a Irish illustrator who is currently based as an Artist in Residence in the sometimes hectic world of the Belfast School of Art. I like the draw the controversial, and use a lot of humour in my work. As I also tend to eschew most forms of modern technology, I still draw all my work in ink. Seriously though, I’ve not been able to have ink-stain free hands in about 3 years. I work as an illustrator because I love it and would prefer to live off Weetabix for weeks then have to waste 5 days a week working on something I couldn’t care less about.
How has your home in Ireland (perhaps Dublin in particular) influenced you, and in turn, your work, both in terms of culture and physicality?
I think being Irish really plays a big role in my work. Being a Dubliner, we have a natural self-deprecating wit and dry sense of humour that I tend to include in my illustrations whenever possible. We Irish have the innate skill of taking the piss out of everything and getting away with it through charm so I think I use that to my advantage a lot!
Let’s talk about materials: what are you using and how much have digital tools and digitized art affected your work/process?
As I said earlier, I draw everything by hand using ink. I’d normally pencil an illustration out first, ink it then scan it and colour it digitally in Adobe Illustrator. I like using the pen tool to colour things so I can offset various bits and bobs to give my work more of a ‘screen printed’ feel to it. Of course, for special prints or exhibitions I tend to actually go on and make real screen prints myself of my work. I don’t think digital tools or digitized art have really affected my work or process too much as I’ve always been very much into design and illustration that is tactile. In my case, print definitely isn’t dead.
Can you speak of the strong female portrayals and awareness we find in your work? Do you find a lot of room for self-insertion in your pieces?
I am very happy to call myself a feminist. I like to portray women as strong in my work because they are, simple as. I often work for an anti-street harassment organisation called Hollaback! here in Belfast and I think hearing so many stories of all the absolute crap women have to put up with on a daily basis based on our gender just naturally manifests itself in my work. I definitely find a heck-tonne of room for self insertion in my personal work, in fact I plan on illustrating a short graphic novel based on my personal experiences of street harassment soon. Illustration just lends itself really well to being a personal artistic medium because of its effectiveness at storytelling I guess.
We love funky typography and the textures in your hand-done words are mesmerizing. Tell us what you love about hand-done lettering, particularly your own.
I have always had a massive passion for hand done lettering. It started out as copying the Metallica and Thin Lizzy band logos into every school journal I owned, to using Mike Perry’s typography book Hand Job as my bible and then it steadily grew into an obsession where I developed my own style over the years. It’s something I’m constantly working on as it just comes naturally to me now—I’ve even recently started to drunkenly graffiti toilet cubicles with swear words done in nice lettering. I love how effective words that are aesthetically pleasing are as a means of communication. I would even give time to reading ‘chick lit’ if it was hand drawn nicely.
We see a lot of layered words and imagery in your work. Can you tell us about the marriage of literal and visual in your pieces?
I tend to marry typography and illustration a lot in my work as I love them both as tools of visual communication. I think because I use a lot of humour in my illustrations as well, it’s difficult not to need to a bit of further explanation normally, which is where type comes in. I also just really enjoy doing hand drawn type too, so I often deliberately find room in an illustration to fit in some.
Your personal projects have so much personality in them! What goes into your process, from initial thoughts to final product?
When it comes to personal projects, it’s mainly a case of forcing myself to write down ideas as often as possible. I have a journal beside my bed that I try and write down a few ideas a day in for illustrations I’d like to do. As much as it’s nice to have a ‘Eureka!’ moment, I find I’m a lot more creative if I just push myself to be instead of waiting around on inspiration. Process wise, after I have an idea I do a really bad spider diagram full of random words that mean sweet f all. Then I scour the internet/my endless supply of magazines for visual reference to use for possible illustrations. I love working from photographs, it’s the one skill I’m very jealous that I can’t do (so if any photographers ever want to collaborate, get in touch please!). Then I tend to do a good sketchbook or two of drawings that I then scan and composite digitally in a million different files called confusing names such as ‘Final1’ and ‘FinalFinalFinalForRealsies.’ I eventually tend to consult a few close mates when deciding on the real finished piece as my brain goes to mush by the time I’m done with a project. Collaboration is key!
For more work from Jacky visit her website: www.jackysheridan.com