Peonies and Pirates! – Interview with Irish Artists Niamh Gannon


Stippled Japanese Peony Print

I love Niamh’s work. The time, patience and craft that goes into her dot pictures and the bright energetic tattoo styled prints make her work just magic. I chat with her about her influences and ideas to get a better look into her work. Please check out the links included, some really cool inspiration there!

Hi Niamh. Your work is really beautiful and I see elements of Buddhist mandalas and some tattoo style in your work, but can you give me three influences you feel have directed your style or even your motivation?

—Thanks very much. I suppose the main thing that influences my work is indeed tattooing and tattoo culture – I like the old idea that a relatively simple design can have a good meaning behind it. Besides my appreciation for some of the earliest traditional tattoo artists (Sailor Jerry, Bert Grimm etc), I am a huge fan of some modern day traditional artists like Samuele Briganti, Pari Corbitt, Joe Ellis and Matt Chahal.

Thanks to the huge improvement in machines, equipment, range of inks available etc, traditional work is now more solid than ever and those type of tattoos will last a lifetime and never go out of style. I think those artists stick to the root of what traditional tattooing is about but because of the improvements since back in the ‘30s/’40s/‘50s, they are really able to bring the style to life.

Traditional Rose Tattoo

The other side of me is largely influenced by dot work artists. The perfectionist in me likes symmetry and pattern so I find this kind of work really therapeutic, despite going to bed square-eyed most nights. Matthew Hitt, John Sultana and Alvaro Florest would be just some of the artists whose work motivates me.

Lastly I would say that my mam has always been a huge influence on my work. As well as being my best friend, she is an incredible painter but is extremely humble and although she has always supported me (even when I dropped out of art college), she has taught me to never get ahead of myself. No matter how many successes or failures you have in life, there is always something new you can learn and there will always be someone who you can look up to in order to improve further.

How do you approach a project or idea? What mediums do you prefer to work in? Are you a freelance illustrator?

-Drawing for me is still quite a lengthy process. I generally start out with a rough sketch and lines for most designs. However for mandala pieces for example, precision and measurement is very important so I usually draw up a piece 2/3 times to ensure it’s symmetrical before I start to add in solid lines and dots.

Sacred Geometry

This rough stage is done in pencil on whatever tracing paper/scrap paper I have lying around and final pieces would mostly be done on a nice thick, textured paper in indian ink or pen. I enjoy watercolours too but I’ve moved away from them in some of my more recent work.

I’m not sure if I would call myself a freelance illustrator, but at the same time, I also felt for a long time that calling myself an ‘artist’ was a bit pretentious seeing as I left college to do work in my own terms. But yeah, if you like, I’m an artist. I don’t work for anyone else at the moment but we’ll see where it all leads in the future.

You sell your work on Etsy. How long have you been selling and how is it working out?

-I’ve only been selling on Etsy for a couple of months and it’s going really well. However I do ask most people to deal with me through Facebook message ( or Email ( for commissioned work as its more personal and easier to discuss their ideas and make any changes necessary while I’m working on their piece

Any works in projects you want to talk about?

.-Right now I’m working on several commissions for tattoo ideas; a large chest piece, geometric foot design, and some wrist designs for people who have contacted me through my Facebook page. This week I’m also working on a separate piece for a friend who is making a zine featuring Irish artists. That’s something I’m really excited and thankful to be a part of because there are so many talented people in all different areas of the arts in Ireland.

Misuta Monsuta question! Which would you rather be a pirate or a ninja?

-That’s a no-brainer. I’d definitely be a pirate. You never have to brush your hair and you get to travel the world on a ship with all your pirate mateys with an adorable parrot friend on your shoulder and a gnarly eyepatch. Plus you have a hook hand which I’m sure has lots of interesting uses…


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