Q+A with Illustrator Denise Gallagher
Denise talks about turning points, following your true calling and dancing with aliens.
Mark Kaufman: Have you attended an ICON Conference before?
Denise Gallagher: My first ICON was ICON7, but I plan on attending every ICON from now on!
MK: Tell us a little about what you were up to when you decided to take the plunge and go to your first ICON.
DG: I attended ICON7 because I was at a turning point in my career. I had been an art director at an advertising agency for fifteen years, but was seriously considering taking the leap and doing what I truly love by becoming a full-time illustrator. I felt that by attending ICON, I’d meet other illustrators as well as art directors and illustration reps and be able to talk to them about what the industry was truly like. ICON7 exceeded my expectations. I learned so much about the business that I made the leap. This year, I’m attending ICON8 as a full-fledged illustrator!
MK: Congratulations on your career move! Since your experience in Providence was such a positive one, are you heading up to Portland for ICON8?
DG: I had such a wonderful time at ICON7 that I would not miss ICON8 for the world! I’ve already got my ticket!
MK: You hear that procrastinators? You gotta get in on this. Can you talk a little about any memorable moments from the conference?
I have so many great memories from ICON7… from listening to some of the illustrators that I truly look up to speak — hanging on their every word, then making several new friends from around the world and hanging out with them discussing illustration over a couple of beers, and then of course, there was dancing with 7-foot tall aliens!
MK: Dancing with aliens is always fun, but did you learn anything from your illustration discussions?
DG: I learned so much. I learned that there are so many markets for illustration that I had not even considered. I learned that I really would like to have an illustration rep. And most of all, I learned what I knew deep inside, that what I truly wanted to do with my life was to become a full-time illustrator.
MK: What was the most surprising thing for you about ICON?
DG: I should not have been surprised — artists are some of my most favorite people — but I was thrilled that it was so easy to talk with others and to make friends. ICON was full of some of the most talented and friendly people on earth!
MK: I’m biased of course, but I agree. It’s easy to meet people and get to know them apart from only knowing about their work. Do you still keep in contact with people you met?
DG: I traveled to ICON7 by myself, but left having made many new friends that I still keep in contact with. It’s nice to have friends all over the world that I can share ideas and news with!
MK: Did any creative projects or ideas transpire from attending the conference?
DG: After attending ICON7 I worked with an art director that I met there. I was thrilled!
MK: Do you come to the conference to be around like-minded people or just to get away from your normal work routine for a few days?
DG: definitely attend ICON to be around like-minded people. Illustration can be a somewhat solitary existence and it’s a career that comes with unique challenges and benefits. ICON is a wonderful place to relax and discuss the life of an illustrator with others who know all about it!
MK: What would you say to someone thinking about going to ICON but is also thinking “But I’m not an illustrator! What’s in it for me?
DG: It’s a great creative experience even for those who are not full-time illustrators. Creative ideas are shared, inspiration is sparked and friends are made. Oh! And you just might dance with a 7-foot tall alien!
MK: You never know what to expect that’s for sure. Do you attend other industry conferences?
DG: As an art director as well as an illustrator, I’ve attended several other design conferences and retreats, large and small. ICON was the most dear to my heart, however, because illustration is my true creative calling, I felt so much at home and there’s still so much I can learn.
MK: What are you looking forward to most in Portland?
DG: I am really looking forward to seeing all of the friends I made at ICON7 again at ICON8. It’s great keeping up with them on social media, but nothing beats just hanging out in person. I’m also looking forward to hearing and meeting the speakers at ICON8. I think I literally squealed when I read this year’s list of speakers!
MK: Seems everyone is very excited for July to get here. I look forward to seeing you again. Thanks for taking some time to talk to us.
DG: I can’t wait. See you in Portland. Thanks.