Studio Visit

Eirian Chapman

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
28th of March 2014
The work of Melbourne-based illustrator / graphic designer Eirian Chapman. Photo - Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.
Illustration for Toronto Life Magazine by Eirian Chapman.
Illustration of stylist Megan Morton for Hitched Magazine by Eirian Chapman.
An illustration for Hitched Magazine by Eirian Chapman.
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Graphic design work for iPad app the Garden Planner by Eirian Chapman.
Melbourne-based graphic designer and illustrator Eirian Chapman, with her new mural at the new Jacky Winter HQ. Photo - Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.
If you have been reading TDF for a very long time you might recall waaaaaay back in January 2012 (hey, that's a long time in internet years) we introduced the work of Melbourne based illustrator / graphic designer Eirian Chapman.  Fast forward two years and Eirian's portfolio has grown immeasurably - she has produced an incredible breadth of work for clients including The Commonwealth Bank, Elle magazine, Telstra, Mercedes, Poketo and Nobrow.  Alongside this commercial work, Eirian is also super disciplined in maintaining a healthy number of personal projects at any given time - we love 'Teeth and Hair', Eirian's hair ornament blog, featuring over 60 illustrations of exquisite hair combs... (must be seen to be properly understood - they are incredible!). Eirian's work has been front of mind this month because she just completed an amazing large-scale mural at the offices of her agent, Jacky Winter, in Collingwood.  This new mural depicts a mermaid-like 'guardian angel' who watches over the Jacky Winter staff whilst they work!  The project presented a challenge for Eirian, who rarely works at such large scale, however the outcome is amazing.  I love the colour palette of letterbox red, dusty pink and spearmint green - perfect combo! Aside from being seriously talented with a pen / paintbrush / wacom tablet, whilst compiling Eirian's interview responses, Lisa and I also found ourselves totally impressed by Eirian's brilliant writing style! Her responses below are hilariously funny - particularly notable 'LOL' moments include an emotive reference to US rapper Notorious B.I.G ('we could have been lovers in a previous life') and reference to Eirian's very own theme park filled with dinosaurs ('I really should check in and see how it's all going' she says!) !! Eirian is represented commercially by Jacky Winter - check out her full portfolio on the website here.
Tell us a little about your background – What path led you to becoming a graphic designer, and to creating the style of work you are currently making?
After a brief stint working at Michel's Patisserie in Northcote Central (apparently you are not meant to taste test drinks before serving them to customers?!), I knew that I wanted a creative day job, so I enrolled in RMIT’s Communication Design degree in the hope of becoming a graphic designer/illustrator. After completing Honours, I got a job working in a small corporate design studio where I spent most of my time working on logos and brochures. I quit after three years and spent 12 months drawing and building up a folio of work, doing small editorial illustrations and freelancing in design studios. As I was spending my days on the computer making logos, my illustration style evolved into something more geometric and colourful.
What influences the style of your work?
I’m into mid-century graphic design and surrealism. I particularly like icons and logos – the idea of simplifying an illustration in order to communicate something clearly. I love the clothes of Tata Naka and Vivetta (who I’m wearing in these photos). My obsessions are colour blocking, primary colours, ghost stories, sad women and jungle survival tales. Print
Illustration for Howler Magazine by Eirian Chapman.
You recently completed a large-scale mural at the new Jacky Winter headquarters in Collingwood. Talk us through this latest project!
When Jeremy Wortsman asked me if I wanted to paint a mural at the new Jacky Winter HQ, I was pretty nervous at first, as I don’t paint often, and the wall was huge! When he mentioned that he liked the illustration I created for Nobrow of a giant naked woman washed up on the beach, surrounded by tribes-people, a sort of reverse Gulliver’s Travels, I relaxed and promptly Googled ‘how to paint a mural’. I thought a guardian angel would be a nice feature for the new JW office, watching over them as they worked. I am a little obsessed with drawing poultry, so the first round of sketches had chickens surrounding the angel, but it just didn’t work, so Jeremy suggested I replace them with spaceships and planets. After a couple of rounds of revisions we chose a colour scheme that complimented the colours in the office – the wings are the same pink colour they’ve used to accentuate sections of the studio. In my naivety, I thought the whole mural would take about two days to paint, but I was very wrong! It took a lot longer than that. Luckily, I had the pleasure of working alongside Mimi Leung, who was painting the outside mural at JW. She gave me great advice. EirianChapman-mural1
