In Conversation With: Ronan Lynam
last updated 24 July 2023
Interview by Rhys Stacey
Based in Washington DC, Ronan Lynam works as an illustrator contributing to advertising, editorial & retail projects.
Ronan’s work centers around his vivid and colorful style of illustration, capturing the tightness of crisp, graphic work while still retaining a hand-drawn feel with a splash of traditional media textures. Projects often focus around decorative illustrations for branding, conceptual editorial work, and various motion illustration projects.
We caught up with Ronan to find out all about his process and approach to creating art.
Talk us through your creative process. How do you approach a brief
More often than not, the composition of something is at the forefront of my mind. Like - what’s the best visual hook I can come up with to give this brief the best punch? If a brief requires a clever concept, I’ll brainstorm different ideas and details I can include, but I’ll always be keeping the final composition of the work in mind.
Who/What have been your key influences as an illustrator?
This is kind of a problem I have, especially in the age of social media - I have too many influences to the point where it changes every week. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s like this. But pre-Instagram, I was pretty deep in the online world of quirky tshirts, like during the golden age of Threadless and other art-focused companies like that. It was there that I grew my interested in graphic punchy work, that usually had a clever or funny idea to elevate a tshirt design. Although I’m not as deep in the apparel game anymore, being apart of that community early on definitely influenced the path I took as an illustrator.
How did you begin illustration?
These days, I’ve been doing an overwhelming majority of my sketches and conceptualizations onto my iPad. I have a big beefy PC setup, but I find being tied to a desk is often not suitable for the mindset I need to be in when sketching out new ideas.
Getting an iPad Pro with Procreate was an absolute game changer, and it increased my productivity quite a lot. My iPad essentially acts as a digital sketchbook. One of things I really dig about it is that I can create fully colored compositions on it that are loose and quick, but still paint a pretty complete picture for how something will ‘feel’ when it’s done. This can be especially useful for client work, so clients and myself can be on the same page early on in the commissioning process.
I never really do any finished work on it - it’s always loose sketches. If something really gets me excited, I’ll then shoot it back onto my PC to create a higher fidelity illustration.
What’s your favourite part of the illustration process?
There’s 2 parts:
The first is when I actually come up with a good composition in my sketchbook. I try to keep my expectations low when sketching to keep my mind open, but when I hit those little golden nuggets like “Oh wow, I could see this idea working!” - that’s immensely satisfying to me. Really gets my noggin joggin’.
The second is later on, when I inevitably feel stuck on something and tinkering around with it. There will often be a ‘eureka!’ moment where something clicks and I’m able to tie the piece together to finish it. These will usually come after stepping away from a drawing for a while only to come back to it later with fresh eyes. That can really help whenever I feel stuck!
To an up-and-coming artist, what’s one piece of advice you would give?
One of the most important distinctions I’ve ever made for my own work is that there is a difference between art you like, and art you like making. I think this is absolutely crucial to think about. I also think it’s important to recognize when something’s not right, such as when you’re chronically stuck in a creative rut, not happy with the direction of your work, etc. Ask yourself this - is the process of creating work truly fun for you, from beginning to end?
I’m a firm believer in the idea that creating work should be an enjoyable experience, and that the process should dictate the end result - not the other way around. My advice would be to let go of your expectations of yourself, and what whatever end results you want to achieve. In other words, try new workflows or new styles completely. You might end up making work you never knew you were capable of.
What would be your dream brief?
I’ve always wanted to make illustrations for a documentary. Like - the illustrated segments that the crew couldn’t get footage of. I love it when those bits are well done, and I think it’d be so cool to develop. Beyond that, gracing the cover of The New Yorker is like the holy grail of illustration gigs. A man can dream!
“Ronan’s work is really extraordinary! At first, it was his incredible composition work that catches your eye. Ronan’s ability to to bring an idea to life through an entertaining concept is second to none. His landscapes are incredibly engaging and well considered. He’s also able to capture essence of any given scene and really take a viewer to that place. A personal favorite of mine is his piece depicting a lonely astronaut, all alone on a mound looking up at the everything and nothing above his head. To me, you can feel the sense of insignificance the character must be feeling. Ronan is a joy to work with and there is so much more coming down the pipeline. We’re so very excited to have Ronan on board with us and we can’t wait to see what the future holds.” Agent Edward Palmer