May 10, 2016

Spotlight: Siobhan Gallagher

Siobhan Gallagher tackles all of our modern tragedies.

As someone who's obsessed with the relationship between words and pictures, I'm always looking for artists that explore their union. While this usually confines me to the world of comic art, Siobhán Gallagher's displays the compelling relationship between text and visuals without the necessity of narrative that comics rely on. Her work, which is sometime specific and referential – an illustration that displays the frustration of being at a party where 75% of the people are wearing enamel pins from the same small press – also can be totally open – like her intricate drawing of a garbage can on fire entitled "hot mess." Siobhan has published two impressive zines, Contain Yourself and Soothing the Troublemakers, as well as editing a déjà vu themed anthology with a selection of other illustrators, called Saturdéjàvu. Aside from independent work, Siobhán is working on her first nonfiction book and designs book covers for Penguin. I talked to Siobhán about what her art relies on: humour, context, and, of course, a viewer.

The Le Sigh: Your work often invokes humor not only visually but textually. do you ever write fiction or independent from drawings?

Siobhán Gallagher: I do lots of writing but in small, brief chunks, and rarely fiction. Mostly observational or poem-type stuff that sometimes end up incorporated into my drawings.

TLS: How does the place your work is going to be displayed factor into you work?

SG: I think there are a few consistent themes or images in my drawings. They tend to have 1) a little bit of humor, 2) some kind of attention to detail (whether it's a pattern, stippling, repeated shapes, or whatever), and 3) women. So no matter where my work is going to be displayed, those commonalities are there and that's not really going to change what I make, whether it's something I do for fun or for a show or for a zine.  The majority of my drawings have been done in a 9x9" notebook and are scanned so either way, they continue to exist both online and in my sketchbook.

TLS: Do you think that your work as a book cover designer has affected the progression of your personal style?

SG: Honestly... no, oops! Or maybe it's affected it in that I look at my design work and illustration work almost through different eyes. I kind of see being a book designer as a Very Professional Day Job and my illustration as the diary I scribble into at the end of a day so both kind of do something different for me and (I think) help me stay balanced, one grounding me in reality and the other being more personal.

TLS: If there is one person you’re aiming to please with your work, who is it? Why?

SG: Interesting! I don't think I'm aiming to please anyone but myself, though I think I do try to speak to an underdog audience. The people who can relate to life's sad but funny but vulnerable moments.

TLS: I feel like your work is often referential (at least implicitly) to your living in Brooklyn. Do you agree with this and is it intentional?

SG: I def agree, though I've always been obsessed with New York and have incorporated it into my drawings since I was a kid. I'm from a small Canadian town so I always glorified the idea of New York and since moving here three years ago, now I have a real excuse to reference it so much! 

TLS: Which contemporary illustrators’ work do you look up to? 

SG: In no particular order, I love these artists' works so much:  Lilli CarreRoman MuradovEleni KalorkotiHenning WagenbrethChris WareSteve PowersLisa HanawaltLiana FinckKrystal DiFronzoRay Fenwick.

TLS: Although your work involves the combination of words and pictures, there are only a few that could be classified as ‘comics’, at least from what I’ve seen on your site. Would you ever make a longform comic?

SG: You're right, that's kind of why I never really know how to describe my work because a lot of it isn't really comics, cartoons, or doodles. I've tried long form comics in the past and haven't found the right rhythm or comfort in it so I'm not sure when I'll attempt a long form comic again, though I'm working on an illustrated book right now for TarcherPerigee at Penguin Random House that feels like the perfect format for what type of work I do.

TLS: What is your dream art project?

SG: Doing an animated short I think. I have no idea how to do animation but I grew up watching National Film Board of Canada videos and have always appreciated those works.

Check out Siobhán's work on her website here and her Twitter here

Written by Rachel Davies