How I Got My Job: Chelsea Bonus, Fashion Illustrator

Chelsea Bonus

Chelsea’s cheat sheet

Name: Chelsea Bonus
Age: 23
Graduated: Griffith College
Twitter: @chelseabonus/
Instagram: @chelseabonus

As part of our Black Ops shoot in the June issue of STELLAR, Irish illustrator Chelsea Bonus lent her considerable illo skills to one of our shots and created a beautiful image of model January. You can win that here, but we thought you might like to know a bit more about the person behind the pencil, too. Just two years out of college and already making all sorts of creative waves, we predict a big future for the talented Ms Bonus.

I’ve always been creative

“I’ve drawn since I was a kid and fashion is a big love of mine as well, so this is the perfect career to combine the two things. I’d thought about going down the graphic design route and then switched to fashion design, so that landed me in the middle of both of those industries.”

My style is changing

“Illustration is something that I went through college with a bit of a focus on myself, but Griffith College has really good courses for drawing; both technology-based and hand drawing. Coming through a fashion course, you’re developing your own style; you’re playing with your style and as a result I’m progressing my style all the time. The thing with drawing is you notice your own progression. It’s a great way to mark your own progress.”

I’m influenced by…

“The first fashion illustrator I discovered was David Downton. His style is completely different to mine but I’m always trying to get a bit looser and that’s what his style is, so I’m trying to develop and strive that way. I also like Ezra Røise, a Norwegian illustrator who’s more similar to my own style – she plays with great colour and that sort of thing. I definitely try not to take inspiration from other artists, it’s more that they’re the sources I’d look at.”

This is my process

“It really depends on the job, but if it’s a piece I’m workng on in my own time, I might be looking at an image I’m influenced by or an item of clothing that might look great – it has to have some dynamic interest or movement – and I’d do a collage reference image, and then work from that. It could take a couple of hours to finish it. I’ll do a detail pencil portrait, scan it in and then I’d colour it with Photoshop or watercolour. I’ll do it differently depending on the illustration – it might lend itself to a pen or a flat colour in Photoshop. I find the more you play with Photoshop, the more you can do with it.”

I’m looking to the future

“I want to keep keep getting different jobs, it’s great to be part of a team, and bounce off other people. Vogue is up there to work with, of course! I’m hoping to work on campaigns for big designers – brands I admire and love like Chloe and Isabel Marant, stuff like that.”

On design in Ireland

“I think people care about design here. More recently, to me it feels there’s been a definite focus on your individuality, especially on social media. It’s much easier to do now, to market your talent, so it’s not such a constant struggle.”

The tools of my trade

“I work from home and it’s about having your own space in the house – but it’s definitely harder to maintain that workflow. I need pencils, paper, Photoshop and a scanner. I use an Acer laptop and no, you don’t need a Mac – once you have your software there and it’s a reliable enough computer, you can make art with anything. You can work with what you’ve got, I think! I don’t pick and choose when it comes to paper and pencils either – I use a mechanical pencil for everything and the paper doesn’t matter because it’ll be scanned in. Then, when it’s printed it’ll be on lovely card with textured finishes.”

You need to keep your finger on the pulse so for research, I love Instagram.

Research is key

“In between jobs I like to do topical illustrations that might give me more social media traction and definitely, research can take over your day if you let it. I find it so addictive and am always scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram. You need to keep your finger on the pulse so for research, I love Instagram, it’s right there on your phone as is Pinterest. Celebs I love to draw include Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and I think red carpet-wise, Diane Kruger is a fave. Current models like Gigi Hadid, who is beautiful, are really topical. I love drawing them – they’ve beautiful faces.”

This is my advice to anyone looking to follow in my footsteps

“As a freelancer, it’s all on your own back, so if you want it, make it happen. I was nervous about cold-calling people looking for work, but just do it! Secondly, social media is invaluable, it’s free marketing, so make the most of it.”