Mia Meets… Laura Callaghan

Interview By Mia Kingsley

Last week during one of my morning Tumblr scrolls I came across Laura Callaghan and to put it simply, I instantly fell in love… with her illustrations that is! Beautiful drawings, full of vibrant colour & incredible detail featuring fabulous women in their day to day life. So I found Laura’s email and made this interview happen. Laura is originally from Dundalk (a small coastal town in North East Ireland) who came to London to study at Kingston University. She is now based in South East London and spends her time creating simply amazing illustrations, Meet Laura…

So when did you first start illustrating?

I hate to wheel out the cliched illustrator’s statement but I really have been drawing since I was little. I grew up in the back end of nowhere and there really wasn’t that much to do so I used to make fake Argos Catalogues and little books. My Mam still has one, it’s about an evil teddy bear.The writing is pretty impressive for a seven year old, good pacing!

Who would you say are your biggest influences?

I never really know how to answer this because the list is so long! At the moment I’ve been watching a lot of by Dario Argento films, reading some older Dan Clowes and Wikipedia-ing articles on twins so I’d say those are the biggest influences on my work right now!

Tell us a little bit about your style, how did you develop it?

My style has only come into its own fairly recently, it’s unrecognisable to the style I was working in four years ago. I think there was a period of time where I was making work that I thought would get me commissions or was commercially viable but my style took a turn for the better after my MA finished. I freaked out at the possibility of living in London unemployed so I took a job in the accounts department of a biscuit factory, after the stress and excitement of finishing a graduate project it was a very anticlimactic “Well now what?”. Suddenly I only had this tiny pocket of free time to make work so I started drawing the things I actually wanted to draw. My flatmate at the time reintroduced me to watercolour (she’s a watercolour whizzkid) and that was it!

I absolutely love your ‘Aquarium’ illustration, what’s the story behind it?

It’s actually a piece I made for a (yet to be released!) zine, the theme was pets. I based it on the most boring pet I could think of – a goldfish. I never got what the appeal was there, they don’t know who you are and you can’t touch them so they spend their lives perpetually confused in a little bowl. So yeah I wondered what a goldfish girl would progress onto when she grew up, I figured a big fuck off tank of exotic fish and eels.

Where do you get inspiration for the scenarios in your illustrations?

It depends really. I’ll have an idea for an illustration for a long time before I start work on it, it could be inspired by a film or a line in a book or something someone said. I work in a way that takes a lot of time and patience so I’ll add bits an pieces to the narrative as I go along – what book would the character be reading, what would they eat, do they have any skeletons in their closet etc. It can get boring staring at the same image for too long, it gives ample time to dream up scenarios!

Do you think your work reflects you as a person?

I think so yeah, I put parts of myself into drawings all the time subconsciously. It can be tiny details like a book I love or a bit of clothing I own or my default sour expression. Most of my personal work is elaborate daydreaming, the worlds these characters live in are souped up, saturated, high octane versions of reality.

What’s your favourite materials to use?

The old reliables are Schmincke watercolour, black Indian ink and isograph pens. I use very small brushes and nibs to make things unnecessarily difficult and time consuming. I tried screen-printing for the first time last year and really love the results and the fact that you’re producing a finite amount of prints. So far I’ve only done bits and pieces, most recently a zine cover, but I’d love to try do more – I’d forgotten how fun it is to discover a new way of working.

Do you have a favourite illustrator?

I just got Hellen Jo’s ‘Frontier’ zine and it’s amazing, she draws the coolest girls. I love the odd narratives in Eleanor Davis’ work, and Paul X Johnson’s portraiture….Karolin Schnoor’s bold shapes and Emily Carroll’s web comics…I guess I have many favourites!

What’s your favourite subject to draw?

I think it’s safe to say I have an obsession with drawing women – the possibilities are endless!

Your illustrations are bursting with colour and intricate patterns, how do you come with all the designs and detail?

I used to be terrified of colour (I dress almost exclusively in black so it’s not just limited to artwork!) so made a conscious decision to start using more in my work. I have a gigantic folder of image on my desktop where I store colour combinations that caught my eye and have gotten into the habit of putting together a little colour palette before I start painting a piece. Ditto with patterns, I might see a photo of some old tiles or a ming vase or some mushroom spores that have an interesting pattern which I can store for inspiration. I can’t explain how much painting a really intricate pattern satisfies my inner OCD.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to illustrate?

Just keep drawing. That sounds blatantly obvious but just spending hour after hour drawing is what elevates your work to a higher standard. Keep an active online presence, I guess that’s pretty obvious too but 99% of work that comes my way is through an art director seeing something online and making sure your best/most recent work is up there is really important. I’ve always thought doing personal projects is vital, working on something you want to work on without anyone breathing down your neck is good for your sanity and generally produces the best work.

What’s next for you Laura, any exciting new projects in the making?

A few bits and pieces, I’m working on a book illustration based around at the moment and hopefully an exciting project with a British designer in the near future. I’ve found myself doing more client based work and less personal stuff lately which I really want to change. I think the last self initiated piece I worked on is 3 months old at this stage and that makes me very sad. I’m being super selective about what commissions I’m taking on and am trying to write and illustrate a short comic in the next couple of months. It’s something I’ve tried to start on numerous occasions to no avail but I’m determined to crack on with it before 2014!

Thank you so much Laura, we really look forward to what the future holds for you! 🙂 If you loved Laura’s work as much as I do, here are some links to keep updated with her work:

Until next week for previous interviews, ‘Mia Meets…’ or for more Mia Kingsley XXX



Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.