Joe O’Donnell on how he developed his signature style

Inspired by animals, flowers and joy, the illustrator talks about his creative process, collaboration, and his first children’s book

Joe O’Donnell’s interest in illustration was stirred by his childhood obsession with skateboarding and the creativity that stems from that world. When he began creating his own work it was important for him to have a distinctive style, to have consistency and for it to be instantly recognisable.

“I essentially have a set of rules that guide how I will build an image. I started out doing this as an exercise to encourage consistency and to avoid being overwhelmed by choice when figuring out an image,” O’Donnell tells CR. 

“I would make little comics and other projects using these rules and it would force me to find ways around the constraints, it’s almost like solving a puzzle when the pieces come together to make a likeness of a chicken or a flower or something. I get a lot of satisfaction when I find a way to make the most concise version of something, that’s a big part of why the sun and flowers appear in most of my pieces.” 

Udon from Tokyo. All images: Joe O’Donnell