“I am a bit of a dreamer with an active imagination and I needed an outlet for my ideas.”
Glasgow based artist, Donna O’Hanlon landed herself the dream job title of ‘photographer’ at one of the UK’s biggest high street shoe retailers and although her creative career is off to a flying start she has no plans of letting herself get carried away with ridiculous aims: “I’m kind of a realist when it comes to my career goals – I work hard, expect little and any success is a huge bonus.”
Donna first gained enthusiasm for image making whilst working in darkrooms at her secondary school. However, it was only in 2013 that she decided to go for her degree and commit to a career in photography: “I would say really think about whether you’re dedicated enough to pursue a long term career in a creative field because it’s hard work and there is no guarantee at the end of it that you’ll get a job.” Furthermore, discussing what keeps her so engaged with her chosen discipline, Donna mentions the extremely relevant topic of mental health: “I think that my passion for photography and image making in some part comes from my issues with mental illness – producing creative work is an excellent distraction from the ‘noise’. It’s no coincidence that mental illness is prevalent in the creative industries.”
Studying at City Of Glasgow College and then on to The University of the West of Scotland, she has successfully got her foot in the door of the industry and when asked what is the key to landing your first real gig as a fully trained professional we were thrown back with the word that will always haunt you as a creative, ‘networking’. She explains that it is vital to get as many people as possible to see your work because you never know when a job can pop up. With that in mind she also goes on; “It’s important to keep working and improving/adding to your skills. Even if you sometimes feel as though finding a job is an uphill struggle, it’s important to keep the momentum going through your work.” And we say a hell yeah to that statement.
Producing collages, particularly for the fashion genre – Donna’s work is naturally somewhat abstract and heavily influenced by her research within Dadaism, Cubism and the work of other collage artists she admires: “I admit that I’m not the best at describing my work, which is mostly collaborative. I ask for inspiration and ideas from my team members, carry out research for the concept and produce work based on my research.” As a photographer and collage artist Donna has to work within a collaborative environment on a regular basis and we couldn’t help but ask what would be her dream collaboration: “If I’m only allowed to pick one person it would have to be Viviane Sassen. I love her use of colour and simple compositions.”
Talking directly about the project that is featured, she was influenced by the Memphis Movement that originated in Italy in the early 1980’s, producing a very retro and nostalgic outcome. This was an extremely collaborative project and Donna tells us of how she was able work with some of the most amazing creative talents from different disciplines.
Fashion Designer: J.R.M Design
Graphic Design: Gabriele Tropiano
Modelling: Robyn Baillie, Heather Sanford & Sarunas Kilius
The creative industry is forever changing and it could be said that there is no such thing as a stagnant job position when you are an artist. Like Donna previously said, you need to keep up momentum and when asked what her plans for her future career are, she explains that the thought of freelancing stresses her out. She goes on to say she would actually like to land a permanent role in a gallery or even something similar to what she is currently doing, while producing her creative projects for exhibition and publishing on the side: “Being a successful artist with a style that is identifiable is the end goal.”
Still at the beginning of her career, we can’t wait to see what other collaborative and non-collaborative projects Donna produces. With a great start in the industry and a bright career ahead of her, Donna leaves us with a word of advice that she says she feels very strongly about:
“Be nice to everyone. I don’t care if it’s the most famous photographer/artist in the world or the person who cleans your office! Today’s intern could be tomorrow’s commissioning editor.”
‘Creativity takes courage’ – Henri Matisse
The Spanish collage artist Ernesto Artillo
Tunes you listen to while working:
Upbeat tunes in the studio to keep the energy up for everyone and chilled tunes whilst editing.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?:
I would be a musician but I can’t play anything!
Tea or Coffee for a productive day?: