Meet the Artist {Melissa Doran – Dublin Based Illustrator/Animator}

This week I got to interview and photograph Dublin based illustrator Melissa Doran, owner and founder of Go Radiate.


What I love about this talented lady is that one of the many reasons she became an illustrator was because she wanted to spread happiness through her work, she is also currently completing her BA in animation and when she is not creating all kinds of glorious art she gives back to the community through facilitating various art workshops for kids, all centered around cultivating a love for nature. I first met Melissa back in April when I joined her for an illustration workshop, it’s really obvious when you meet her that she is a giver in every sense of the word…the shares her knowledge without expecting anything back, she want to help people create meaningful art and she is totally giver of good vibes!

So first things first, tell us what led you to illustration and animation?

I studied Architecture in college and worked in architecture offices for a while, before doing a masters in Digital Media Technology. The masters was really hands on and it included animation, music composition, video production and some coding. When I graduated, it was the height of the recession, so no jobs – that’s why I became self-employed.  I started out mainly making websites because there was such a demand for them. Making websites was more about survival than anything though, and after a couple of years doing that I had the breathing space to dream again. I was drawing more and it had become really important to me. By now I had a small selection of mainly self directed work and some published pieces that I did for the Irish Wildlife Trust magazine. I deleted everything about making websites off my website and put up my tiny illustration portfolio instead. I got a commission to design prints for the Guinness Enterprise Award and then the Naturama book commission followed shortly after. It was an exciting time.


Despite loads of things working out well for me, last summer I was still struggling to make a living.  I started looking for something that would bring another change to my work – I wanted to be back in a team again, and I wanted to be involved with bigger projects. I wasn’t looking for more college education but that’s what came up for me – a certificate in Animation. I was able to build on my existing skills and it was a really good preparation for transitioning into a new career. I was then able to get accepted into a BA Animation course which I’m just about to start, so I will be making one big gorgeous project until May 2019. I’m delighted! So now you find me at the start of my next adventure, off into the land of animation.

Your illustration work is very colourful, full of lines and textures and often includes animal characters. When you started working ‘professionally’ how did you develop your distinctive visual style which we see in your work today?

My style developed naturally the more work I did. The only way to develop your style is to practise. You have to draw so much that it becomes second nature and an extension of you. It’s great to go to classes every now and then but ultimately your work has to come from within. Figuring things out yourself, even if it means doing it “the wrong way” can lead you to something more unique and personal. You never know where your work can bring you if you give it enough time, and tune into the subtle ways it’s leading you to new places.


I already had a strong line work developed in my architecture days, but I hadn’t much experience with colour. Slowly but surely I got confident in my colour work. I took inspiration from nature a lot – just look at any bird if you want to get inspired, and I examined things like my clothes and my surroundings and noticed what gave me a lift. I began to play a lot and have fun with it.


I try to feel my way into a picture and listen to what the picture wants to do with itself without planning it out too much in advance. I combine line work and flat digital colour with hand made textures that I scan in. I use Adobe Illustrator to complete a piece and collage all the elements together. Embracing the little imperfections in my work helps make the image more energetic, and I think it helps the viewer connect to the art.


Even though I think my work is recognisable as being mine, I don’t think I ever want to have one fixed style that I stay with forever. I always want to be able to change and explore.

”Even though I think my work is recognisable as being mine, I don’t think I ever want to have one fixed style that I stay with forever. I always want to be able to change and explore.”

Can you talk us through your creative process, do you have waves of creative inspiration or do you need to consciously create an inspiring environment to get your ideas flowing? 

When I’m starting out I draw in my sketchbook, then scan the drawings into Illustrator and collage them digitally. I also do line drawings, digitise and colour them, and other times I draw from scratch digitally. In the past year I’ve been working a lot in Photoshop and painting digitally, as well as using Animate CC to make animations, which has been so enjoyable!


Because I start small (in my notebook) I don’t feel under pressure; the biggest thing is to start, the rest is easy. With a sketchbook, tiny things that can lead onto something big.


I don’t really need a special environment to create, just a little space, good light and a good lamp for the winter, and some heat!

Is there an aspect of your work in which you find the most satisfaction, something that gives you pleasure?

The work itself is an absolute joy. When it comes to drawing, in that moment I am completely relaxed and content, and out of time. I also really love meeting people in workshops.

When you are not multitasking like a creative girlboss, what do you do in your spare time to stay inspired?

I love being out in nature and like to stop and look into hedges to see who’s jumping around in there. Last July when we had the most incredible weather ever I got to go swimming in the sea most days and I’ve never been happier. I’ve always loved swimming and it was absolutely freezing in the sea but I think I got a tiny bit hardier as time went on. In the past year or so I’ve really realised how much eating well and exercising helps me have clarity of thought, which in turn leads onto facilitating a good creative work flow.

What are you looking forward to working on the near future and what projects are you most proud of? 

Naturama book and My Naturama Nature Journal are definitely the highlights. I’m so proud of them and loved working with the writer Michael Fewer, it was a very special time for me. It’s a really nice feeling that they are out in the world and people are connecting with the work.

For the future I am all about animation. I feel like there’s so much room for growth for me in that industry and I am really looking forward to making a fresh start and learning loads.

Theres a lot of fluff talk out there about how great it is to live a ‘creative’ life and build a business around your art, do you have any advice for some of the more difficult days (when inspiration doesn’t flow and overcoming the ever so famous ‘creative rut’ seems difficult)?

I think the starting point should be to dream as big as you can, and try and imagine what you really want, not so much what you think you should want. Build yourself up, mind yourself as much as you can, and keep the faith!


Working for yourself can be so rewarding and I love the freedom of it. There’s definitely loads of positives, but there’s also a lot of hard work involved behind the scenes and you really need to have a big well of determination and perseverance to keep going long term. One question to ask yourself might be, do you need to be self employed to do what you want to do? Can you incorporate your dreams into the work situation you already have or do you need to go all out?


You need to have something of a reasonable cashflow – ideally some work that gives you a regular income as part of your business, or get a part time job to make sure you aren’t stressing. No matter how good your work is, if you aren’t making money then you won’t be able to do it for too long.


Another thing is to try and find a way of not beating yourself up over things. Life doesn’t move in a straight line, it’s wavy. I have to keep reminding myself this when I feel like I haven’t made enough progress. I think being self employed brings up all the self doubts that you’ve ever had lurking in your subconscious and it’s akin to a spiritual journey trying to navigate it all and come out the other side in one piece. There’s definitely a lot of space for self reflection and self evaluation along the way but you have to give yourself a break too, and encourage yourself.


I like quietness and like working by myself, but too much time on my own and I go a bit nuts. I was really lucky to find Fumbally Exchange a couple of weeks after I started working for myself. It’s a co-working space for creative freelancers. I signed up for a desk there for a month and stayed with them for four years. I learned so much from the people there. I am still with them in an associate capacity – I do my workshops there and get involved in their collaborative events whenever I can. So my final piece of advice for someone starting out is to find some like minded people to support you – either to share a workspace with or at least to meet up with every so often.

Lastly if someone is reading this article and would like to learn more about illustration and loves your work, where and when can they sign up for a workshop? 

I have a digital illustration workshop coming up soon, you can book it here:

I also have various short workshops every now and then for kids and for adults, details on the website.


If you would like to join a workshop with Melissa you can contact her on her website

Follow her wonderful art adventures and on her social page over here ,


If you would like to buy some of her art, there’s framed limited edition prints for sale in Bí Urban, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7, or unframed ones in her online shop: