maven46 meets: From The Sketch Up

The Irish illustrator who's turning his passion into a career

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Words by Emma Connell
May 9th, 2017

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We caught up with Cork-based illustrator Ethan Desmond, the talent and head artist behind From The Sketch Up, about his creative process, inspiration and the perks of working his dream job…

On how he got started…

I’ve always been creative and was always drawing something, either on a grand scale or the corner of a page so I knew from early on that I had to make use of this creativeness. I am self-taught, and I believe I will never “fully” master what I do, but that’s part of the fun!

I graduated from college in 2014 as an interior architect and after awhile I realised I wanted to take what I learned there and apply it to my art. Like a lot of people, I thought the idea of being an illustrator was a pipe dream, something you wish would happen but only happens to the “lucky few” and I put it behind me for a time. It wasn’t until January of this year that life hit me and made me refocus and realise that I can do it; anyone can achieve their dream if they are willing to work at it, a little at a time, day by day. So I asked around via social media, reaching out to various influential people and asking them if I could create an illustration of them, and luckily some said yes! It has changed everything for me, and the feedback I have been receiving has made me more sure of the fact that I am going in the right direction, turning my lifelong passion into a business.

On the creative process…

My creative process usually starts with an idea or brainwave which I then roughly put on a page or screen. This may be an outline of some keywords or a face, to be honest, it changes each time. From there I work on the image, creating the rough version and developing the concept until it becomes the finished image. A lot of my time could go on getting the facial features correct, or researching various methods of digitally water colouring an image. External factors are then introduced such as music and tea so that I don’t get completely lost in the image. Once I am happy with what I have I apply the finishing touches. Prior to posting the image, I will show those closest to me who maintain a strong non-biased approach to what I do and get feedback from them.

On finding inspiration…

For me, inspiration can come from anywhere. I could be walking down the street and see the flow of a person’s scarf, a lip shade or even a flower and I get a brainwave. I will rush home to get it out of my head and onto paper or my screen as soon as I can, to bring this idea to life. Sometimes this also happens while listening to music, or reading etc. An example would be the recent illustration I created of Lady Gaga, which came into my head while listening (and singing along) to her album. By the time I was a few songs away from the end of my playlist, the image was done.

I am heavily inspired by women. Strong women. I’ve always been fascinated by the shape and flow of a woman’s body, the outline, its silhouette and the beauty of the female form. I believe fashion has a duty to emphasise the natural elegance of the human form, and I aspire to do the same in my illustrations.

On a personal level, the people I’ve illustrated, such as Rosie Connolly, inspire me to take the risk and be brave enough to do what I am doing and to realise that a dream is just a goal to achieve. On an artistic level, I have an eclectic love of various illustrators styles, from Harry Clarke to Stanley “Artgerm” Lau and everyone in between.

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On the best parts of his job…

Honestly, the fact that it is my job. I can say I wake up happy every morning to go to work doing what I adore and have dreamed of for so long. Also, the fact that people are reacting so positively to what I do is beyond amazing. Every like, comment or follow on social media is another perk and for that, I am extremely thankful. What many people may not realise is that illustration is a very personal process, like taking a piece of yourself and putting it on paper, so when people react so well to it, it is a huge boost in confidence.

On experiencing setbacks…

I think anyone who is willing to put themselves out there, and to become self-employed has experienced some form of a setback. From personal self-doubt regarding what you are doing to the sheer amount of times you have to hear the words “no, thank you” or “try again soon” does not make me feel unique in the setbacks I have faced. But I do believe that these also help to spur you on, to be better than you were yesterday, and to achieve what you want to on your own terms. Now, if someone reacts negatively to my work, or if I am having a quiet week I don’t allow it to defeat me, I move along and embrace the fact that I can’t please everyone.

On personal style…

My art actually tends to mirror my fashion sense. I create images with a strong emphasis on the outline of an object/person and try to capture the devastating effects that beauty can have. I love the juxtaposition created by monochrome colouring, both in an image and an outfit.

In terms of art style, I tend to blend various styles, sometimes without even intending to. I might create a fashion illustration that has comic/graphic novel style undertones or a concept for another type of project that is inspired by fashion illustration. I feel that if I can draw it I will and if I can’t, I won’t stop practicing until I can.

On career advice…

If I was to give someone advice, it would be to be brave. Take the risk especially if you have nothing to lose but don’t be reckless. Research your idea, research your market and your competitors. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek help, and above all else embrace the fear. Conquer it. You won’t regret taking the chance looking back in years to come, but you will regret letting the chance go.

On future goals and aspirations…

I aim to make 2017 my year. I’d love to collaborate with brands etc. and build up a decent following and clientele while advancing myself as an artist. One of my favourite things to create are the bespoke fashion pieces for people, be it for bloggers on their websites/social media or for weddings, events or a significant other in a person’s life, and I’d love to grow that market and get more people asking for them.

Long term, I aspire to reach new heights and match those that I look up to in terms of notoriety and demand.

For the chance to win a bespoke illustration by From The Sketch Up, keep an eye on our Facebook page.