District is a digital & physical magazine that focuses on the internal and external creative influences on Ireland that make it culturally significant. Our magazine is published quarterly. Get Issue 001 here and Issue 002 here. We also publish a weekend preview every Tuesday highlighting the best things going on in Dublin. For music submissions or if you’re interested in contributing contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For advertising queries get in touch with our head of sales in Ireland & UK Craig Connolly email@example.com
If you’ve strolled through Dublin you’ll have seen an Ickis illustration, be it on a shopfront on Drury Street or a poster hanging in Tower Records. The Dublin native has cultivated a very individual style and has garnered praise from contemporaries and corporate entities alike along the way. Aside from his studio commitments he’s found the time to curate the Adventure Time themed Exhibition Time in association with OFFSET next month.
We caught up with Ickis on our roof for the third installment of our 5th Floor series, where we speak to Dublin’s finest about the heights they want to reach.
How did you begin to go down the route of design and illustration?
I think from watching cartoons when I was younger, I also grew up constantly drawing. I studied fine art in college for a little while and I found myself doing more illustration work and they were like “You can’t do this here”, basically saying it’s low brow.
I remember having a meeting with head of departments in fine art and media and she said, “You can’t be doing design work, keep using your brain” (Laughs).
So I thought, fuck this and I left and was lucky enough to get into second year visual communication. Through that I managed to meet a lot of professional designers and that made me realise I can actually make a career out of illustration.
They inspired me to do it and showed me that it was a possibility. They were so good, so that was a major driving force for me to improve and it still stands to this day. They’ve been at it a good 10 years longer than me so the bar is so much higher for me to reach, and they’re still getting better so it gets higher and higher.
Did the fine art course have any sort of bearing at all on your work?
It would do now. Initially, I rejected it completely, I think at the start there had to be a purging but since then I’ve been wanting to create more fine art work. I just haven’t had the time yet.
Going back to you saying that cartoons inspire you, was there any particular cartoons that had a major inspiration on your work?
Yeah absolutely. Stuff like Earthworm Jim and The Tick. I loved all of that. Even as a kid I could tell something about them was different, something wasn’t exactly right.
The illustration on those two shows was quite loose. There was no exact structure.
Yeah for sure, in hindsight it was very post-modern and really subversive.
You can see the similarity in the stuff you’ve created yourself and these inspirations?
Probably, at the moment we’ve entered a new era for cartoons. All the stuff that’s being put out on Cartoon Network like Adventure Time and Steven Universe seems heavily influenced by the stuff that was made back then and it’s was made by people my age.
I think there was a grey period in the noughties when stuff just dimmed down and now people who grew up with the weirder stuff are starting to create really interesting material again.
At the moment you’re based at Fumbally Exchange, what prompted you to head there?
Myself and Cyan Ryan started a design company. We were both getting a lot of illustration work from the big companies but we wanted to be doing more design work and not interfering with the brand as illustrators.
You’re well known around Dublin having done a lot of windows and posters for gigs. Did that come about from being in college and making connections?
That was from making music. I had loads of friends in different music scenes. When I started putting up artwork people noticed and would ask me to create an album cover or a flyer for their club night or band. That’s how I got my first few jobs and it just went from there.
Is there anything in particular around Dublin that you’re proud of?
The poster I did for The Horrors gig, that was one I was really happy with. The Kaph window (below) in November 2015 was a turning point for me because it was like advertisement. I got some big jobs after that.
Prior to The Horrors, I think about a year ago, I kind of cracked something and I started making work I was happy with, but before that it was very much a learning curve.
It was all about refining my work and settling on a style. I think the first two or three years I was changing style every two weeks! I had to find a clear voice.
That’s something that has become apparent, you have a very clear style now. If you were giving advice to yourself four or five years ago, would you say to yourself “You have a style, stick to it, because it’s obviously working”?
I think what the case is with a lot of illustrators is that they see something they really like and copy it for two weeks, then again for another two weeks. Then every time you do that you’re taking something from it, so eventually you’re drawing from so many influences that it looks original but it’s just so disparate that it appears original.
You’ve been uploading a lot recently, especially nudist sketches. Is there any reason behind that?
I grew up loving Egon Schiele. I’ve always had a fascination with the human body and gender. I’m always drawing androgynous characters, I don’t place much of a premium of what the genitals the person has either (Laughs). The body shape could be incredibly masculine but the character could have a vagina.
You never draw people in a glamorous fashion, but there’s a reality to them.
There’s always a reality to them, but I don’t think it’s necessarily ugly.
I forget sometimes that it can be abrasive for certain people. I remember having a meeting with a fairly corporate client last year and they were shocked at the amount of nudity on my website. It didn’t even register to me as nudity or even pornographic. I forget that can be weird to people.
Who out of your Irish contemporaries inspire you?
Steve McCarthy has been a huge influence, we’re good mates too. If I’ve ever needed help with anything he’d always be on hand. It’s been a really healthy mentor/student relationship.
Mick Minogue is excellent as well, also Kathi Burke and Fuchsia MacAree too. Cyan Ryan has influenced me to no end because we’re sitting beside each other everyday, sharing design secrets.
How did the new exhibition come about, I see Offset are involved. Did they approach you or did you approach them?
We did a Simpsons exhibition with Offset and that was wildly successful so people asked about doing an Adventure Time one. I’ve been super busy since January and Erica Bridgeman from The Bernard Shaw approached me and said “Look we really want you to do this exhibition, you can use the space for in The Bernard Shaw free so just do it!” (Laughs).
In terms of applicants, did you seek people or did they approach you?
I offered it to everybody that was involved in The Simpsons exhibition first and then people started wanting to be involved with it. A lot of people have seen ‘Exhibition Time‘ and have no idea about the show and just been sending fine art portfolios (Laughs).
What sort of crowd do you reckon will come?
I have no idea, I know my Aunty wants to take the kids. It would be great to get the kids involved during the day.
After the exhibition, what’s next for you? Have you anything lined up?
I’m heading to Berlin to work on music with Aoibheann Greenan. Were doing this crazy erotic cabaret. I haven’t decided if I’m going to stay in Berlin or go back to Dublin. I’ll see what happens.
Are you going to keep pursuing music? Obviously it’s a live techno show that you do, how do you make time to keep at it?
I had no time in college to keep going with it, but now I do and it’s very important to me. I spent the last two years on a theatre show so that took up a lot of musical time. It kept me busy but now i have time to focus on techno.
Do you feel that Dublin has the right infrastructure for people like yourself to make that left field sort of techno, like yourself?
It’s not as healthy as it was a couple of years ago. A lot of the collectives that were younger have gotten older and busier. I think people have began to address that now though.