Ahead of her appearance at RHA Hennessy Lost Fridays, we caught up with freelance illustrator, animator and signwriter Holly Pereira of Hyper Pictures to discuss illustration, her love of big letters and the creatives that most inspire her.
Holly, tell us a little about your background and how you first became interested in the world of illustration and lettering.
I came to illustration and design in a kind of backward way. I studied Fine Art in NCAD, graduating in 2004. After spending seven years practicing as a broke painter, I got sick of waitressing, and wanted to try to make living from what I do.
When I turned 30, I did a night course in illustration, and things fell into place in my head. For me, illustration is the crossroads of fine art and design. Concept is important, but aesthetic is given equal weight. I love that craft and skill are to the forefront of the practice.
I went back to college in 2013 to study animation. Drawing is really cool, but drawing that moves is even better! At Ballyfermot, life drawing is a mandatory, with one full day a week dedicated to it. Our tutor, Paula Jane Shuter, is an incredible teacher. Through her classes that I realised that my previous drawing skills were crap! But also that practice makes you better, and since then I’ve been a prolific sketcher.
Starting out, I found the work I was most drawn to was lettering. The interplay between text and image has so many levels of meaning, as does the personality inherent in typefaces. Every typeface has a voice, and being able to experiment with those sounds is endlessly exciting.
What led you to set up Hyper Pictures? How did you come up with the name and what have been the main challenges and successes for you?
After studying in Ballyfermot for two years, I didn’t get accepted in third year automatically, and my grant ran out, so I left. I wanted to try freelance for a while. I like the variety of work that comes my way, be that illustration for advertising, small animations for music videos, animated opening titles for films, murals, sign painting, etc. Part of the first year was saying yes to literally anything. This can be pretty exhausting, and while I’ve started to pare it back a bit now, it allowed me to expand my technical skills, and figure out what I really enjoy.
The name Hyper is a squashed-up version of my full name. “Pictures” is something that denotes both illustration and animation. But nobody, not even my mother, gets this without me having to explain it. So in terms of communicating an idea clearly, I think I failed. But I’ve bought the domain name now, so it’s damn well staying.
As a freelancer, I find it really challenging doing all the stuff to run a business on my own. Touting for new work, doing accounts, self-promotion and generally being on the hussle, are all new skills I’ve had to acquire fast. I’d love to be able to just sit down and draw all day.
In terms of successes, it’s great when people have an emotional reaction to what I’ve done. For example, as a personal project, myself and two friends (John McNaeidhe and Emma Cafferky) painted a mural outside the Bernard Shaw based on a pro-choice sentiment. It was important to me to be part of that dialogue that is currently so pressing in Ireland at the moment. I saw posts on social media by random people who had enjoyed the work, and that was incredibly gratifying.
Music is also a passion for you, isn’t it?
I’m in a gypsy-jazz band called The Tolka Hot Club. We’re just about to record, so this is an exciting time. After sitting in front of Photoshop all day, it’s energising to exercise my mouth (although my friends would argue I do this enough as it is). Drawing and music are really similar, they both use line/melody to tell a story. We play gypsy-jazz crossed with straight jazz crossed with Latin and Balkan music, and I’m looking forward to gigging a lot more come the summer.
What Irish/International creatives are most inspiring to you at the moment?
Generally, I’m very inspired by my peers. I think there’s a really vibrant creative scene in Dublin at the moment, and because I work in a bunch of different areas (illustration, design, animation, streetart), I’m constantly inspired by my contemporaries here.
I love the work of Alan Butler. I’m biased because he’s an old friend, but I genuinely love his work. He makes a lot of video and internet based work that is multi-layered, and full of wit and humour. We have a lot of conversations about robots and AIs. I can’t wait to his new show Heliosynth, opening in Green on Red on March 9th.
In animation, I’m a big fan of Late Night Work Club, which is an animation collective. LNWC are constantly exploring the boundaries of narrative in animation. Irish animator Louise Bagnall is part of it; her work is fantastic.
