Rachel Clancy: Drawn to Music

Irish ADC Member gains inspiration from video directors

Happy Groundhog Day! Albrecht the ADC Woodchuck has spotted his shadow, and that means we’ll have six more weeks of Illustration Month. Just kidding! That said, this showcase of ADC Members who put pen, pencil and pixels to paper has received such a great response that we have expanded it beyond January.

The next ADC Member is our second ADC Portfolio Night All-Stars winner to be featured during Illustration Month. She’s an Ireland-based art director, and while she isn’t a professional illustrator, she takes every moment she can to work on her drawing chops.


Art Director/Amateur Illustrator
Limerick, Ireland


Just about every kid can draw, but not every kid is particularly gifted at it. Where did your childhood artistic inclinations come from?

My parents made me a deal — they would give art college their blessing if I studied graphic design. They have always been fantastically supportive, but they are also practical people, and to draw for a living takes phenomenal self discipline. From graphics I got into art direction and I was able to keep drawing all the way through.

When did you discover that “Hey, this could actually be a career”?

I think I’ve been lucky that every job I’ve held had given me the opportunity to break out the illustration. I worked in a branding agency where I was drawing pages of concepts for logo marks, a screen printing shop where I was drawing artwork for t-shirts, and an ad agency where I was drawing everything from concept art for tv commercials to graphics to skin headphones with.

“I think I’ve been lucky that every job I’ve held had given me the opportunity to break out the illustration.”

How would you best describe your style? Do you fight against having a particular style, or do you embrace your style as your “brand”?

I draw by hand a lot (unless it’s a person) and so those drawings have that kind of personal handwriting flavor to them. I think a distinct style is just starting to materialize in my work.

Walk us through your usual creative process.

A friend of mine told me that I can draw people, but they just don’t look like the people they are supposed to be! To combat this, I start a lot of drawings in Adobe Illustrator, so I can map out a skeleton to catch the distinguishing characteristics of the person I’m drawing. Then I’ll draw freehand over the wireframe to give the drawing better line quality and add in details and texture. Then BACK onto the computer to clean up the drawing and maybe add or adjust color.

Tools of the trade: do you have any specific pens, pencils or other instruments that you swear by?

Hands down no question, my favorite pen is the Pentel Color Brush Pen. I’m sure there is a controlled, measured way of using it, but I like the way the ink flow is a little hard to control. It’s unpredictable and it can 100% backfire but that’s part of the charm!

What is the most challenging thing about a career in illustration?

I have a few friends who are full time illustrators and I think the irregularity of work can make keeping the lights on stressful! I think getting through the early part of your career and establishing yourself takes resilience and faith in yourself.

Is there a particular project of yours of which you’re especially proud?

Just because I’m an obscene fan of theirs, I hold a candle for my illustration of the Chemical Brothers song The Test, because they retweeted it on their own account! That image has a lot of different processes going on, I hand drew the girls, I live traced some marbled paper to pull out those liquid swirls, there was a lot of masking and arranging in photoshop. I put a lot of love into it and it made me so happy that their account picked up on it!


Cocktail party talk: how do you describe what you do to someone who isn’t in a creative field, and what’s the typical response you get from them?

I’d fall into the keen amateur classification of an illustrator, so when it comes to talking about what I do I’m usually talking about a particular job. Like right now I could say “I’m presently illustrating a boatload of dick pics”.

“…when it comes to talking about what I do I’m usually talking about a particular job. Like right now I could say ‘I’m presently illustrating a boatload of dick pics’”.

Where do you most often seek out creative inspiration?

A lot of my personal projects are based on music or musicians. I love music videos too, it’s fascinating to see how a director interprets the idea or the sound of a song. If I find a new song that I’m playing to death, chances are I’ll have an idea for a drawing for it.

Which professional illustrators do you look up to and why? 

I’m big into Dan Cassaro and James Victore. I’m also a Tumblr Junkie, and two cool illustrators I found there are Amrit Brar – Shitty Horroscopes , and Anuj Shrestha-Anujink.

From home, one of my heroes is Jacob Stack.The drawings he makes are these painstaking, detailed in the minutia, labors of love.

At the end of the day, what do you love most about being an illustrator?

It’s rewarding to see the progress you make over time. Looking back at older work can be mortifying but then I’m so glad I stuck with it. And I feel like I still have much more to learn and improve on. I love trying to figure a drawing out, and frequently what I get isn’t what I saw in my mind when I started but the translation from your mind to your hands is part of the magic too!

Illustration Month continues throughout January and February, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!