Tony Healey Illustrator Interview

Tony Healey

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Can you recall the first time you realized you were going to be an illustrator? What were your earliest impressions?
I’ve been drawing since I can remember. I knew from about the age of five that this is what I wanted to do.

Who or what influenced your art when you were young?
My father was an accomplished natural draftsman who, given different circumstances, could have been a professional illustrator himself. It could well be that seeing my Dad drawing was the spark for my own interest. I like to think so.

Do you remember what your first artwork looked like? Do you still have it?
Yes, I still have them. My first professional commission was a set of four drawings for the BBC on the history of the Parliamentary moustache. I had just left college and had taken my portfolio to show to the BBC Graphics department, and was told to ‘roll my sleeves up.’ The drawings went out as a light item on the 6 o’clock news that evening. It was a real eye-opener as to the pace of work in the real world. A set of drawings that would have taken weeks as a college project were needed in an afternoon.

Why did you choose illustration as your life’s work instead of, for example, filmmaking, law or even medicine?
I never had a ‘Plan B.’ There was never any question that I’d pursue anything else.

Did you study art in school?
Yes, four years in art college.

Where does your inspiration come from; your impulse to make art? Do you have a source for your ideas?
No single thing. Anything and everything. I like to quote Chuck Close on this. “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and go to work.”

How would you describe the process of making art?
I’m old school. I still begin every job by making marks on paper with a 4B pencil.

Do you have a favorite illustrator? What is it about that illustrator’s work you like?
Egon Schiele: he had astonishing powers as a draftsman. He treated drawing as a primary artform.

If you could do something else, other than creating art, what would it be?
It’s difficult to imagine doing anything else. When I was a teenager, I would have liked to have been a guitarist in a band. I never liked playing in front of an audience, so I probably would have starved.

Do you remember your first set of paints, pens, or markers?
It was a gift set of oil paints which I won as a prize in a children’s painting competition.

Do you have a favorite illustrator supply, a favorite method, or favorite location, where you like to create artwork?
At my home studio, where I tend to work like a Trappist monk. I also have a desk at a shared studio in central London. That place is a little livelier.

If you could give a viewer clues to understanding your art, what would you say?
Nothing, I think the work should speak for itself.

If you could look back or forward a hundred years, do you think the life of an illustrator was or will be better than today?
Much the same, though the way work is produced and viewed has changed wildly. There are some constants that are never going to change.