Self Promotion pt.1: Whisky labels


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Self promotion as an illustrator is really fricking important. Who’s going to hire you when they don’t know you exist? No one. That’s who. So after finishing up my teaching and residency at ECA I set myself a bit of a marathon task of creating self promotion pieces for something like 5 different areas of illustration. Self promo is super fun because you can basically make whatever you what… except you can’t cause you also want to create something that showcases your skills and is relevant to the client. But it’s definitely a chance to experiment and indulge, so I’ve had a pretty great time!

To make up for my recent absence of posting up new work, I’m going to post up each of the self promo pieces every day for a week. These will all be sent as physical and digital mail outs next week, so fingers crossed!

Piece 1 (design): Bunnahabhain Tales Of The Sea Whisky label competition

This competition is pretty sweet as it involves charity for The Fisherman’s Mission, but also relies heavily on being a Scottish brand. Living in Edinburgh, wonderful coastal scenery is pretty much on my doorstep:

cat_o'neil_sketchbook(Okay that’s in Ullapool which is ages away, but shhh)

I love dramatic landscapes, and drawing the sea is super fun. But I liked the challenge of making something that balances design with a purpose alongside just being aesthetically pleasing. The brief asked that the design incorporated the Helmsman of their brand identity along with the text, but otherwise was fairly open.

cat-oneil-whisky-bottle-labelSeeing as the label would wrap around a bottle it made sense to have a design with a central focus. But I felt that a strictly central focus label may look a bit too rigid, so I placed an asymmetrical focus on the actual center piece. Also, figuring that the bottle itself would be relatively dark it made sense to have large sections of light tone to bring out the label. So… it should hopefully look like this!

cat-oneil-whisky-bottle-label-in-situIt’s potentially a bit of a departure from their original brand identity, but there’s no point second guessing what they want in a competition. The only thing is that if I’m lucky enough to actually win there’s a problem in that I don’t actually drink whisky… but that’s ok, I’ll just give it to James instead (who has also done this brief, check it out!)


In Residence


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You know how there are some people who just never leave university? Well… after metaphorically screwing my art school for all it’s worth, I’m now at the end of a 6 year relationship. A good relationship, but leading on to new sexy adventures.

eca-residence-exhibitionTo mark the end of everything, a group of the Artist In Residence at ECA teamed up to put on our final (very sexy) show. It was a fantastic display of work from 6 disciplines from the School of Design from 14 very talented practitioners. Take a look below for a selection of photos of the exhibition!

Special thanks to Mark Kobine, Gregor Doverty, Astrid Jaekle, Kasia Matyjaszek, Kirstin Binnie and James Albon who did a hell of a lot of legwork putting up the show, designing our lovely brochures and keeping the rest of us in check!

Perth Festival of the Arts


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Earlier this year I had the pleasure of working with the lovely people of Perth Festival of the Arts. The Festival stars the likes of Jools Holland, The English Chamber Orchestra, The National Scottish Jazz Orchestra and an impressive variety of theatrical and musical performances. They were looking to do a re-brand of their promotional brochure and banners, which was super awesome as it meant I was doing a large scale piece that I didn’t have to pay for (I love my giclee printers, I really do… but you don’t get that sort of quality cheap).

So last Sunday they invited me to their opening concert (The English Chamber Orchestra playing Holst, Mozart and Vivaldi) to check out the printed pieces!

cat-o'neil-perth-festivalcat-o'neil-perth-festival2cat-o'neil-perth-festival6cat-o'neil-perth-festival5It was kind of funny seeing everyone carrying the brochure though, cause I kept thinking people had nicked a bit of work of my desk and I had to catch myself from picking them up wherever I saw them… Amazing concert though!

Shortlisted for AOI Illustration Awards!


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I had the best day ever on Friday. To start off, my super talented illustrator boyfriend James Albon found out he had been selected for a very exciting illustration commission (which he will blog about soon I’m sure)… Then later on in the day he and fellow illustrator Oliver Ninnis also had their single launch for their band The Well Rested… so there was much celebration all round. And by celebration, I mean tequila. And gin.

Now as much as I love celebrating other people’s successes, you can imagine I was pretty psyched that eve to find out that I have had 3 pieces shortlisted for the Association Of Illustrators (AOI) Illustration Awards 2013! The pieces ‘Brothers‘ and ‘Eternal‘ have been shortlisted in the Book category, and the piece ‘Strategies For Flooding‘ has been shortlisted in the Design category. I was really pleased to have a piece in the AOI last year, so it’s even more exciting to find out that they’ve chosen 3 this year!


