You might have noticed Dublin-based illustrator Tara O’Brien’s work pop up in places like the Repeal Project’s print store, depicting a diverse group of women wearing the now omnipresent black garb. O’Brien’s work frequently concentrates on the female form and her characters are multi-ethnic, manifold in shape and size and multifaceted in their personalities and experiences. Not one to shy away from personal and political spheres, O’Brien’s work has covered Black Lives Matter and the March for Choice, addressing the status quo of artistic beauty standards and the concept of self-care. Her muted palettes and strong shapes feature lots of rich texture that gives the effect of her drawings a soft and almost tactile feel to them.
We wanted to find out what led Tara to focusing so closely on the female form in her work and how she navigates the world of freelancing and illustration:
I first came across your work through your prints for the Repeal project and was drawn to the diverse representation in your work, as an Irish artist do you notice that a lot of Irish depictions of people tend to be lacking in diversity?
I think in regard to illustration, over the past five years or so there has been
a prevalence of simplified, flat, vector based style that inherently has a more limited colour palette. This, in its early stages, may have led to a lack of racially diverse representation. That is not to say that this was ever an exclusionary choice made by anyone but more so a priority of style and aesthetic over everything else which is a symptom of a new style being developed and refined. I’ve certainly fallen into this trap myself and I think in Ireland where we have such a dominantly white population, it can be quite easy to forget to question if we are being inclusive enough. However, it would seem to me, that more recently, a conscious effort has been made by a lot of illustrators to ensure their work is more racially diverse. There is definitely still progress to be made in relation to body diversity which again, is limited by how people define their own style. I’d suggest this is perhaps a reflection of how the way we view bodies isn’t a high priority on the list of things to tackle in wider society. It’s also something that I don’t see as being more of an issue in Ireland as it is in the rest of the world for the most part.