Mark Conlan, is an Irish artist based in Melbourne. His characteristic whimsical style is both unique and playful, accentuated by his bold use of colour in full spectrum and limited palettes.
Mark’s ability to distil a concept down to its visual essence is what sets him apart, affording him the privilege of working with some of the worlds most recognisable brands.
He’s lent his warm, playful style to some pretty major companies including Adobe, The New York Times, Airbnb, Stripe, Toyota Australia, ING Direct, The Guardian or Coca Cola.
Entrevista con Mark Conlan
What does an Irishman in Melbourne?
Melbourne is now home. I have been here for just 6 years now. Before this I lived in London where I met my wife, after spending some time working across the creative industry in London we decided to do some travelling before ending up in Melbourne. It is my wifes home so we settled in pretty quickly and we both love it here . It’s such a great city!
As I said before, it is where my wife is from. We never planned to stay this long but since arriving it has just kept sucking us in, in the best possible way of course. it is such a vibrant city full of life, creativity and possibility.
The situation in Melbourne is very different now to the rest of the planet?
It is, well Australia is. I guess from the start Australia was pretty tough on locking down. We had a second lockdown here in Melbourne that lasted 11 weeks last July through. So people forget we did the hard yards too to get where we are now. Its very COVID free and life is pretty much back to normal now. We still can’t travel though. Well internationally, the same as everyone else. Let’s hope we can all get back to that soon, we all miss that.
Who and/or what inspires your work?
I’m always the kind of person to try and remain as open as possible, particularly when it comes to inspiration. I find if I lock myself into one source of inspiration my way of thinking becomes very narrow and this affects how I create.
So by remaining open and curious I find the smallest things can become the biggest inspiration. Like the little bird that comes and sits on the window sill that distracts you from your screen. A colour combination that appears while you’re out eating dinner or a song that just speaks to you that it’s almost visual. Everything can be inspiring.
How long have you been an illustrator, where did it all begin?
I have been working as an illustrator ever since I landed in Melbourne 6 years ago now. Before this I was working in the design industry where I worked in various roles across web design, ui design, branding etc. I was always quite an illustrative designer but it was never quite serious.
I did study Animation in Uni, both classical and computer animation, so I think developing into illustration was always such a natural progression for me.
What is your favourite part of being an illustrator?
I love everything about being an Illustrator. The fact I get to work for myself and control my life around that gives me more freedom to be creative everyday. The fact I get to do what I love for clients that put their trust in my creativity is what matters to me the most. I also love the fact that I get to put work out there that people can often love and in turn speak to them in an expressive manner, that’s the sheer joy of being an artist.
How do you define your study? Your “work zone”.
I am always working on developing myself as an artist. I think we all do subconsciously. I am always drawing everyday, this in turn is the biggest contributor to constantly developing your style and developing how you express yourself. It’s not only drawing that can define us, but developing your communication skills everyday as you learn to navigate the industry and deal with customers, clients and all the problem solving that comes with running your own business. There are lots of elements that I do everyday, I think this is what helps me to define myself, it keeps me busy and motivated for sure.
Always colorful, sometimes blue. What does the blue for you?
The Blue is more of a mindset for me, it was a limited way to look at composition and subject matter without over complicating the palette. I have found that I have learnt so much about composition and balance by limiting myself to one / two colours over time. Also Blue is sucha. great colour and it definitely reflects the mood of the pieces in their own right.
Many words, but the best thing about you is to see your work, what illustration would you dedicate to this interview and magazine?
I think rather than dedicating one illustration, I would dedicate this series of limited palette illustrations as we have spoken about the blue factor above. Each of the illustrations has a sense of reflection , a calmness and a place for thought. Whether this is reflected by the subject matter primarily or the colour has a big part to play, you decide!
What other illustrators/animators are you digging these days?
So many, there are almost too many to name. There is literally such an amazing community of artists out there, particularly evident on social media. I just picked up an amazing graphic novel at the weekend called “When you look up” by Decur, I cannot take my eyes off the artwork, so stunning ad sucha. great platform for the incredible artist to showcase their talents.
If you moved from Melbourne, what city would you like?
I was only thinking about this the other day. Maybe somewhere in Europe. We loved Amsterdam when we visited a few years back and thought that could be sucha. great city to set up in. Or somewhere calmer and relaxed in Portugal with that beautiful sunshine.
A track/music to accompany this interview?
Sanctuary - Hiss Golden Messenger.