Barry Quinn

We are delighted that this week we are interviewing the incredibly talented illustrator Barry Quinn

Born in Monaghan, Ireland, 1983. Adventurer and woodland explorer for 14 years. Musician for 10 years. Freelance artist and illustrator for 5, and counting.

Somewhere in the middle I studied Multimedia Programming in IADT. I met some nice people there.

I use mainly recycled or secondhand materials in my work. I paint on waste card, recycled or scrap papers, old canvas materials, found wood, recycled and carbon-neutral papers. Packaging and framing all come from secondhand sources. I save used staples and never throw my paint water down the drain.

Sometimes I leave my house and exhibit (mostly with Dublin-based group Artwave) or sell at markets/fairs, and I do some illustrating for bands and musicians (Niamh deBarra, Flinders, Green Lights). But mostly I just sand old bits of wood. “

How and where are you today?

I’m pretty good. I had pancakes for breakfast, which is usually a good start. I’m in my studio, at home.

How would you describe the journey that has brought you to this place? And was this the destination you had in mind?

I have always been drawing or making things since very young. My mother is an artist and it’s generally a very creative, artistic family. I grew up in the countryside and I’ve always been surrounded by trees and wildlife. It’s increasingly a driving factor in my work that the things I do are with understanding of the environmental consequences and with an appropriate humility. Up until about 4 or 5 years ago I had been focused mainly on music, playing guitar, gigging and recording with bands. I started to get RSI (repetitive strain injury) which made playing music not so enjoyable. So I started concentrating more on the drawing and painting side of things. Some friends were organising a group exhibition in a house in Dublin at the time, so I took part in that. I’ve never been a part of any sort of art scene though. I wouldn’t be overly comfortable in the exhibition environment and I wouldn’t have the sort of contacts you might gather through college (I studied Multimedia Programming), I’m happy to just be making things. I would definately think of my drawings more as illustration than fine art and it always been more important for me to perfect the process as a craft than worry about whether or not it’s seen.

I wouldn’t really consider “this” a destination. I don’t believe in the idea of a destination, in terms of work, life, etc. So long as I’m doing something and learning something, I’m content.

Do you have a process to ensure you are in the right frame of mind to create?

Unfortunately, no. Which usually leaves me in brief periods of creative drought. But my work takes various forms. As well as the visual art, I make music and design and maintain websites. Plus with the art side of things, there’s always random practical work to do like e-mailing, blogging, printing, making bags, taking part in markets and exhibitions. So if one side of my brain is refusing to work there’s generally something to occupy the other side. Plus there’s the never-ending compulsion to make use of things I can’t throw away. I save paper cuttings, used staples, bits of plastic, sheets of wood, anything that would otherwise be heading for the bin. It can be a good incentive to make stuff with useless rubbish – when your room’s full of useless rubbish.

With regards to what actually does get my brain into gear for drawing and painting, that would generally be a good book and some new music. Books on science or history especially. I find that little inspires the imagined world more than trying to figure out the craziness of the real world.

How do you think your background and culture influences your creations?

I suppose the subject or nature of my work would come more from personal experience. It tends to be quite dark, but with a twisted humour. I think a lot of that stuff is just me making fun of myself or of society in general. Trying to express the importance of accepting that sometimes things just go wrong. Aesthetically, I think a lot of the influence probably comes from Japanese culture. The characters I draw and the compositions probably owe a lot to reading comics and watching manga films as a kid. I generally tend to surround my drawings and paintings in stories, imagining them as 3 dimensional worlds. As opposed to illustrating what’s already there. I’ve always loved the story-telling aspect of art, like old Chinese watercolours or traditional faery tales. The idea of using art as a means to communicating the things in life we have trouble understanding or expressing. Particularly when you’re communicating a lot by saying very little. It’s a quality I’d always be hoping to achieve. Lately though, I’m getting into textiles. Patterns and detailing, as of folk art, old rugs, antique ornaments. The exact opposite really. Saying very little, but with lots of effort!

What does beauty mean to you?

Beauty for me, I guess, would be honesty. I mean, you can see anything as being beautiful, if you just look at it long enough and give it some space in your head. I’d have a real problem with how society would generally define beauty. That whole idea of masking reality to mimic this single standard of what is to be considered beautiful. To me, beauty lies in the fact that nothing is the same. How you can look at a bug, or a tree, or a person of a million variations and each one will be unique. Ugly is when people try to hide that or place values on such things. I’m not sure if that answers the question!

If we had interviewed you when you were 11, what would you have told us you wanted to be when you grew up?

Maybe a musician. I have a terrible memory, so I haven’t a clue what I was like as an 11 year old. But there was always a lot of music in our family and I remember always wishing I could take part in the music sessions that would happen on holidays and celebrations. Either that or probably Tasslehoff Burrfoot. Actually, yes, I’m pretty sure around that time I wanted to be a kender, as of the Dragonlance Chronicles.

 What advice have you received that you want everyone to benefit from?

“Slowly slowly, catchy monkey”

We love these answers. Get yourselves over to Barry’s ETSY store and BLOG.

Thank you so very, very much Barry. We love your illustrations and are so happy you are now officially in the handsome and pretty family. Hooray!

handsome and pretty



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