Regulars / Nicer Tuesdays

Laura Callaghan on illustrating a lifestyle where women make all decisions

Laura Callaghan took to the Nicer Tuesday’s stage in September, taking the audience on a journey through her illustration career. Coming from a small town in Ireland, — “their best known cultural output so far is The Corrs, that’s what I have to live up to” — moving to England in 2009 for a masters in illustration at Kingston University.

Post graduation Laura spent time looking for children’s book illustration opportunities, “I figured that’s where the jobs and money were – it’s not”. It was a weekly column in Stella a Sunday supplement magazine which helped her distil her female-focused style. “I took the learnings from Stella, watercolour, fashion and pattern, and adapted it for the kind of stuff that I wanted to make…Using pattern and clothing and decorative objects in the background as a narrative device.”

This signature style has led to many successes, but in particular a recent commission from Zeit Magazin asking her to illustrate an article posing the question: “If women were to make all the decisions, what would Germany look like?” Unable to speak German, Laura couldn’t read the articles she was illustrating, and was instead given scenarios to illustrate which would back up the statistics the piece had gathered.

The commission saw Laura draw a grocery store with a 1960s Sainsbury’s packaging inspired colour palette, romantic comedies and a motorway scene which she particularly dreaded — “I hate drawing cars” — and women’s favourite sex positions. Defying the language barrier, the work is yet another triumph from the illustrator.