Friday, January 12th, 2007
Art galleries, especially those who show up-and-coming artists, have lately been showing plenty of work that has a distinct illustrative edge. The traveling museum show, “Beautiful Losers,” showcased some of the most noted… Clare Rojas and Barry McGee, to name a couple. The division between what is perceived as “fine art” and what is “commercial” has been increasingly blurred in this generation of fluid forms and venues. Illustrator Penelope Dullaghan, in this spirit, does make paintings to show in galleries, and she sells them to private owners. But her giftedness is especially apparent when she is functioning specifically as an illustrator. Her enhancement of written words by clever and playful images has made her a persistent presence in all sorts of journals, from the Los Angeles Times Book Review to Discipleship Journal and the Baltimore Sun. She’s worked for big rollers like United Airlines and little rollers like Indianapolis jewelry store Silver in the City. If you peruse her website, be sure to read the context of each image. As you do, you’ll see that Dullaghan presents a readable, yet poetic response to a wide variety of subject matter, while retaining a distinct and recognizable style. This is the goal of any working illustrator.
Another thing worth celebrating about Penelope Dullaghan is her role as a community builder. As a freelance illustrator, she knows well the challenges of being her own boss—the loneliness that sometimes comes, the self-motivation needed when a client is waiting, but a boss is not present. In a successful effort to interact with other creative thinkers, she has created many interactive projects, the most notable of them being “Illustration Friday,” a weekly open call that exercises the possibilities of an assigned theme. “I believe that every person has a little creative bone in their body,” she writes, “Illustration Friday just gives a no-pressure, fun excuse to use it.” The website for Illustration Friday shows that this populist approach also attracts some notable artists, some of whom are interviewed about their creative processes. The site becomes, then, a place where aspiring, unpublished illustrators can show their work alongside people who do covers for “The New Yorker.” And so the wheels of mutual inspiration turn, helped by a friendly push from Penelope Dullaghan.Gala Bent is a mother-artist-teacher living in Seattle who enjoys, among other things, this thought: between thesis and antithesis arcs the ever-loving synthesis. www.galabent.com