For the past 17 years, Eoin Coveney has worked as a freelance illustrator for several major magazines, newspapers and advertising companies, both Irish and international. He studied under the supervision of the legendary creator of the graphic novel, the late Will Eisner, and went on to become a master of figurative work himself. Eoin Coveney is now hosting an exhibition of illustrations commissioned by the iconic gay magazine Attitude, which will take place at The Copper House Gallery as a part of the Dublin Pride 2013, this year celebrating its 30th anniversary.
Had you always planned to end up working in the realm of graphic novels? When did it become obvious that you had found your way as an illustrator?
Yes, that was always the plan. Comics and graphic novels caught my attention at a young age and they haven’t let go since. I found my way as an illustrator probably about 5 years ago. I had worked for many years as a visualiser for the advertising industry before that but I really wanted to see my work in print which demands a different set of skills. Visualising is all about speed and confidence. Illustration for print has longer deadlines so I can work on the concept and composition before starting final artwork.
You studied art at college in the 1990s, when technology was just developing. Do you now work completely digitally, or have you remained faithful to traditional techniques?
I still use the same tools at the outset of the job – everything is executed with pencils, pens and brushes on paper. The chief difference is at the colouring stage. I now colour my artwork digitally and deliver it straight to the client via FTP or email. I much prefer this, actually, as I have much more quality control over the final appearance of the final artwork.
You have worked as a freelance illustrator for newspapers and advertising companies, as well as TV commercials and book covers; in the case of Attitude, you have even illustrated short stories. Do you typically work from ideas you already have, or do they come to you after talking to the client?
In the case of Attitude, all the stories are commissioned by very fine writers. Attitude allow me a lot of leeway for my interpretation though, so it’s up to me to find the pivotal scene in the story that I feel sums up the theme and sentiment best.
Attitude were the first of its kind to hire you. Was it difficult to adapt to their style? How did you approach the new genre, and what challenges were you faced with when you first started working with the magazine?
Well, I had worked for other UK magazines before that such as FHM, ZOO and Fabulous. That said, those commissions had dealt chiefly with action or adventure stories with a hard edge to them. For Attitude I knew I had to dial that back. Once I understand the characters and the emotions felt by the characters in any given story, the style seems to present itself to me.
I tried to let the material guide me and it certainly helped that the writing was so strong. All the stories I have worked on are about people experiencing emotions – be it love, jealousy or nostalgia. I love to get inside a character’s head and try to find their motivations. It certainly helped that Attitude approached me at the outset, so I had some confidence that I could produce work that pleased them.
The challenge is always the same in its fundamentals- to produce images of people that are convincing and engaging. Apart from a few tweaks to musculature or hair on the first couple of commissions, they have never asked for an alteration since, which is a dream for any illustrator. For that reason and because of the high quality of the writing, I am usually very happy with the results.
What, in your opinion, is the importance of supporting the upcoming Dublin LGBTQ Festival with initiatives such as themed art exhibitions?
Well, I feel it is important to remember the core audience for the work. Attitude is the biggest- selling gay magazine in Europe so it has its finger firmly on the pulse of that audience. The magazine is a high quality product with a very discerning readership. They are who I am aiming to please every time so it’s very gratifying to me that the exhibition is being associated with the LGBTQ festival in its 30th year.
Eoin Coveney’s “Attitudes” exhibitions runs at The Copper House Gallery, Synge Street, Dublin 8, from 13-19 June as part of the Dublin Pride 2013 celebrations.