Paddy Donnelly is an Irish artist and author. Over his career he has made the transition from web and app designer to children’s book author and illustrator. In this episode, Adii and Paddy discuss the pursuit of diversity, openness to new opportunities, growing and making changes in work to avoid monotony, and creating a legacy through illustration.
As a kid Paddy always loved to draw and was extremely passionate about illustration, but he didn’t know what design was. And he certainly never thought he was going to be a web designer. Really, he just sort of “fell into it.”
He would study interactive multimedia design at university in Belfast, and soon after achieved his masters in multi-disciplinary design.
In the early stages of his career, he worked as web and app designer on mobile apps and games. He made the transition to freelancing in 2012 in hopes of working on more illustration jobs. He wanted to work on things that he was passionate about, and freelance meant choosing passion.
“The passion definitely has to be in you for pursuing a career in design—you can definitely study how to be a designer... But I think that’s only a certain percentage of the job; you have to have that passion to always be looking for inspiration.”
Paddy had started to get into illustration as a digital designer and loved when people would use it in web design—it was then that he realized this was something he could really do. Over the last few years he has begun illustrating children’s books, something his work designing iPhone and iPad kids’ apps has definitely prepared him for.
“The longer you work as a designer, the easier it is to just convince yourself to just go for things.”
Working in illustration certainly feels more creatively fulfilling for Paddy than working in web design. He is no longer doing the same thing over and over, he explains, and illustration has a certain degree of diversity that welcomes creativity, meaning that, in most cases, the sky's the limit.
There is a certain ephemeral nature to digital content, Paddy says. A book is something more permanent than the digital content he has made (his digital content has all but “disappeared” by now). But in illustrating children’s books, Paddy is creating a journey for children and families that could last generations.
Paddy has been illustrating other people’s stories for a couple years, but now he is finally releasing a book that he has both written and illustrated. For him, this is just the next step, as he will always keep growing and trying new things.
Having a son of his own, he often thinks about what it means to be able to read the books that he has written. His book is something his son will be able to recall years from now, just as Paddy recalls books from his own childhood—which he explains is nothing short of magical.
Keep up with Paddy for details on the release of his upcoming children’s book The Vanishing Lake!