New Orleans, Louisiana born Denise Gallagher put out her shingle as an illustrator January 17, 2013. She just won three Gold ADDY awards for illustration from the Acadiana Chapter of the American Advertising Federation. All in all, she's had a good year. Formerly a senior art director at an ad agency, she took the plunge last year to start her own business.
Drawing always came naturally to her. "I sometimes draw as an escape. Sometimes to exorcise demons. And, sometimes, to express pure joy," Gallagher explains. Some of her favorite pieces are very personal and infused with meaning. "And yes," she says, "I drew constantly as a child. My first grade teacher once marked all of my answers wrong on a math test because I decided the numerals could be fancier and made them curly and swirly and decorative."
Denise is charming, funny, genuine, and has enough joie de vivre to light up a room. There's joy, but also pathos, in her depictions of nature, most vividly in her treatment of a handful of Aesop's Fables—the holiday self-promo piece was sent to clients and friends as a small book, neatly packaged and lettered. Her animals are a bit fantastic, like ones you'd see in a dream, stretched out or curled into poses reminiscent of early century still life paintings.
Living in Cajun country, Denise captures the idiosyncratic spirit of Louisiana through sensitive depictions of its creatures—alligators, fish, snakes, possum, bears, with a somewhat primitive feeling pen and ink and watercolor treatment. It’s a fertile world where even the smallest denizen has personality.
She describes her style as “a unique blend of whimsy and sophistication”. True. Her work also has a purity of line and emphasis on detail and symbolism that transcends its subject matter.
I met Denise at ICON 7 in Providence, Rhode Island. When I saw her big, toothy smile across the hotel bar crowd, I knew I’d like her. You can tell from her illustrations that she is a sensitive soul, and a happy person. (She loves Prince. That says a lot.) She lives in Lafayette with her husband Donny and their seven-year-old son Oliver (her mini-me without a doubt, down to the smile). She is a great mom, who makes the most artful pancakes you’ve ever seen, turning batter into illustrations of snowflakes, Groundhog’s Day, and a plethora of animals.
If her first year is any indication, it’s only a matter of time until we see much more from this emerging artist: children’s books, products, the sky’s the limit.
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