Claudine O'Sullivan is a London-based illustrator working with natural materials. We especially like her wildlife series that exaggerates form and colour. 

Happening London caught up to ask about her art, inspiration and what living in London meant to her. 

HL: Have you always wanted to make a living from illustration? How did you get started and when did you really feel that you found your style? 

I come from quite a creative family, my Mum was very musical and theatrical so I grew up with a lot of singing, dancing and creativity – drawing has always been how I best express myself. I was quite academic at school; so although art was always a love of mine, it wasn’t necessarily an obvious career choice. On leaving school, I started a Communications & Media BA in Dublin. That wasn’t for me, so after a year of working and saving up, I decided to pack up and head to London, where I hoped I could pave a more creative path for myself. It was only really towards the end of my penultimate year at University that I felt confident in my own visual language. Drawing is quite a natural state for me, but it definitely took a lot of time and experience to gain the confidence to share my work with the world and consider it as a viable career. 

HL: Who inspires you? 

It’s so hard to pick even a handful! My artist inspirations have always been Francis Bacon, Henry Matisse and Lucian Freud. In my own work, most of my inspiration comes from people close to me and people I meet. I sketch a lot of people and scenarios; my charity based campaign projects have focused on some incredibly inspiring people and a lot of my personal work is based on my travels and the people I encounter. Many of my close friends are illustrators, designers and photographers; all of whom I admire not only for their individualistic work, but also for their hard working ethic. I’m really lucky to have a close circle of talented, like-minded and extremely hard-working friends, it certainly makes the tough days (and months) more bearable and the good times worth celebrating.

HL: What's your favourite piece of yours to date?  

Always a really tough question - probably my personal project documenting my time in Jaipur, although challenging I feel that was when I reached a personal assurance and comfort in my practice and working methods. That project kind of felt like ‘the start’. Aside from that? Probably the piece I’m in the middle of at the moment. That’s my favourite part of what I do; the mid-way point of a piece when I’m never really sure how it’s going to turn out, but excited to get there. That’s what fuels me. 

Jaipur Orphanage
HL: Your work varies between lighter subjects - wildlife and animals - to darker themes; skulls and exaggerated physical features. Where does the variation come from?

As I said, drawing is quite a natural state for me; my core form of expression. Therefore I do approach a range of themes; both in my print work and my more seriously focused campaign work. I think it’s important for me to have a sense of variety across different projects; both visually and thematically.

Process - Robin

HL: What's your approach to commissions and client work? Do you see client input as a necessity or a welcome challenge? Would you rather be producing work solely on your own terms? 

It definitely depends on the client and the commission – a lot of my commissions are quite figuratively based and creatively free, which is always appealing and to some degree quite self-indulgent. For more complex or concept based briefs, client input is much greater, but definitely welcomed. Collaboratively approached projects are often the most challenging but also hugely rewarding, resulting in ideas and outcomes I would never have reached on my own.

HL: Your work reminds me a little of Steve Wintercroft's masks, in the way it often plays with geometric representations of natural forms: Any plans to move into three dimensions? 

They’re really interesting! No immediate plans but definitely something I would consider if the right brief came about. I started in a fashion based course and then experimented quite a bit on my BA, so 3D design is something I have practised in the past but not recently – not to be ruled out for future projects!

HL: And finally, why London? Is there anything specific about the city that inspires your creativity? 

I find London a hugely inspiring city. I’m also quite a home bird though, so it did take me a long while to get settled here. I think the main inspiration is the fast-paced environment – there’s always something on and not a lot of room for boredom or procrastination. The creative industry is hugely competitive and tough to get noticed in let alone make a living from. London has a huge amount of opportunities and an even greater amount of like-minded creatives. I do feel the sense that comradery outweighs competitiveness. I, like most of my friends, have to work an additional full time or part time job to sustain a creative career in such an expensive city. That’s what I respect most about the industry and the city – the hard work and dedicated passion. 

Installation at MTV Camden
All photos courtesy of Claudine O'Sullivan. To see more of Claudine's work and to buy prints, go to

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