Designer and Illustrator Fuchsia MacAree

Fuchsia MacAree in her office
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Fuchsia MacAree is a Dublin-based illustrator whose name everyone remembers and whose work you’ve almost certainly seen – think bright colours, clever puns and jaunty maps. Hailing from the Tipperary and Clare border, this gal-about-town first made viral waves when her zine about Joe Duffy’s Liveline (It’s A Disgrace, Joe: Moral Panics on Irish Radio) became the niche Christmas present of 2012.

Fuchsia has sinced designed covers for The Stinging Fly and is a regular in the pages of Totally Dublin. In recent years she’s been taking over public spaces and was responsible for those helpful Dublin Bikes expansion billboard maps that made urban development seem like a really darling thing. Last month Roisin Ingle of the Irish Times declared (tweeted) Ms. MacAree to be an “artistic treasure”, and we have to agree. We caught up with the designer in her nifty studio on the quays to talk careers, balance, and Pretty Woman.

When did you decide to become an artist?
I remember in school answering ‘artist’ to the ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ question, but I think these days I’d consider myself a designer. I’m always working on commissions for others, and the end product is usually to some extent a collaboration. It could be an editorial piece to accompany an article, packaging for a product or a map for a festival – so I bring my own style and ideas to a project, but it’s usually at least partly someone else’s concept.

How did you wind up with one of the most perfect names possible for someone who draws colourful illustrations for a living?
When I was born my name was actually Illaun Molly Fuchsia Georgia Kiri MacAree, but apparently when I was four I decided I wanted Fuchsia to be my first name. It comes from Mervyn Peake’s book Gormenghast though!

Your average working day – how do you structure your day-to-day working life as a freelancer?
At ten or so I cycle into my studio on the quays in Dublin. I share it with four friends who are in various creative fields (design/illustration/costume/photography). Then throughout the day I’m drawing, answering emails, messing, thinking of new ideas. Today I’m doing the packaging for a compost box, some maps of Boston, and an A-Z for kids. The end of the day varies, it could be any time between 6pm and midnight, depending on deadlines or fun to be had.

What is your life philosophy?
I try not to have a distinction between work and ‘life’. I don’t think of my job as one to leave at the end of the day, it’s a really big part of me and I want to put as much of myself into it as possible, and have a lot of fun with it. So that’s how I approach my life, but I’m lucky that I have a job in which it’s possible.

What advice would you give to any aspirational illustrators out there?

Make things, then make more things. A lot of it will be rubbish but then sometimes you might like the work you’re producing, and you can build on that. Be influenced by things outside your medium – what you bring to a project will be outside knowledge and ideas.

What is your favourite quote?
My friend Alex Synge of Keep Sketch just made some great pencils that have “everyone makes mistakes” written on them, and I’ve found myself idly looking at them while drawing and regretting something, then I feel a bit better, so thanks Alex!

Your favourite movie?
Stop Making Sense, based on how much fun it is to see it in the cinema.

Also, we saw some artwork on your Twitter inspired by Pretty Woman – where can we buy that?
I’ll make some prints of it and start up my online shop again before Christmas!

Favourite make-up brand?
I’d say Benefit for its eyebrow kit which is top.

Ideal outfit at work?
Oversized denim shirt and leggings, something that says ‘I’m being a creative in a loft in a 90s romcom’.

When I’m not working you’ll most likely find me…
In my local the Royal Oak, or still hanging out in the studio.

Guilty pleasure…
Fun extended lunches with pals when I really should be drawing, followed by late night working and regret.

What most people don’t know about me is…
If I’m tired, I put on Young Hearts Go Free and then I’m set to go again.

If I didn’t wind up in this career I’d be…
Peggy Olson.

When things get really tough I…
Spend a few days surrounded by chaos, eating badly and staying up too late before realising I should eat better, tidy up around me, and get to sleep earlier, then I’m back on top.

Best thing about my work…
I get to draw things all day surrounded by gas people.

My own inspirations and idols include…
People who make it look easy. Stefan Sagmeister, Alan Fletcher.

Best piece of wisdom you were ever given?
During his talk at Offset last year, the illustrator Ben Newman was talking about having problems with scale in an illustration, and then he remembered it’s just a drawing, and he can make things as big or small as he wanted. That’s really helped when I push myself into a corner with figuring out composition – it’s not supposed to look like a photo, so I can do whatever I want.

Your proudest achievement to date?
I really liked doing billboards for Dublin Bikes in the summer, it was really cool to see something I’ve done blown up so big in public spaces.

To buy some of Fuchsia’s artwork check out her online shop here.

Photos by Ailbhe O’Donnell

Follow Jeanne Sutton on Twitter @jeannedesutun

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