Eirian's impressive wall mural at the new Jacky Winter HQ in Collingwood. Photo - Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.
Eirian's impressive wall mural at the new Jacky Winter HQ in Collingwood. Photo - Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.
Can you give us a little insight into your creative process?
I approach illustrating jobs very differently to design briefs. But I start every project the same way, researching and sketching tonnes of rough thumbnail illustrations, trying out ideas and layouts before selecting a couple of them to refine. With illustration jobs, I research the client and, if time permits, make a mood board of colours and image references. I then sketch the illustrations a little larger and, using tracing paper, refine them until they are ready to scan in and show the client. Once they’ve chosen a concept, I work up the coloured version in Illustrator using my Wacom tablet. If it’s a design job, I dive straight in and work up three concepts straightaway to an almost finished stage to show the client. EirianChapman-hitched
Illustration for Hitched Magazine by Eirian Chapman.
Illustration for Hitched Magazine by Eirian Chapman.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
I work from my home studio, so in order to get some movement into my day I start off with a series of exercises under the guidance of pro footballer Tony Gonzales (he has an app called Fitstar). By 9.00am I reply to emails and get to work on urgent jobs until lunch, then I continue working until 5.30 0r 6.00. I listen to a lot of music while I work, and have recently been deeply focused on Notorious B.I.G’s back catalogue. Even though we have lived very different lives (and he’s dead), I feel that in another life we could have been lovers. I usually go for a walk after work with my partner (not dead).
Can you list for us 5 resources across any media that you turn to regularly for creative inspiration?
I like Instagram, and like to look to fashion blogs/websites for a lot of my inspiration. Most of the things I stalk on the internet are fashion and art related. I love the objects discovered by Su Wu of I’m Revolting. San Francisco shop Gravel and Gold has a great blog documenting little known artists, architecture and weird looking ceramics. I love going to the cinema (at least once a week) and I’ve been watching every TV show in existence recently (current faves are The Returned, Hannibal, Justified, Banshee and GIRLS). EirianChapman-illo1
Personal work and studio details. Photo - Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.
Which other local artists, designers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
I’m pretty inspired by illustrator/photographer Kelly Thompson, who has started a BLC (business ladies club). We meet once a month to discuss working for ourselves. It’s great to talk to other creative women about our work and life because our industry can be quite isolating. It’s also good to put on pants and get out of the house! My partner Chris Flynn is an author and I’m looking forward to ‘finally’ reading his second novel, The Glass Kingdom, when it comes out this May. Print
Poster design for Bernard's Magic Shop by Eirian Chapman.
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
Opening a theme park filled with dinosaurs on Isla Nublar was pretty amazing, though I haven’t been there in a while. I really should check in and see how it’s all going.
What would be your dream project?
I don’t really have a dream project! Also, I have really boring dreams about hedges and cats, so reality is always far more interesting.
What are you looking forward to?
I’m currently working towards a solo exhibition at Jacky Winter in October. Stay tuned for a series of ‘print tapestries’.


Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
I honestly don’t have one. There are little bits all over that I like. If I could cobble them all together, I could make the perfect neighbourhood. There’s not one specific suburb that makes me love Melbourne – as a city, it really is the sum of its parts.
Where and what was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?
My driving instructor has been showing me where to get the best Persian food in Melbourne, so we tried AliQapu in Templestowe. It’s housed in what looks like a former Pizza Hut, but the food was great.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
My man and I head to the Preston market for our food shopping and to eat pizza while checking out the animals at the petting zoo.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
I grew up in Northcote, so to me the east is very strange and exotic. The op shops in the eastern suburbs are treasure troves, but don’t tell anyone! EirianChapman-illo2
Illustration for Nobrow by Eirian Chapman.  Photo - Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

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