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Illustrator Denise Gallagher draws incessantly. Recurring characters—bears, wolves and young children—end up in curious situations or tied with bits of string and seemingly random objects become deeply meaningful and infused with magic. While Denise's work unfolds to reveal the charm of dark, melancholy, meandering and mysterious tales, viewers are invited to wonder at the scene and imagine what might happen next.

Denise lives in a little house in the little town of Youngsville, Louisiana surrounded by the little things she loves. Her illustrations have been included in the New York Society of Illustrators' 51st Annual Show, The Society of Illustrators Los Angeles' Illustration West 50 Show and the Communication Arts 2012 Illustration Annual and her work has been displayed in museums and galleries in New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans and throughout Louisiana.

07.17.12

Sitting on A Bench with A Sketchbook

If you have a degree in what field is it? I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in graphic design.

Have you always been able to draw or was it a skill you learned in college? I drew constantly as a child—mostly dogs; now I draw a lot of different things—like bears and wolves.

What was your first paid assignment? I won a poster contest. I know, I know, crowdsourcing, but I was in the third grade and it was for the School Spring Fair and I was paid in ride tickets.

Which illustrator (or fine artist) do you most admire? Maira Kalman. I love the freedom and spontaneity in both her writing and her illustrations.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator? As a child I wanted to be a veterinarian. As an adult there have been times that I thought I’d drop everything and go work at the zoo. But if I did work at the zoo, you’d probably find me sitting on a bench with my sketchbook, drawing a kinkajou or an aardvark.

From where do your best ideas originate? My best ideas usually come to me when I’m quiet and still—like when I’m lying in the dark, waiting for my five-year-old to fall asleep. I’ll sometimes compose entire drawings in my head and when I get to my sketchbook they just come tumbling out.

How do you overcome a creative block? To overcome creative block, I sometimes put away my work and seek a change of scenery. And other times, I draw anyway. Sometimes just the act of drawing will inspire me.

In one word describe how you feel when beginning a new assignment. Is nervous-excitement one word?

Do you have a personal philosophy? Be true to your passion. Pour your heart and soul into it. Work hard but have fun.

Do you have creative pursuits other than illustration? I’ve written a children’s book that I’m working on illustrating. I’m also the senior art director at BBR Creative. I love design and typography but my heart belongs to illustration.

What music are you listening to right now? I made a Be Good Tanyas Pandora station that always puts me in the perfect mood to create.

What’s your favorite quote? “We should consider each day lost on which we have not danced at least once.” —Nietzsche

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Create a LOT. Even if it’s just for yourself. Give yourself assignments or seek out projects to work on. But CREATE, CREATE, CREATE!

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? You aren’t going to just stumble onto a personal style. It takes a lot of hard work, discipline and dedication. Draw a lot. Draw for fun. Experiment. Play. Be courageous. Have confidence in your work. DRAW A LOT!