Sean Mulvenna

This Glasgow-based graduate has a strong visual style, mastering a tricky brief to create a visual identity for Glasgow Open House entirely through illustration.

How would you describe your practice?

Heavily drawing based illustration. Most of my personal work involves making comics; there is a lot of drawing involved in doing comics, which makes them good for developing and distilling visual ideas I can put into illustration jobs.

What inspires you?

Aesthetically, a lot of alternative comics and cartoonists, as well as bits of folk art and alchemical symbols: things that are economical without losing character. Content wise, I’m interested in systems or rituals people develop to process the unknown, and the kind of people that are drawn to or create such things. Definitely Wikipedia, as well.

Your work is very visibly hand-made, what's your relationship with technology in making work?

I try to use it sparingly. Because so much illustration is viewed online, and because technology can make drawings more suited for that environment, sometimes I colour drawings digitally. Everything else I’ll do by hand. Using brushes and ink is more fun, and feels like I’m putting time into developing a skill. With digital tools I feel the learning you can do is capped.

You graduated in 2014 from Glasgow School of Art, what was the course like there and what did you take most from it?

I did Communication Design, and specialised in illustration. I think there was a nice emphasis on heading into the far corners of illustration, and there was a good culture there, with stuff always going on. There were a lot of great artists in my class, and we could hang out all day, wasting away time (productively). The best thing I took from it was getting good at regular self assessment. It sounds really boring, but I’m convinced its the key to everything now. 

What have you been working on recently and what’s next?

The last thing I did was the visual design for Glasgow Open House Art Festival 2015. There were two-hundred artists exhibiting in their homes and gardens, as well as parks and bowling clubs and things like that. It was great to work with people on something which there’s an excitement and a thirst for. And working with, and for, artists was fantastic. They were supportive of the identity and visuals going in weird directions.

The next thing I’m working on is a graphic novel which I’m drawing. The story’s by Kev Sherry, a writer and musician. It’s mad and bold, but great. I’m also starting a drawing workshop with an illustrator I met at university, Zoe Pearson. We’re making costumes that limit or enhance your body to help you understand and document underlying physicalities in objects. Hopefully it will be simultaneously useful and silly.