Artist & Surface Pattern Designer Hilary Glynn

In this series on interviews on creativity, I’d like to uncover common traits and what, if anything, is different between each person’s routine. Creative thinking is fundamental to growth every aspect of life so I’d like to see what practices we can all incorporate into our daily routines.

This month I spoke with Hilary Glynn. Hilary Glynn is an artist and surface pattern designer based in Dublin. She is self taught and works primarily with digital illustration.  Her style can be described as minimal, colourful and inspired by nature, specifically plants and flowers.

What motivates you creatively and what would you say is your forte?

I have always been drawn to creativity, I am naturally introverted so enjoy and need quiet time. I find creating gives me that space and time. When I am drawing all my focus is on colour and happy imagination, there is no room left for the days worries. I would say my forte is creating minimal, nature inspired art using contemporary colour palettes.

What is your creative routine? Perhaps something you do to get started, etc. How do you organise your day?  

I quit my ‘real’ job in 2020 and now work part-time for my husbands business while trying to make a go of my art business. Apart from Mondays my day is split between the two jobs, mornings at the office and afternoons back home in my little studio. Getting started in the studio always involves coffee, comfy clothes, my two helpers (chihuahuas Buzz and Lola) and some music. At the start of the week I make a plan on what I’m going to tackle in the week ahead. There is soooo much that goes into a creative business, it seems endless and overwhelming at times. I am so grateful to be a member of The Biscuit Factory run by creative business mentor Tara Prendergast. Tara has created an amazing supportive network of creatives alongside a host of reality based courses designed for creative entrepreneurs. She hosts live calls with us every Wednesday and Friday that basically re-fuel me and help to keep me on track.

What inspires you? How does an idea come about for an illustration, etc.: is there a process? 

I am greatly inspired by flowers and plants, I just find them so beautiful. They are found in countless different shapes, sizes, colours and patterns.  Look at the weed ribwort plantain, it has a satellite of petals, or a cowslip with its puffy balloons of petals, or amazing quirky indoor plants like the Pilea Peperomioides with its circular leaves. The variety of design is endless.  Floral design also amazes me, beautiful garlands, cottage garden bouquets, living walls, there are so many stunning pieces that never fail to inspire me. Floral design is something I’d like to explore further and I plan to take some courses in it later this year.

I’m also inspired by home interiors and accessories. I’m a big fan of Scandinavian design, comfort and practicality with elegance and lots of natural materials.  I’m drawn to minimal interiors that are uncluttered but have a sense of character by using elements like pops of bold colour, illustrated homewares, quirky ceramics, plants or interesting artwork.

My process is very fluid, it can start as one thing but be very different by the end. Sometimes I sketch with paper and pencil before transferring to the iPad to work digitally. I take lots of nature photos which I use as reference and bookmark images of interiors or colour combinations that I like .  I generally don’t know what the end piece will look like, I just have a very rough idea of the content. Sometimes I am inspired by an interior I’ve seen and create a piece that I can envisage hanging on its wall other times I see an image or a flash of something in my head and just start sketching. Some days I don’t have an idea and just start sketching some florals from my reference photos and gradually an idea emerges.

Do you have a special place/s that you return to for inspiration? 

I like to go to Marlay Park which is quite close to where I live.  I spent a lot of time there as a kid and remember it been a particularly healing space a few years back when I was ill. It has beautiful woodlands, a walled garden, wild flower meadows, ponds and even  a courtyard of beautiful craft studios. I also love to wander through  flower shops and garden centres. My absolute favourite is ‘The Garden’ in  Powerscourt townhouse. 

It can be difficult to create in the modern world with social media and the constant noise i.e.  the constant need to produce ‘content’ (instead of getting on with creating). How do you maintain your authentic self/voice? Does the constant comparison on and/or influence of social media help or hinder this? 

It really is a challenge, on the one hand it’s a great opportunity to get your work out to the world and I love seeing beautiful work and images and homes that would other wise be hidden.  On the other hand its extremely frustrating knowing that an algorithm is deciding who will see your content. You can get caught up in a crazy game of hashtags and keywords, standing on your head in a tutu to create ‘engaging’ videos, getting guilted out by the endless social media gurus telling you what you are doing wrong. You can spend hours at it and get a handful of views, while other days you post a picture of a sandwich and its shown to the world. For my sanity I choose not to play that game. I am what I am, I share what I can, that is the only way for me to be authentic and I have no interest in been anything else. In terms of comparison I think there are days when you are vulnerable, you’re tired or something is bugging you and images that inspire you on other days seem to be mocking you instead, you need to catch yourself when this happens and fling the phone to the other end of the couch!   

Given that creative work is an expression of our inner world, how do you keep positive when an idea ‘fails’ or when you get negative feedback? 

At the end of the day not everyone is going to like your work, if its constructive feedback, use it, if its just nasty ignore it, it’s likely not about you.

You have experimented with various crafts, such as crochet, embroidery and screen printing. What about digital illustration attracts you more than the others? 

I would say the flexibility. It’s a very forgiving media if you make a mistake you can undo it, if you are drawing one thing and something else starts to emerge and sparks a new vision you can go there, save where you are, duplicate it and go in a new direction. You can use parts of an existing design to create a new one, build a pattern using independent images. You can play with the colours to create variations of the same image. It’s a very free way to create, there is no fear of wasting expensive materials or ‘ruining’ it and it suits the way I like to create.

There are many obstacles to a creative career, or even just a creative life, not least finding the determination to pursue something that is usually just a spark of an idea in the beginning. Could you tell me about an obstacle that you overcame to achieve your creative goals?

Still trying to climb those obstacles to be honest to make it viable as a career, its so difficult to make anything close to a living in a creative career. In terms of establishing a creative life though I think the biggest challenge I overcame was learning to draw and developing my own style. I didn’t do art in school or college and had convinced myself I couldn’t draw, then one day I just started, I took loads of online courses and just kept at it. It’s the best thing I did because it opens up so many other creative paths like surface pattern design.

Meaningful connection is fundamental and in creating we are communicating through our work; connecting at an elemental level. Essentially, we are putting our view out there in the hope that it will resonate. What do you hope to communicate through your artwork? 

On a very basic level I want to communicate positivity, happiness, and an appreciation for nature and the simple things in life.  It may sound superficial to essentially want to make pretty things but for me been in a beautiful space makes me happy, it makes me feel comfort and joy and optimism. If my artwork contributes to the creation of a beautiful space that evokes positivity then that is something I can be proud of.

Given the new situation the world finds itself in—dominated by a virus—and that we have seen how creativity has bound us during this time (with many people taking refuge in some form of creative pursuit), what role do you think it should play once this period has passed? 

I think one positive outcome of the pandemic is that it gave some creative businesses the time and opportunity to create an online presence with ecommerce and workshops. This gave access to a whole new audience and I definitely felt the growth in interest for creatives and their practice. Sadly I do already see a decline and a return to old habits online. Without the same level of continual online interaction small creative businesses once again begin to disappear into the background behind the algorithms and high marketing budgets of bigger fish. We have so much amazing talent in Ireland and yet so much of it is hidden. I would love to see the creation of creative centres, that provide an affordable and purpose built space to host workshops, studios, and informal galleries and shops where all these talented creatives can showcase their work and share their skills and where visitors feel welcome, at ease and inspired.

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