work by coral monaghan

Graduates 2024: Coral Monaghan: Illustration

“I’m from London, and living in a smaller city where I can get everywhere by foot is great. It means I get out and about more, it feels like it opens up more possibilities. I think I’ll forever associate Brighton with spending long days in the university studio, getting lost in work… I’ll miss that student-studio atmosphere. I like the hustle and bustle of it; the productivity of it.”

Please tell us a bit about your work and your influences

“I would describe myself best as an animator and printmaker. My most recent project, titled ‘Collection of Coral’, combines those two practices – printmaking and animating. Within the project I’ve been screen-printing hundreds of individual frames, which I then scan, and turn into digital, entirely screenprinted, stop-motion animations. I create digital moving image, but every single frame within my animations exists as a physical print of some form before getting digitally scanned in.

“This process of turning analogue frames into digital animation creates a lovely texture within my work. I enjoy the grain and imperfections printmaking can bring to my frames. It’s a process I find really satisfying.

“I think a big influence for my work is city life – I’ve always lived in busy cities, and enjoy echoing that dynamism and motion within my animation. I’m often drawn to the mundanities of city life – some of my recent projects have been about the Tube, newsagents, observing subtle differences around the city, people watching and walking.

“Repetition is another huge influence for my work. My stop-motions are all highly repetitive, as are my prints and drawings. I enjoy communicating the same thing over and over again, but each time with subtle variations. I tend to get lost in doing this, I find it very therapeutic.”

work by coral monaghan

What made you choose your course?

“I did a foundation year in Graphic Design, but I remember always feeling like I should’ve been in the Illustration studios instead – I was envious of the work they were doing. Illustration to me sounded like I’d have the freedom to be as creative as I wanted. My tutors on the foundation course told me I wasn’t allowed to transfer to illustration, as I didn’t do enough drawing. A year later, I was accepted onto the Illustration course at the University of Brighton, and I believe it was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. Studying Illustration has helped me expand my confidence and knowledge in image-making tenfold.”

Can you tell us about your favourite part of your studies and how it helped the development of you and your practice

“My favourite part of my studies has definitely been gaining the confidence during second year to dabble in animation – it always looked and sounded so technically difficult, I didn’t think I’d be able to get my head round it. But very quickly it became my favourite practice within Visual Communication. Something about making a formerly static image move excited me. The highly repetitive process of animating was something I enjoyed, it felt like a release to me. Ultimately, making a formerly static image move excited me. Still images no longer interested me as much.

“The majority of my work outcomes for second & third year have all been moving image. I started off creating digital, hand-drawn short films, but especially during my final year, I’ve been trying to push the boundaries of what I understand animation to be. I’ve been experimenting with printmaking, printing thousands of frames over the last year, which I turn into pieces of stop-motion.”

Can you tell us about any staff who particularly inspired you?

“One of my third year tutors, Roderick Mills, always encourages us to push ourselves when it comes to making quantities of work. I’ll always remember presenting him with 10 drawings of detailed shopfronts during a crit once in third year, confident they’d be enough for that project. I’d spent what had felt like ages drawing them. Roderick glances over them and casually tells me, “do 40.” Initially that felt like a completely unrealistic task, especially as we were nearing the end of that particular project. But I think it was his ambition and confidence in my abilities that gave me the push I needed, and I ended up doing all 40. Now, during the ‘making’ phase of a project, I always think of a certain number in my head, which initially feels daunting and overly-ambitious, but I’ve ended up surprising myself with how much I can get done when I really put my mind to it.”

What does Brighton mean to you now?

“It’s been such an eventful three years studying here, I think Brighton’s meant a different thing to me during each of those years. During this final year, it’s been a place where I’ve grown in confidence in all areas of my life. I’m from London originally, and living in a smaller city where I can get everywhere by foot is great. It means I get out and about more, it feels like it opens up more possibilities. I think I’ll forever associate Brighton with spending long days in the university studio – which I’ve actually really enjoyed. You get into the routine of getting lost in your work and accidentally staying with a few other students until the caretakers come and kick you out for the night. I’ll miss that student-studio atmosphere. I like the hustle and bustle of it; the productivity of it.”

Can you tell us your plans after graduation?

“I want to keep getting my work out there! I’d love to get myself an agent and work freelance, but also, I enjoy that busy studio atmosphere, so I’m open, I’ll have to see what opportunities come up. I’m keen to continue learning new printmaking methods, and applying this to my future short films. I’ll most likely be moving back to London after I graduate (I miss my dog), but if I do, I’ll definitely be back living in Brighton at some point.”

Finally if you could give your 17 year old self any advice about going to university what would it be?

“I would definitely say, try to enjoy what you’re studying as much as you can. Of course, enjoy all the social & non-uni aspects of moving away from home. Enjoy the independence, the people, the fresh new environment. But the academic years are so much more rewarding if you genuinely enjoy your subject.

“Also, some advice for those about to start studying Visual Communication – don’t just create the work you think you should be making. When I first began my Illustration degree, I had quite a rigid, naive idea of what ‘illustration’ should look like. In my eyes back then, Illustration was to be made for children’s books. So with each brief we were given, I’d try to create that classic illustrated children’s book feel, using soft materials like inks and watercolours, and gentle, muted colours. Which really isn’t my style at all! I hadn’t yet unlocked my authentic ‘style’ at that point, because I was concentrating too hard on creating what I thought was expected of an illustration student. My scope wasn’t wide enough, but gradually I came out of my shell more with my own graphic, textured, analogue style.

“So to summarise – discard any preconceived ideas of what your subject’s work should look like. You’re in control n- be daring enough to let your own aesthetic and way of working take the lead. Tailor the briefs to your work, not your work to the briefs.”

Instagram @coral.monaghan


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