Artist Interview: Róisín O’Shea

This month we talked with creative inspiration, Róisín O’Shea. Whilst the blog title calls her an artist, the truth is that this lady has her finger in many creative pies; Róisín does or has done drawing, writing, painting, creative assistance, creative direction, casting direction, and more. We find out more about these roles, how Róisín took this career path, and about her favourite creative tools, in our chat below.

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‘Zinc’ by Róisín. Created using Tombow ABT dual brush pens

Hi Róisín, your artwork is great – which is what we know you for – but looking at your website, we have discovered that you actually have rather a lot of job titles! All of them are creative, but which came first? Is there one you prefer?

Thank you, lovely to be talking with you and yes it is rather a lot of titles! I think the one time someone came closest to summing up what I do in a singular title, was when the filmmaker Don Coutts called me a horse of a different colour. This might seem like a rather odd title and strange observation, but I was delighted and knew instantly what he meant. I’d never likened myself to the Emerald City horse that changes colour constantly, but all my creative loves, opportunities and job roles are doing just that.

As for what came first, I was involved with music, art & design from early teens, but designing became the first career and it’s one I love.  I’m not sure I could pick a favourite, because I just love any form of creative work and the chance of learning something new.

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‘The Littlest Robot in the Universe’ by Róisín. Created using Tombow ABT dual brush pens

How did you start out? Do you have any tips for any creative readers who would like to pursue a similar career path?

I started out by working for pubs, picking up work for chalkboards and graphic design. At 24 I studied Graphic & Digital Design. Studying isn’t cheap, so I wanted to be sure I was choosing something vocational and make it as worthwhile as possible. If investing time and money in a course, use every moment of that time and if you do you’ll likely get out much more than you put in. Also, there’s so much you can teach yourself these days, just dedicate that time. Jump right in to a project and don’t come out empty-handed.

I think, if we want to carve a creative career and creative life, we should always keep learning and be as many things as possible. Don’t be afraid to be lots of things. You can’t unlearn something and all skills are transferable. I’ve worked freelance in jobs and events that aren’t creative as such, and some not at all, but it’s about being present and available for when the creative opportunities come along.  I became a junior art director for Story, an advertising agency, shortly after leaving college and know that all the jobs, hobbies and time I’d had leading up to that role, made for a great portfolio and one shouting ideas.


‘Bad Wizard’ by Róisín, created with Tombow ABT dual brush pens

What work have you been doing with Dylan Moran?

I started working for Dylan a couple of years ago on a freelance basis. He needed a jack of all trades (and that was my strength, hurray!) to assist with various creative projects, and so started as his writing/typing assistant for comedy scripts and live shows, then began organising an art library of his plethora of wonderfully unique illustrations, which are now used in Dylan’s books and the Off The Hook 2015 world tour.

Late last year, Dylan asked me to art direct a series of books he was writing and illustrating.  When he sent me the first title, “Pig Gets a Quadruple Bypass”, I knew we were in for a lot of fun. The books are now on sale at his tour venues, soon to be available online, with more in the planning for next year.

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‘Robot & the Butterfly’ by Róisín, done with grey Tombow dual brush pens

What does your Casting Assistant role involve?

I’ve just left casting this summer to concentrate on art direction projects and my own work. As casting assistant the role varies from co-ordinating and running casting sessions, shortlisting for roles, audition script writing, role & screenplay descriptions, liaising with agents and actors, to researching and finding real people for roles, which is for me is the most challenging and fun part of the job; finding people the roles were made for, such as Cherry Campbell (Katie Morag, CBeebies) who is now the youngest ever BAFTA winner. The role can be very administrative, technical and creative, all at the same time.

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‘The Littlest Robot in the World’, created using Tombow dual brush pens

I saw you also do some writing work. Do you find this very different from your art, or do you find the two go hand in hand as creative outlets?

I think they do go hand in hand for me, I’ve always written visually and like to draw pictures that tell stories. When I worked in advertising, it seemed that art directors more often than not would think of a campaign idea in words initially, where the copy writer would see the ideas pictorially.

When writing, do you ever write by hand, or do you go straight to a computer?

If I’m writing copy for a project or story it tends to be straight on to computer, but I’ll always use paper & pen first for things like story ideas, songs & poetry. It’s important for me to get ideas down, and putting them on paper or in a book I can see means I’ll more likely pick it up again and use it, rather than it being hidden in a digital file. Brainstorming or scribbling on paper is better for the brain too!

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A dragon Róisín created with Tombow ABT dual brush pens

We couldn’t agree more! Do you do any writing for yourself, such as a diary or journal?

Yes, but not in the traditional sense. All the stories, songs & poems I write are a sort of journal to me: a chaotic log of emotions, observations and moments.

When it comes to your own artwork, what are your favourite tools to use, and why?

I love drawing with pencil and graphic pens, but my favourite obsession has to be Tombow Dual Brush Pens. They’re wonderfully fun, vibrant brush pens and give me the effect of blending with paint, but with the precision I don’t get so easily with holding a brush. Unlike paint, I can also carry them everywhere with me, and much to my husband’s amusement, I do!


Acrylic on canvas. An illustration from a book Róisín wrote and illustrated, entitled ‘In The Company of Wolves’

You are based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Is this where you grew up, or did you move there for artistic opportunities? I always think of Edinburgh as quite a hub of creativity.

I lived in Ireland when I was younger and started my school life there. My parents’ work (in the hospitality industry) meant us moving around every few years, and we ended up in Edinburgh when I was 12. It’s been my adopted home ever since. It’s a great creative melting pot and the right size of city to easily involve yourself or indeed start a creative project. If it wasn’t for Edinburgh, I’m not so sure I’d have had all the job roles and titles I do.

What are your future creative plans?

I hope to work more on my own art & writing, and continue to work for Dylan Moran seasonally on projects. I also art direct for a cross-cultural training company based in France, and hope to gain new clients in the near future who may just need a horse of a different colour.

Thank you for your time, Róisín, and good luck with your creative future!

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An illustration from a story art book Róisín is writing and illustrating, entitled ‘Inner Song’, created in pencil

Related links: – Róisín’s website

Lucy is our lead editor and has been passionate about stationery since childhood. She has a particular fondness for rollerball and calligraphy pens and is a keen advocate of snail mail.

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