Meet Shane Cluskey: The Galway Illustrator
Art//Galway Stories

Meet Shane Cluskey: The Galway Illustrator

We are huge fans of Galway illustrator Shane Cluskey’s bold, and whimsically dark style. That's why we're so thrilled to sit down with him to speak about his work, and more of his projects on the horizon!

With striking, and often playfully dark imagery, Shane works to craft a space for his creative process to freely flow. By balancing the reflective nature of illustrative artwork, his distinctive style bleeds with honesty in a world of uncertainty.

We talked to Shane about his method, inspiration, and his desire to live in a world of original lines. Illustrators constantly compete with the pictures we form in our mind and work to show something more clearly than we might have imagined. In support of a body of text, the art’s duty is to complement the words on a page. Shane offers insight and his own personal perspective that serve as the foundation for this process.

"For each commission, I'm trying to convey what the article is saying or what the brief is asking, while also putting my own personal spin on it." Shane knows there is a constant pursuit of personal satisfaction balanced with being true to the intent of the assignment. “I'm always working towards the desired outcome of fulfilling the brief but also fulfilling myself creatively. My aim is to make the image as simplistic as possible - drawing only what's necessary.”

After studying in New York at the School of Visual Arts, Shane pursued his passion of growing his talent and expressing himself creatively. “Up until a certain age I didn't know you could be an illustrator. I thought that was just something you did on the side. When I went [to New York] everything clicked, and it made sense to me that this is something that I would definitely enjoy.” Working with major publications and art directors, Shane undertakes the crucial task translating conviction to illustration. Shane knows there’s a delicacy that’s essential for success in a collaborative sphere. “You’re sometimes better off listening to yourself and your own intuition, because that’s what’s getting you the work in the first place.” With ideas and influences coming together, the vitality lies within staying truthful to your own personal style.

Shane Cluskey Washington Post
'Charging Donald Trump' - The Washington Post

Shane’s intuitive direction has led him to a sense of fulfilment. By framing a story with curiously pleasing and supportive imagery, Shane remains honest with his own sense of self, and creative satisfaction. “I like the challenge of responding to a brief while also having fun with the process and seeing what I can add to make it my own.” Through working with publications like The New Yorker, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, Shane’s ability to breathe life and authenticity onto a page is integral to his artistic style.

There is sometimes a more literal inclination underpinning illustration, for example when working on a project surrounding a piece of literature. When working on more literal pieces, like book covers, there’s still a responsibility to uphold the intention of the story. There’s a sense of verbatim, as in what you see is what you get. “I love illustrating book covers. For me, the challenge is to narrate the essence of the book in one single image.”

Shane Cluskey The Sackville Street Caper
'Molly Malone & Bram Stoker in: The Sackville Street Caper' by Alan Nolan. Published by O'Brien Press

A project where Shane has used this illustrative interpretation is the book cover for, The Sackville Street Caper: Molly Malone and Bram Stoker by Alan Nolan. “Book covers can sometimes have more of a literal interpretation,” Shane says as he pulls out a copy of the book. “Here, you see the three figures chasing the girl and boy running away. The cobblestone castle in the background... I'm trying to tell a story in the image.” Shane’s work is truly a visual manifestation of words on a page - this is a task uplifted by personal style and conviction, to turn a story into a visual experience.

As influences shift, a more individualised method takes shape. For Shane, “my style developed over time through the process of drawing what I liked and then being commissioned as a result of that work. Through that ongoing process, a style emerges.”

With a need to nurture this gift Shane returns to an inward process of expression. As he continues in this pursuit, there are a number of upcoming projects on the horizon. “I suppose I'm doing a few editorial pieces, chipping away at some personal projects…In the personal projects there’s a great freedom there.” This autonomy is what continues to support the balance between personal style and the reflective effort of illustration; the equilibrium that is always pursued.  And for Shane, very often achieved.

Shane Cluskey Map

To see more of Shane’s recent illustrations, you can follow his instagram @shanecluskey, or check out his website here! Shane’s work can also be spotted all over the city, just keep an eye out for This is Galway’s little blue maps and postcards adorned with his whimsically adventurous illustrations we love so much.

Shane Cluskey
Photo of Shane Cluskey in his artist's studio by @boydchallenger .

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