Gilly Cullen, a young Irish visual artist, creates pencil drawings so vivid they could almost be photographs.
Her works to-date include vivid renderings of family and friends (as well as professional clients), and hyper-real sketches of well-known Irish sites.
“I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember,” Cullen told IrishCentral. “There are family photos of me at age two and a half with a paintbrush in hand, a look of deep concentration on my face and a masterpiece of paint splatters on the kitchen table.
However, life took a few twists and turns before she could return to her original passion.
As a teenager, she took a break from art classes and drawing, and at Trinity College Dublin chose to study environmental science. But when she interviewed for her first job after graduating, what she describes as a wonderful “synchronistic happenstance” took place. The Dundalk Institute of Technology in Co. Louth created a new position for her, based upon her dual knowledge of science and visual art. In her role as Science Promotion Officer for the Center for Freshwater and Environmental Studies, Cullen’s work even included illustrating a children’s “Water Protection Workbook” and other scientific literature.
“I think it is my scientific eye that helps me to become so absorbed in the intricate detail of my pieces,” she shared.
Four years ago, Cullen made the decision to return to art full time and launched her own business, Gilly Cullen Artwork, through which she produces one-off commissioned pieces (both pencil and watercolor), print-work, handmade cards and bespoke wedding invitations, in addition to logo, album and book cover design.
“I love creating one of a kind family portraits, pet portraits, and wildlife art. The common thread that unites my work is my desire to capture the essence of the subject matter. I love to draw the viewer into a piece of art, using different textures, tones, subtle shading, and determined pencil lines. For me, detail is everything. I hone in on particular elements; whether it’s a subject’s hair, or the petal of a flower, I painstakingly map out each detail, often working from photographs,” she explained.
While she works in many mediums, pencil drawing is a particular passion. “I love using pencil as a medium for its ability to capture both detail and texture,” she told IrishCentral. “To me, good sketching is the basis of all art, and an art form in its own right. As Salvador Dali said, ‘Drawing is the honesty of the art.’”
Her advice for aspiring artists? “In my humble opinion, there is no one way to create art. Draw in the way that you're comfortable and in a way that feels right to you. There is no right or wrong way.
"I’ve developed my own way of drawing over the years. Some artists might work in the same way, some work differently. Draw as much as possible to stay in the flow and build confidence. Take as much as you can from lessons and adapt them to your own way of drawing. The important thing is to just make art!”