I’m also slightly obsessed with Michaela Pavlatova, a Czech animator. If you haven’t seen her film Tram, go and look it up now. In 2017, it shouldn’t be so unusual to see a film from such a particular female perspective, but it’s really refreshing and funny, and talks about a female experience in a way that sometimes seems to be under-explored in pop culture.
Tell us a little about the text based wall mural you’re designing as part of Lost Fridays at the RHA on March 3rd.
I’m going to be doing a large typographic piece based on John Cummins’ work. John a is a “poetician” from Dublin, and his work is fantastic, and local. As someone who works with words and imagery, it was an exciting prospect to translate another person’s words and imagery into a different medium.
Since I learned how to sign paint last year, I get very excited by big letters. The great thing about big letters is that they simultaneously are pictorial shapes, and also carry meaning. Another facet of the brief is that there would be audience participation. I’m not sure how eager most people would be to help out after a couple of cocktails (probably too eager!), but I’ll be there with my markers in case they get the urge.
One thing that pisses me off about galleries is that there is such a remove between you and the art. Obviously this is a practical concern if you’re say, Rothko, and all that’s left of you are some dissolved bones and a bunch of insanely valuable paintings, but when I see a good art, I want to touch it and look underneath it, and generally engage with it. That’s why I love street art so much. It’s for everyone, it’s not in a overly-politicised space, there’s no elitism of who you are, and how you enjoy it. So while I may be having private freakouts about people “ruining” my work, once I get over my fragile, dainty ego, I really do encourage everyone to interact with the work on a personal level.
What else can we look forward to seeing from you this year?
I thought January and February would be quiet for me this year, and I could indulge my Gilmore Girls habit. But I’ve been solidly busy, and apart from commercial work, I’ve got a lots of projects coming up. On April 29th, I’m going to be giving a youth workshop on lettering based on the Caravaggio show in the National Gallery of Ireland. Sinead Rice (who is the Education manager in NGI), and her team have composed a really great series of workshops there, contextualising art that is more established within a contemporary framework.
I recently took part in a live art “battle”, Life Styles, based in All Out Design’s studio. It was my first time using spray paints (you’d think I would have practiced, but I didn’t…), and it was both thrilling and massively daunting. But I’ve caught the spray bug now, so hopefully I’ll be doing more of that soon.
I’ve got a long list of passion projects, most of them un-funded and unrealistic, but I really need to balance commercial and personal work to stay sane. I’ve been working on an animated documentary about girls’ first periods, so hopefully it’ll be done this year. I’m setting up a new part of my business to make small hand painted signs, A Good Sign. They’re going to be on distressed wood, and have delicious fonts in fancy colours. Kid’s name, house numbers, filthy swear words; I’ll do it all. The website’s on the way – agoodsign.ie.
Lastly, my partner Rian Trench (who is a musician and producer) and I have started a podcast called Artless, about artists and designers’ processes, which will be available in a few weeks. I’m a nosy person, so this is the perfect way for me to interrogate other creative professionals about how they make a living doing what they do. It’s like looking into someone’s basket in the supermarket, but for art.
Portrait Photos: Afghaniscan
Blue graffiti image: Andrei-Vlad Vasilescu
RHA’s Hennessy Lost Fridays takes place at the RHA Gallery, Ely Place on Friday 3rd March from 7pm til late. The evening’s lineup includes a spoken word performance from John Cummins; live music accompanied by dancers and signature visuals from Bad Bones; a Valerie Francis performance drawing on everything from old synths and harmoniums to horns, drums and strings and DJ sets from Lime and Fancy. The evening also features interactive art from illustrator and animator Holly Pereira and participants are invited to join Holly in colouring and completing the mural over the course of the night.
In addition, the event features guided tours of new RHA exhibitions featuring works from Joy Gerrard, Leah Hewson, Carey Clarke and the RHA Collection with RHA Director Patrick T. Murphy.
Tickets, which cost €20, can be booked through Eventbrite
To see more on the work of Holly Pereira visit www.hyperpictures.com