Q&A with artist Steve Cannon

Every Friday morning the gang here sit down for an hour and chat about inspiring things that we’ve came across during the week. It’s called Bulletin Board. It’s our time to share what’s peaked our interests. Sometimes guests are invited to take part and share. We asked artist, Steve Cannon a few questions as part of last week’s sit down. Canon’s life is as eclectic as his many crafts. From sculpting to archaeological illustrations, he uncovers his life and inspo. Here’s how it went…

How did you get started as an illustrator?

I had been working on submarines, then ferries and tug boats. While living on Clare Island in Co. Mayo, I unfortunately had an accident on the island ferry with led to the amputation of my leg. During my recuperation, I had wandered into Easons and noticed books that had been illustrated by PJ Lynch. I was fascinated by his work. That was the moment I decided to venture into illustration.

My painting style tended be fairly illustrative so the jump to illustration just added more people into the mix (publishers, art directors etc.). I had by then completed a few illustrative projects purely from word of mouth. A local gallery owner was kind enough to pass on PJ’s phone number to me. I gave him a ring and we chatted for about 20 minutes. He advised me to look into joining the Illustrators Guild of Ireland (IGI). I did. That was roughly 10 years ago.


What was the most challenging piece of work you’ve done?

I completed a portrait of Roger O’Reilly for the ‘State of Us’ IGI exhibition. The challenging part would namely be the scale which was A1 as I would normally work smaller. That and it was in graphite. I do love the medium but once again, the scale.


Three icons in your life and why?

In illustration: PJ Lynch, Kevin McSherry and Alan Clarke. I would have chosen these three for their sheer talent, drive, how prolific they are and even the fact that they seem to be very sound people.


What work are you most proud of?

My book ‘Mairéad agus an Foghlaí Mara’ published by An Gum in 2008. I wrote it after losing my leg in the accident. As a grown man, I had to come to terms with being handicapped but as an adult I didn’t have to deal with all the peer group notions, fears and uncertainty that children are faced with. So, I wrote the book for a handicapped child to read and hopefully gain strength from. Even though I would love to redo almost everything in it, I am proud of it.


Where do you get inspiration from?

I gain inspiration from everything and everyone. That said, my partner is my muse. She inspires me to create in so many ways. As for what I create, I do sample from everywhere. I love to people-watch, to try and find the subtle beauty hiding in plain sight. I often gain inspiration from urban blight. I live in the west of Ireland in a fairly rural area so urban blight is somewhat foreign to my everyday life even though I have experienced it in my past. I also am inspired by art in general. Exhibitions, magazines, online etc.


What do you do to get out of a creative slump?

I can usually work my way out of one but if all else fails I have a few things I try. Living in the west I can quickly be out in nature. I have a house on an island with a dog, cats, horses, donkeys etc., so it’s easy to rejuvenate. I may also go to an exhibition or create in another genre (I am also a sculptor).


What’s your favourite piece?

My favourite changes from month-to-month. Looking back now, I’d choose the piece I did for the Birmingham Royal Ballet Company for their production of ‘Giselle’. I had complete control over what I did and I could just have fun with it. No pressure except for getting it done on time.


What has been the most exciting aspect of your career?

There are a few, namely not knowing what’s coming next. Not knowing what sort of project or with whom I’ll be working. There is also how working in one medium or genre can often lead you to create in another. That moment when you are so taken up with your work that you lose track of time. It’s as if the world has stopped and you’re simply lost in the art.


How do you know you’ve landed on the right concept for a piece?

If I create a concept that I truly like, I often try and look at it from other people’s viewpoint. I will often be happy—I might even say proud—when I think I have it right.

What would your dream project be?

There are so many. The factors in both would be either a great product or story, something I truly believe in and enjoy. Having the client view my work and simply tell me that they trust my vision and ask me to run wild and ‘do my thing’. A well-established brand or author would be a definite plus; but working with a talented up-and-comer has its benefits as well!

Take a look at more of Steve’s work here.