Local artist profile: Caitlin O’Dwyer

November 28, 2021 BY

Drawn to life: Illustrator Caitlin O'Dwyer is making wave with her art, both here and overseas. Photo: SUPPLIED

THIS week we chat with illustrator Caitlin O’Dwyer


What initially motivated you to become an illustrator?

I always loved drawing, it always seemed like the most natural path. My mum is a very creative person and always encouraged me to pursue my own creative talents. I also had some great teachers throughout my schooling who cheered me on in my artistic pursuit as well.


Can you describe your illustration style?

I would say that I have two different styles. A cartoony style that I employ with my cover and book illustrations, usually digital artworks, created with Photoshop and a drawing tablet. I also have a more photorealistic style that I predominantly use with pet portraits. With the pet portraits I usually stick to using watercolours, inks and markers.

I have always favoured expressive characters, bright colours and textured backgrounds.


Is it hard to make ends meet from illustration?

Working as a full-time illustrator has always been my goal. I’ve had a variety of different jobs since finishing uni, but in the last few years I have been able to tip the scales in favour of my illustrations.


You seem to have a bit of a penchant for drawing animals and other creatures. How did that come about?

Drawing animals has always seemed to come easier to me than drawing people.

I’ve always loved animals. I used to copy characters from my favourite books or movies, and I would have fun telling my own stories through their expressions and body language.


Which other artists inspire you?

Some of my favourite characters growing up were Charles M Shulz’s Snoopy, and Murray Ball’s Dog. I believe I learnt a lot about conveying mood and loose and expressive linework from these two great artists. I also adored the work of Maurice Sendak. More recently I take my inspiration from other freelance artists. I frequently find myself drifting back to the work of Alexandra Bye, especially as I’m working hard to develop and improve my illustrations of people.


What have you been working on lately?

Recently I have been working on a book cover and interior chapter illustrations with American author Letitia Burton. The book is about a young Osprey making his first migration from Long Island to Argentina and is geared towards young readers.

I’ve also been working on pet portraits. Christmas time is always very busy for these!


What are some fond memories you have from your career so far?

This year I finished my first full picture book, Isabelle May, a story about a clever chicken outwitting a fox. It’s a great story authored by Brett Stewart and it was such a pleasure to bring the characters to life. The book was launched as part of a fundraising campaign for Parkinson’s research.


How has your art practice been affected by COVID?

On the contrary, I actually found I was able to work COVID to my advantage. Being unable to do work outside of illustration reminded me just how much I love what I do. Being your own boss is great!

It gave me some freedom to focus on my art without the added pressure or responsibility of another job. In the last 18 months I have secured an agent in the United States, illustrated my first full picture book and have finally made illustration my primary source of income.