Louise Rowland

June, 2017

Lou is an Illustrator currently based in Ireland. Her work tends to be conceptual story lines, told through illustrations. Her love for lines, shapes and colours, means that her drawings are bright and very detailed. She has done work for print publications, as well as painting onto street objects for her collaboration with the Dublin Canvas project.

Though mainly digital, Lou shows a real flare for understanding the medium on which to work on, and isn't limited by screen or methodical processes when it comes to her art. Some of her work comes in the form of screen prints as well as featured inside books of her own making.

I spoke to Lou about what life is like in Ireland for new artists as well as her thought processes behind her drawings.

Whats the art scene like currently in Dublin and do you think you’ll stay living there?

Dublin’s art scene is vivid. I spent three thrilling years there, studying in The National College of Art and Design. However I currently live in the north-west of Ireland, in a place called Donegal. I’m a bit isolated at the moment regarding an art scene but it’s not long before I’ll be back in a creative environment again! I definitely miss Dublin. There is such a fantastic creative community there with budding artists and designers creating amazing work. I could see myself moving back in a couple of years for sure.

What to you is the difference between Illustration and your degree subject, Visual Communication? Can you be both / which one are you?

To me, illustration is a part of Visual Communication. I always viewed my degree subject as a large umbrella covering many disciplines like graphics, typography, print, animation, film, photography and really anything you want to incorporate into such an interesting degree. I think you definitely can be both. I’ve always been attracted to the concept of being a multidisciplinary artist and designer and I think thats why I’m always developing my skills, doing experimental work and changing my mind. In college I used to panic because I never felt comfortable calling myself a graphic designer, but Vis Com taught me to forget labelling myself and just make work. I soon found myself happiest when illustrating so I thought why not give illustration a go as my main discipline.

The fantastic thing about my degree was that it allowed me to incorporate my love of writing into my projects as well and I ended up writing and illustrating two books in my final year. A year on, I suppose I call myself and illustrator but I'm very happy I studied Vis Com and everything I learnt from it helped me become the designer and artist I am today.

“I’ve always been attracted to the concept of being a multidisciplinary artist and designer and I think thats why I’m always developing my skills, doing experimental work and changing my mind.”

I like that you’ve displayed some of your sketchbook pages on your website. Is that where your visual process starts, and if so, how important is it for you to start with an initial sketch in mind?
My sketch books are key. I almost always carry one with me, doodling and dreaming.

I always sketch ideas before I begin a illustration, testing layout, size, medium etc. I enjoy using graphite pencils and fine liner pens in my notebooks before going digital. I used to have a fear of filling my notebook, and making it look ‘nice’ but now I’m a lot more free with my illustrations and concepts. In college, my favourite part of my projects was researching in my notebook. Contextual followed by primary research, idea generation and final work. My work usually brims with concept and I love having my notebooks to test out every possible outcome during my creative process before I create my final work.

Your personal work ‘The Fear Factory’ is quite an interesting topic you’ve chosen to illustrate. What gave you the idea to present the concept in book format?

The Fear Factory began as a personal piece but then turned into my final year project in NCAD. I enjoy creating narratives to explore my concepts. And so I found the idea of creating an absurd, farcical narrative to address the topic of fear exciting and an opportunity to combine my love of writing and illustration in a considered design project. I explored this through book design, creation of a narrative and illustration. Three things I absolutely love.

The novel is a farcical exploration of fear and where it originates. I came to the realisation that fear is different for every person, as they have created it within themselves. Indeed, people are often the creators and designers of their own fear. The project in book format, aims to undermine the often serious approach to fear through the creation of a fictional illustrated world.

“I came to the realisation that fear is different for every person, as they have created it within themselves.”

My favourite of your works is probably the brief you did for D&AD Shuttershock, ‘One. Two. Three.’ - I love that you choose to use storytelling as a main focus in this project. Can you tell us more about the concept and outcome?
Thank you, it is still one of my proudest pieces. The apparent mundane journey of a bus ride once became a memorable act. I was the only one who knew. It then occurred to me how much can go unnoticed in our everyday lives, how strangers pass each other everyday, yet they are oblivious to the stories that surround them. A story can a provide a significant insight into a social issue or struggle. Highlighting an issue through a relatable story became the starting point of this project. Through the creation of an illustrated novel, the three interlinking stories of Jess, Arlo and Michael highlight the social issues of mental health, gender identity and loneliness. It was important that these social issues created a purpose for the book. The hidden connection between people, even when they themselves are unaware, became an intrinsic concept during this project.

Having completed my first draft of the story, I continued with a wide exploration of illustration in attempt to depict the essence of each narrative. The isolation of various objects mentioned in the narrative became the focus of my research, reflecting the seclusion of each character they surround. The eventual connection of each story mirrors my final illustrations, which are comprised of a combination the various objects. The illustrated novel is my holistic approach to all three narratives.

“It then occurred to me how much can go unnoticed in our everyday lives, how strangers pass each other everyday, yet they are oblivious to the stories that surround them.”

You seem to use Instagram a lot to post your more personal / experimental stuff… would you agree?

Yes absolutely. I began my Instagram in January so I'm still pretty new to the game, but I decided to create a platform, a visual diary almost in that I would post everyday. It’s like an on-going thought process for me really, whatever I’m thinking and what sort of things I’m working on. I have no set brief and I can make anything. That freedom is great for my creative process. I enjoy working on briefs but I think the work I made for my Instagram is personal in the way that I end up creating interesting work while under no pressure.

Do people often have different interpretations of your work (name / concept / story) and if so, do you like that?

Yeah I suppose they do. People often ask me about abstract illustrations wondering what they mean. I like hearing about what they see in them and what reaction they have before telling them my concept. I also enjoy writing alongside my illustration work and so I think my words tend to lead people towards my thought process.

After finishing interning in ABA Art Lab in Palma recently, what’s next for you?

My next chapter begins in September. I’m going to study an MA of Design in Illustration in the Glasgow School of Art. I am beyond excited to be moving to a new city, spending the next year immersed in illustration and returning to a creative environment. I know Glasgow has a fantastic art and design scene and I can’t wait to jump right in.

Your instagram bio reads, "Today I'm an illustrator.” Tomorrow you’ll be…?

That’s the big question. You see I’m always changing my mind, but for me that’s exciting. As well as being an illustrator, I’m also a musician and then there’s also my writing. All three things make me tick so I’ll just have to wait and see.


Find Lou's website here.

Find her Instagram here!


︎   ︎

E-mail me at 
allmyplantsaredead@outlook.com for info on comissions, projects and more.

© All My Plants Are Dead, 2019
Environmentally focused, illustration obsessed, & trying to live waste free.