Penelope Dullaghan Illo for Oprah

Penelope Dullaghan from Scott Hull Associates with O, the Oprah magazine illustration

an interview with Penelope Dullaghan

I'm so thrilled - over the moon really! - to share a new short film that reveals my latest illustration for O, The Oprah Magazine. This was another fun collaboration with film producers SALT Project! Please check it out! Share it with you pals. And pick up a copy of this month's Oprah magazine to see the illo in real life. I hope you like it!


Penelope, can you share what were your first steps in your brainstorming the article? My first step is the usually the same for all clients: get as many ideas out as quickly as possible. I like to do thumbnail sketches or word bubbles just to get ideas flowing quickly. In the Oprah book review, the author mentioned the illumination of the bright spots that can often be found when you take a careful look at the messiness of life. Little bits of compassion or humor. So I drew ideas that were kind of surprising and invited the viewer to look closer. In this particular case, I found myself out to dinner with my husband and kiddo… the assignment was on my mind, so the three of us just talked about it and wrote any and all ideas on our napkins. I took all the napkins home to sort through ideas that worked the best.

What were some of the thoughts that fueled the direction? Thoughts that made my list were flowers with a twist, peering over a cliff into the darkness, illuminating a small sliver of hope, and reflection. I ended up sketching 4 different directions for the art director and we narrowed it down to the flowers idea. I see.

What inspired you to do the idea of flowers? I got to the idea of flowers by imagining the bright blooms — oftentimes that’s all we think about or see with flowers. But what happens under the ground where we can’t see? The roots can be so messy and tangled. I liked that idea and thought it made sense for the review. The art director loved the idea, too, and she asked me if I could think about ways to make it even more surprising to the reader. I went back to the drawing table and decided to flip the whole idea on it’s head -- so the messy tangles are what the viewer sees first and the blooms are hidden in the ground. The art director said it was perfect! So I got started on the final.

You made a video, how and why did you connect with SALT? I collaborated with SALT Project earlier this year on an artist profile film and was itching to work with them again. They’re just so creative in the film genre and I loved being around those different ideas and ways of thinking! So we talked and decided to do something fun for the Oprah illustration.

What was the purpose or goal for making the video? The goal was to just do something bright, fun and creative to push our limits with the medium. It was an editing feat for the SALT team for sure, and they knocked it out of the park! And it was a great exercise for me to see the possibilities of working outside my normal illustration world. The end result was something we’re all really proud of! Oprah even featured our film on her Facebook page, which was super exciting! We were just happy to produce something that made people smile.

Would you share with us a word or phrase that describes yourself? This year more than any other, I’d say that I’m pushing myself way past my comfort zone… with the fun videos I’ve been a part of and the interesting opportunities I’ve been given. So I’d describe myself right now as BRAVE.

Thank you Penelope for letting us behind the scense of O, The Oprah Magazine project.

You can see Penelope's portfolio and links to her blog