This post is part of a series in which we interview successful makers on how they built their business. Today we are interviewing professional illustrator, Penelope Dullaghan.

Penelope Dullaghan is an illustrator, pattern designer and creative explorer based in Indianapolis. She has worked with a wide variety of clients, big and small  including Crate & Barrel, New York Times, Starbucks, Oprah Magazine, Target, The Washington Post, Adobe, Papyrus and Penguin Random House. Her work has been recognized by Communication Arts, CA Typography, 3×3 Magazine, Society of Illustrators LA, HOW and Print Magazines.

When did you first discover your love of art?

I’ve loved art since I was a kid. It was what I could lose myself in for hours. I moved schools a bunch and art was always my way to connect as “the new kid”.

Did you always know this would become your career?

I always knew I’d be an artist of some sort. I ended up going to school for graphic design because I thought that was the only way I’d be able to make ends meet.

Penelope is teaching a session during our live online workshop, Marketing and Self-Promotion for Illustrators on December 18th.

What did you do before you were a full-time illustrator?

I worked as an art director at an advertising agency for about 5 years before making the leap into freelance illustration. I loved that job, but wanted to focus on more hands-on fine art. Illustration is the perfect career for me.

How did you start your illustration career?

I started small – doing jobs for friends and acquaintances. I’d do editorial work for the local newspaper, make lines of cards for local boutiques, did shows for local galleries. Eventually I landed bigger jobs and it escalated from there.

What kind of art do you create?

I create playful, hand-crafted illustrations that use shape and color to tell stories.

Which three words would you use to describe your style?

colorful, textured, thoughtful



How do you come up with new ideas? What inspires you?

I think, for me, it’s like the snowball effect – if I start on something (anything, really!), another idea stems from that. And one more from that. And so on. Creativity feeds itself if you just make it a habit. If I ever do get stuck, I can always get re-inspired by going outside into nature. It always feeds me.

Penelope is teaching a session during our live online workshop, Marketing and Self-Promotion for Illustrators on December 18th.

What kind of clients do you work with?

I work with a variety of clients – magazines, advertising agencies, small companies, packaged goods, publishers, etc.


How did you find your first few clients?

I went door to door and talked to people.

Please describe an average day in your life.

Every morning I take a walk with my husband (who also works from home) and my dog, Lucy. We walk rain or shine. And then I hole up in my studio (and he in his), and I work on whatever project is calling the loudest. We usually take a lunch break around noon and then work some more in the afternoon.

My daughter gets home around 4, so I make a point to stop work when she arrives (that doesn’t always happen, but luckily she loves to work in the studio alongside me when I need to finish a project). Then dinner and family time.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to start their own freelance illustration business?

Be prolific – work on your art whenever you can and craft your style to be consistent, strong and recognizable. Post your best work to a clean online portfolio and then do even more work.

What do you hope the not-too-distant future holds for your illustration career; Do you have any exciting, upcoming plans that you would like to share with us?

I’d love to work on some animation projects in the near future. And I’d love to work on more art for kids – especially around the topics of reading and eating healthy food. Upcoming plans also include a line of linocut prints and fabrics good hopefully sometime in the spring.

Penelope is teaching a session during our live online workshop, Marketing and Self-Promotion for Illustrators. This program will show you how to market your illustration business in a way that will land new clients.  The live workshop starts December 18th, but everyone who signs up will get lifetime access to the content. See the full schedule and sign up here.

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