Best Friday ever.

Happy Birthday Nick Hornby!


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Some books you like for the plot, others you like for the language. I think it’s something of a misnomer to say “I don’t like reading”. It’s like saying you don’t like music, it’s probably because you haven’t found the right music yet.


High Fidelity’s Rob sat among his mix tapes, records of his top 5 break-ups.

One of my favourite authors of all time is Nick Hornby, writer of High Fidelity, About A Boy and A Long Way Down. Hornby has a brilliant understanding of relationships (not just romantically) and the process of individual growth, but also writes in a really accessible way. To cut my swooning short, I like his books because they’re just so damn wise. They’re also not pretentious. And very British (not in a patriotic sort of way, but familiar. Maybe that’s more because of the regular appearance of miserable, sarcastic gits which I have a bit of a soft spot for).


So Happy Birthday, Nick Hornby. I can’t give him a personalised message from The Boss, but here’s an homage styled as a book cover. I love how he constructs stories, so it’s a portrait of the man himself building his books.

(and in case anyone has read the books, About A Boy on the back cover is a reference to Dead Duck Day)

New email address


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Ach, I’ve been inundated with technical difficulties this week! As much as I like having an email address linked to my website, I can’t risk missing emails with a slightly temperamental account. I’m now syncing all my email accounts to just one address, which will from now on be my ONLY email address!

From now on please contact me at

To notify people of this change I’ve been sending round this little emailer, which contains two new illustrations! To the left we have a response to philanthropy (specifically teaching children the value of giving), and to the right is an illustration for Women’s Day!




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It’s officially the first day of spring!


I’d like to think this means warmer weather, daffodils and being able to feel my feet again (pah). Of course living in Edinburgh means that those things generally only happen for one week in July… but at the very least I have some daffodils in the flat which make me feel like the┬áVernal Equinox isn’t a big scam.

Hong Kong: my next destination!


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Which sounds super exciting, except that I go back every 2-3 years! Travelling is pretty much my favourite way to get ideas for new projects. I think if I spend too long in the studio my work gets stale, plus when I travel and meet other super awesome illustrators and it scares me into working lots again. A good example of this was on my recent visit to New York I met the lovely Caitlin Anne who draws and paints incredibly bizarre but very richly detailed characters. I also briefly met Goni Montes and Sam Wolfe Connelly at the SOI show who have exceptionally lush work. So coming back I had lots of ideas for personal projects I wanted to do (the first being the Ungaretti illustrations).


This is the second. I’d done some observational sketches of landscapes, and I really wanted to take them to final and just get it out of my system. I love having the chance to focus on my rendering, but I was also excited to get on with some more focused commercial work later on. So with that in mind, I wanted to spend a bit of time developing my colour palette. I love the scenary in Hong Kong because it’s so dramatic and different to the UK; a sea of skyscrapers set among mountains. So I decided to do a 3 part series showing the relationship between the buildings and the mountains as the viewers eye draws out. Close into the city the buildings are dominating, but as we get further away you see that they’re just part of a much larger landscape.

cat-o'neil-hong-kong-1cat-o'neil-hong-kong-2cat-o'neil-hong-kong-3I’m at the beginning stages of contacting a few arts and educational institutions in Hong Kong in the hopes of organising a residency for the end of the year, so fingers crossed!

Ungaretti illustrations: Eternal


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The fourth and final poetry post!


Between the flower that is gathered and the one that
is given
the inexpressible nothing

This was the shortest Ungaretti poem I was assigned, and I think the most subject to interpretation. I focused on the ‘inexpressible nothing’, which I interpreted as the process of seeing death. Someone picking a flower sees the flower alive and immediately dead after it is picked. The person who receives a flower sees it for its beauty and doesn’t think of the process of it being picked, or of its death. So the difference between the flower that is gathered and the one that is given is the process of seeing it die. So in my illustration the man who is picking flowers sees their approaching deaths which is shown by the clocks attached to their roots. I wanted to relate that to the eventuality of his death, so he also has a flower growing from the back of his heart.

I really enjoyed this project, and I’m looking forwards to seeing the final publication later in the year!