How I Got My Job: Meet Holly Shortall, The Fashion Illustrator With Kim K’s Seal Of Approval
We have total and utter life envy right now.
Occupation: Fashion Illustrator and Digital Account Manager
These days, Holly combines her illustration work with a full-time digital PR role. In short, she’s a very busy – and extremely talented – young woman. We caught up with Holly to find out how she got to where she is now, and what it’s like getting noticed by one of the biggest stars in the world.
Did you always want to get into illustration?
As a kid, I was constantly drawing, and it’d always be the same – an A4 page with a girl in the middle. Even for my Leaving Cert Art exam I managed to find a way to draw a Chanel bag when everyone else was doing landscapes and nature stuff! I studied Fashion Design at Sallynoggin College of Further Education, but while I loved the drawing part, I hated the technical part of designing clothes. It wasn’t for me and I dropped out after a year.
What was your next step?
To be honest I stopped drawing for quite a while after that. I was working in retail and never felt like I had the time. I’d do the odd sketch but nothing serious. It was an artist called Boz Mugabe who gave me the kick I needed. He’s a friend of my boyfriends and he grabbed one of my sketches one day, scanned it onto his PC, and used Photoshop to add his own painting as the pattern on the dress I had drawn. I was blown away. I knew then that I wanted to give fashion illustration a real go.
What was your first ever illustration commission?
I started off really small, just doing stuff for friends. My boyfriend bought me a decent laptop and I was still trying to teach myself how to use Photoshop when my friend, a stylist named Grace Moore, asked me to do a drawing for her business cards. I didn’t have much experience drawing real people – I usually just drew girls from my own head – so it was a bit of a leap. But when I was finished, it actually looked like her! I thought ‘I can do this.’
Fashion illustration is quite a niche thing but there’s a huge market for it. Why do you think that is?
It sounds bad, but we’re quite a self-obsessed generation. We love things to be tailored or personalised. When I started off, the bulk of my illustration work was invitations, birthday presents, stuff like that. Then I started doing drawings of Irish stylists and celebrities and sending them out to them, in the hope of getting some promotion, which really helped me to make a name for myself in Ireland.
Your big break came when Kim Kardashian shared one of your drawings in 2014. Was it totally surreal?!
I’ve never screamed so much in my life. On the day it actually happened I had no idea what was going on because there were so many notifications. My followers were going up every second. Eventually I spotted my own drawing on my Instagram newsfeed – but it was on Kim’s page. I had a complete meltdown!
Did you have any idea that she was planning to share the drawing?
None. But it didn’t come out of the blue, either. I had to be quite clever in getting her to notice my work, by getting friendly with lots of the Kardashian fan pages and trying to post at hours that worked with the time difference between here and California. On the day it happened, Kim was actually in Paris for a wedding dress fitting, so for once we were in (almost) the same time zone!
A photo posted by Holly Shortall Illustration (@hollywoulddublin) on
We’re guessing the work offers started flooding in after you got Kim’s seal of approval…
Totally. It put me on a global platform, I got so much more exposure. I was working in GAP at the time and eventually quit my job to do illustration full-time. I did some amazing work with Cosmo US, MTV and other big names. But while I loved the work, I found it very isolating being by myself all the time. Now I do my illustration work in the evenings, and during the day I work with New Slang, a digital agency here in Dublin.
It must be fairly hectic juggling two jobs, though?
It’s tiring, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I get to pick and choose the illustration jobs that I do, as I know I have other income coming in. My most recent commission was from the Sunday Times’ Style magazine, which was a dream come true for me. I’ve been reading that since I was six, and now I can say my work has featured on the pages. It’s amazing.
What’s a day in your life like at the moment?
Busy! New Slang work across loads of accounts, so on any given day I could be coming up with puns for Lidl or doing drawings of ice-cream for Walls. There are also client meetings, and on a normal evening I’ll come home, have some dinner and get started on illustration work. Tonight I’ll be finishing up some wedding invites. I’ve also just signed up to judge One4All’s Design A Gift Card competition. No day is ever the same!
How do you try to stand out from other illustrators?
I used to be extremely hard on myself, which was tough because there are literally hundreds of illustrators out there these days. If I saw someone else Irish doing well or getting more followers than me, I’d get really jealous. I was drawing all the time to try to compete. But recently I realised that my priority was to be happy, not to always be the best. I figure if two top models like Kendall and Cara can be BFFs, then I can do the same with other illustrators!
What would be your advice for anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t get bogged down with silly stuff like how many followers you have on Instagram. It’s the quality of your work that comes first, so build on that. Do everything you can to build up good network of contacts – and yes, that will probably involve working for free! Have confidence in your own abilities.
Want to show off your creative skills? Holly is one of three judges of One4All’s Design A Gift Card competition, and entries are open until this Friday April 29th. As well as seeing their design printed on gift cards all over Ireland in 2017, the winner will receive a MacBook Pro. Five runners-up will receive a €100 One4all Gift Card, with their designs sold online. More information on this year’s theme and how to enter can be found here.
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