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Literacy Learnings
Léargais Litearthachta


Illustrator name: Róisín Hahessy
Title of shortlisted book: Eoinín (series)

1. What was your earliest memory of reading/being read to?
I was a big fan of The Dandy and Beano comics when I was growing up. I remember running over to the local newsagents every Saturday morning to pick up my copy. And of course I loved books, especially when I could read them by myself. I read many of series including Goosebumps, The Babysitter Club, Narnia, The Famous Five and lots of Roald Dahl.

2. When did you first begin to illustrate for an audience?
I have been drawing and painting for as far back as I can remember and I think I was always conscious that art has an audience. Whether it’s hanging up at home or in an exhibition, it is there to be viewed by others. As a child I took part in many competitions and exhibitions so my pictures were on public display from an early age.

3. What book inspired you most as a young illustrator? why?
I was very inspired by the drawings in my Beano and Dandy comics; I spent lots of time drawing and copying the exaggerated facial expressions on the characters. I was also very inspired by my favourite cartoons such as Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny. When I was a bit older I fell in love with the illustrations by Quentin Blake in Roald Dahl’s books. How he captures so much emotion by drawing a few scribbly lines still fascinates me.

4. What is the best thing about illustrating for a contemporary audience?
I feel very privileged to be illustrating for such a young, contemporary audience. Picture books are one of the first art forms a child will experience and to see their happy smiles when they look at my illustrations in a book brings me so much joy.

5. What is the most challenging thing about illustrating for a contemporary audience?
Children are brutally honest and if they don’t like something they will say it outright. Luckily this doesn’t happen to me often but when I do I just have to laugh at the cuteness of it, and take it as the best kind of criticism.

6. What inspired you to illustrate the Eoinín series?
I was delighted when Futa Fata invited me to work on this series, Muireann has a great sense of humour and it really comes across in these books. As soon as I read the first manuscript I knew I would enjoy illustrating these books. We wanted to keep detail to a minimum which is more challenging than it might seem. Illustrating these books was very much a collaborative effort. Tadhg (the publisher), Muireann and myself had many chats on Zoom to discuss each stage of sketching and it was quite some time before I was ready to colour.

7. What have you learned from the process of illustrating this book?
Normally when I work on a book I have no interaction with the author. With Futa Fata it is different and I was introduced to Muireann right at the beginning of the project. After each round of sketching, we had a chat on Zoom along with Tadhg, and these brainstorming sessions really brought the book to a place that was much superior than if I had just done it alone. Doing lots of rounds of sketches is much more difficult and tiring than it may seem, but in the end it is so worth it as the final result is as good as we know it can be.

8. What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
I think the key ingredient to making it as an illustrator is passion. It is a very challenging career and there is so much more to it than drawing pictures. But if you love it, it’s worth putting in the effort and it can be very rewarding. You need to learn how to deal with rejection and no matter how many times you get ghosted or hear the word ‘no’ you just keep going and believing in yourself. You need to be able to follow briefs, work to deadlines, respond to emails in a timely manner, manage contracts and invoices and much much more. Drawing is just a part of what we do so I think being an organised person is key. Find a schedule or routine that works for you and stick to it. There are lots of books and resources out there so educate yourself on the business side so that you are prepared.

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