Shawn Bracebridge – The Cat’s Pyjamas and Other Stories

I recently had the pleasure of chatting to Dublin-based artist and illustrator, Shawn Bracebridge. With his distinctive style and eye for the quirky, Shawn’s artwork combines beautiful echoes of previous decades of graphic design with a vibrant, contemporary edge. 

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1. How did you get started?

For as long as I can remember I have always been drawing. My father is a very talented painter, which is where I initially found inspiration. I have always had a very active imagination which always adds to my creativity. When I finished school I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in art. I initially wanted to study animation, while I do have a strong interest and love for animation I quickly discovered that the process wasn’t exactly for me so I took a step back and decided to try my hand at oil painting. I fell in love with painting for a while and even thought about pursuing a career in concept art for video games as I was creating a lot of fantasy inspired landscapes, but like animation I fell out of love with it and grew impatient. I started to explore my options a bit more and decided to look into graphic design as I wanted to gain some skills in the digital format. Graphic design really stood out and excited me so I decided to study it. I leaned everything I could about poster design, stationary design, branding and identity, typography, colour theory etc. After a few years of exploring graphic design and struggling to find some work I started to miss drawing and putting my imagination to work, so I put graphic design on hold and jumped right into illustration. I’m still relatively new to the field but I am very excited to see where this journey brings me in the future.

2. Who or what are your major inspirations?

My major inspirations in the world of art/design/illustration would be Saul Bass, the legendary graphic designer and illustrator who created some of the most amazing movie posters for film makers such as Hitchcock and Otto Preminger. Saul was where I found inspiration and drive for illustration itself. Peter Donnelly from Dublin is also another big hero of mine, having worked on one of my favourite childhood movies, The Land Before Time. He also has a series of beautiful picture books, The President’s Glasses and The President’s Cat, which are very reminiscent of the travel books created by another inspirational illustrator, Miroslav Šašek. Aside from other artists, what inspires me at the moment is music, jazz especially. I recently just discovered my interest in jazz and that in turn helped me find this 50’s/60’s inspired style of illustration. I have a deep love for comics, sci fi and fantasy which all factor in as inspiration for me too.

3. How would you describe your style?

My style is always slightly changing as I find different subject matter to work from, but I would say that my style definitely draws heavily from mid century style illustration. I look at illustrators like Saul Bass as sources for inspiration, especially with hand made typography. I always try to put my own spin on different styles that stand out to me, bringing a modern but ”retro” look to it. I’m always thinking of new ways I can change my style up slightly just to keep it fresh and exciting.

4. How do you work?

I currently work digitally but I try to start off with a simple pencil sketch on paper whenever working on a new project. I feel like i’ve neglected my sketchbook quite a bit since I started working digitally but I am working to get back to drawing with just ink and paper. I find sketchbooks to be a necessary tool as you may get an idea while taking the train or bus and you can quickly scribble it down and take note before developing it into a completely finished piece. While working digitally I try to keep my digital illustrations almost organic, my work doesn’t tend to have a highly digital polish at the end.

5. Can you talk us through some examples of your work?

print mockup bowie
Here is an illustration I created representing my favourite musical icon, David Bowie. This illustration was inspired by the music video for ‘Modern Love’ from his album ‘Let’s Dance’. As well as being a highly influential musical artist, he was a fantastic style icon and I just love everything about his look in this image, so naturally I decided to sketch it and then eventually turned it into a print.
kamasi mockup
Kamasi Washington, another favourite of mine. Kamasi is an American jazz saxophonist and musician. I just find everything about this mans music simply amazing. I always thought that he had a quite an interesting look, much like my David Bowie design, so I wanted to capture the bright colours and interesting outfits that he is known to wear.
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The Cat’s Pyjamas is a comic book series that me and my friend Kevin started together, it’s set against a 1960’s backdrop with jazzy undertones and is representative of cartoons such as the ones you might see from Hannah Barbera and The Pink Panther. There is much more to come of this!

6. What are you currently working on?

Right now i’m working on some more music inspired pieces. I’m creating a small collection of new prints that I will soon have available through my online store and whatever various markets I may take part in throughout the next few months. I’m also developing my comic series The Cat’s Pyjamas which will be an ongoing project for the foreseeable future!

7. What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future are not quite certain at the moment but I am excited at the same time. I hope to make more of a name for myself and meet more people through this field. I have ideas for more books that I wish to make in the future (hopefully sooner rather than later) I’ll also look into getting them published at a later stage, but for now I’ll keep on exploring ideas and creating more work!

Many thanks to Shawn for giving us such a fascinating insight in to your work. It was a pleasure chatting with you. Good luck for the future.

Shawn Bracebridge Illustration A4

If you want to stay up to date with Shawn’s progress with The Cat’s Pyjamas and his other projects then you can find him on Instagram.

If you are interested in buying some of Shawn’s work then you can find his online store on Bigcartel.

Author: Barnaby Taylor

Author and Academic

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