Searching for a sea change, accomplished illustrator Eirian Chapman and her partner left Melbourne for Phillip Island at the beginning of the year. Island life has worked its magic and the new, relaxed setting has proven to be a creative catalyst for Eirian, inspiring her to develop this quirky, yet beautiful, ode to the animals of her new home base.
In interviewing Eirian Chapman, Gippslandia learnt more about her move, her art and Southern Right Whales, and gained an appreciation for the talents we’ve just welcomed to our region.
Gippslandia: Welcome to the area, Eirian. Can you please share what attracted you to the Island and how you’ve found settling in there so far?
I’ve lived in cities all my life and wanted to give coastal living a go. I work from a studio at home, so I can pretty much work anywhere, as long as there is Internet! We have always loved camping and hiking around Wilsons Prom, but didn’t know much about the Gippsland area. We decided on the Island as renting is really affordable and the nature around here is stunning. It has been surprising and reassuring how quickly we’ve been welcomed into the community; everyone is very friendly and open for long chats.
Can you please describe your artistic practice?
I work as a commercial illustrator and artist making work for advertising, editorial, digital and retail clients. I’m represented by an agency called The Jacky Winter Group in Australia and America, who I have been with for over eight years now. I illustrate for clients like Uber, Apple, Australian Ballet, Spotify and the Melbourne Zoo, as well as working on my own personal art projects and exhibitions. I primarily work digitally, using Adobe Illustrator, but also like to work in paint, pencil and Posca pens.
Does your approach differ considering the varying scale of the projects you work on? For instance, do you apply the same process when developing a piece for Apple or a friend’s birthday invitation?
My method of working has been fine-tuned over the years and I pretty much apply it to every job I do, big or small. Initially, I do loads of really crap thumbnails to get my ideas down on paper, followed by really rough pencil sketches of my preferred concept. I then refine the sketches and send them to the client for approval. Once I’m given the thumbs-up, I take that sketch into Illustrator, redraw and colour it. For my own personal art projects or exhibitions, it’s a much more fluid and experiential process in which I like to surprise myself and not do too much planning.
How did your series on Phillip Island’s animals come about?
I love working on my own personal art projects. It allows me to exercise my creative muscles and push my work forward. I felt pretty inspired by the animal life on the island and challenged myself to draw the local wildlife every day (if I had the time!). I’m hoping to make them into silk-screened posters and maybe even playing cards.
When creating these wonderful illustrations, is there anything that you learnt about the animals that sticks out?
I was recently at the Cape Kitchen in Newhaven for a function and saw my first whale breaching out of the water. It was like the whale (a Southern Right, I think) was putting on a show just for us. It was so amazing!
That week I started researching that whales make their way up the coast from Antarctica during May to October. The Southern Right Whale has two blow holes that create a ‘v’ shaped spout of water that can be up to five metres high.
Do you feel that living out of Melbourne, in an area with such natural beauty, will benefit your art creation?
I feel it already has! Moving to a new location has that effect on me generally, similar to traveling. It opens me up creatively and I end up seeing the world from a new perspective. The city can be great for easy access to galleries and culture, but I feel like nature inspires me more.
Eirian, can you please provide some advice to others on achieving a career in illustration?
If you love to draw, you are heading in the right direction! Work really hard on building up a portfolio, and experiment with different mediums and styles until you find one that feels like you. Be curious and make sure that you get your work out there for people to see, whether that’s on social media, making posters for a friend’s band or being part of a group exhibition. It’s a fun job, and great if you don’t mind being your own boss.
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