Roanna Monaghan: From Printmaker to Illustrator – A Journey of Creativity and Resilience

Roanna Monaghan, a talented illustrator with a background in printmaking, has a journey marked by diverse experiences and personal growth. Since graduating from art school in 2014, Roanna has navigated various roles and life changes, including becoming a mother in 2021. The lockdown period brought a significant shift in her work, making it more personal and reflective of her daily life. Operating from her home studio, she has expanded her repertoire from selling prints and block printed lampshades to taking on numerous commissions, ranging from logos for small businesses to personalized family prints. Roanna’s art is characterized by its warmth, familiarity, and versatility, blending traditional printmaking techniques with modern digital illustration to create pieces that resonate deeply with her audience. In this interview, Roanna shares her favorite projects, the challenges she’s faced, and her advice for aspiring female artists, offering a glimpse into her creative world and what drives her to keep creating.

 Hi Roanna, can you tell us a bit about your journey as an illustrator? How did you  get started, and what inspired you to pursue this path? 

I studied Printmaking at art school and graduated back in 2014. Since then I have had a  variety of different jobs and life experiences. I became a mother in 2021 and I feel in  lockdown my work took a really personal and interesting turn, showing more of my day to  day life struggles and achievements. My wee home studio has grown in resources over the  years and naturally I have taken to more drawing and sketchbook work. I was selling prints  and block printed lampshades from my website and I got loads of commissions through  from folk wanting personalised pieces, whether that was logo’s for small businesses or a  print for a family, it has grown from there! 

Your illustrations showcase a wide range of themes and styles. Do you have a  favorite project or piece that holds special significance for you? If so, what’s the  story behind it? 

I actually do have a favourite commission project… The commission was for a debut album  cover for a New York singer/songwriter Kara Arena. Kara had found my instagram in lock  down and my style was one she recognised in a family member that was no longer with her.  She reached out to see if I would be interested in collaborating with her for the album cover,  and honestly it was such a pleasure, Kara was so positive about my style and way I carved  a block that it made the whole process so enjoyable – doing exactly what I loved and the  way I love to do it. I am still really proud of that project and love telling people about it! 

Being an artist often comes with its own set of challenges. What are some of the  biggest hurdles you’ve faced in your career, and how did you overcome them?

I think it’s a common hurdle for many artists, starting out and established. But money  income! I am in a really fortunate position that my partner supports us, which to be honest  is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow. I have a daughter and am striving to bring her up  being a strong independent woman, and I feel my career has taken a back seat while I do  the Mum thing – equally I see how she sees me work, the pride and excitement in her eyes  when she’s in the studio is so rewarding. Being self employed has allowed me to be really  present in my child’s life while she is so young, I know it won’t be forever so I am making  the most of it. 

Money comes and goes – certainly in illustration, some months are really steady and others  quiet… but the love and support from my family is always there which makes a huge  difference. 

Your offer to create works for our magazine is incredibly generous. What drives you  to collaborate and share your art with others in this way? 

I feel my style and originality is warming and familiar, I love branching out of my norm – I  used to draw inspiration from the outdoors, mountains, sky, sea, and I still do! But I feel  being more open with my work and showing my personal side has resonated with people in  a new way. I have been playing around with ‘wine night’ prints and also creating my 2024  calendar all based on ‘the joy of everyday’ – quite literally sometimes drawing the kitchen  sink to turn into a print, and these have broadened my audience, and shown my skills in a  new light. Particularly small businesses that have approached me for work have really  receptive to the range of my ability.  

I am looking to share my work with a wider audience and hoped this would be a good way of meeting like minded people, I love working with other women in business and when  creativity comes into it, it can be even better. 

As a woman in a creative field, have you encountered any unique challenges or  experiences that have shaped your journey? How do you navigate these aspects of  your career? 

I think I have already touched on it, but certainly motherhood has changed my journey and  perhaps held me back ambitiously. However this was the way I have wanted and needed it  to be. I have learned to adapt my illustration practice around my new life as a Mum, and I  have had to! I have managed to make it work so far, fairly successfully around my daughter,  while still being able to give her time and dedication throughout. It has rarely got in the way  of my practice, if there is a looming deadline, it only helps. I have a week of working odd  hours, first thing while porridge is being smeared on walls, and late into the evenings when I  have a bit of down time again. I think working mothers, specifically in the creative industry  should be more open about how we work it, how we fit everything in. My daughter is quite  used to my pulling out a sketchbook in a car park to quickly get an idea down – she’s  always very keen to join in too. 

Your portfolio reflects a diverse range of subjects and themes. Is there a particular  message or emotion you aim to convey through your illustrations? 

My portfolio is definitely a wide range, I think because clients needs are all really varied. I  try to keep my style quite consistent throughout – the shapes and forms created being two  dimensional and pattern always making it’s way in. I have found more recent clients have   been more in need of ‘immediate’ illustration work – not necessarily after a block print, or  any printed form. And I have been able to pick that style up quite quickly on Procreate/  Adobe Photoshop which has been great, a good learning curve. I have very much been  labelled a traditional printmaker previously, and now I can confidently pitch that RJS Print  Studio can carry a range of illustrative outcomes using digital, print, hand drawn and paint.  When briefs come through, my first line of questions is the type of outcome the client is  after, and from there I can showcase what in my opinion will work well. 

What advice would you give to aspiring female artists or illustrators who are just  starting their careers? Are there any lessons you’ve learned along the way that you’d  like to share? 

Say yes to every project at the beginning. You actually never know who you will meet, who  will notice your work ethic and what lessons you will learn. As a young adult I worked a lot  in the hospitality industry, learning very quickly a sharp wit and willing attitude will get you  much further with a customer than perhaps being uninterested, or irritated by the  customers own personality. You will meet all sorts of folk in different walks of life, but I feel  the only thing you can control is your own actions, so make them good. Even the lesser  paying jobs can bring you opportunity further down the line, so make a good impression so  they aren’t afraid to get in touch! 

Equally to new Mums, don’t let it stop you. You are allowed to be creative and also have a  baby. There is no rule book on how to manage everything, but don’t stop doing what you  love, you will be amazed at what your body and mind are capable of after children. 8. Lastly, looking ahead, do you have any exciting projects or goals that you’re working  towards? Anything you’d like to share with our readers about what’s next for you? I have written and illustrated my first children’s book, which I am so so proud of and has  completely propelled me into something new and challenging, I absolutely love it. I am  amazed how easily it has come through in my work, as if I was building to this the whole  time. I have created the illustrations mainly using colour block prints, and the main  character actually being my dog has made research so brilliant and accessible. I am at the  stage now of completing the illustrations and text, and have actually applied for a few ‘new  illustrator’ awards based in the UK. The next stages will be finding a publishing house that  may be interested.

You can learn more about Roanna’s work here:


by Harness Editor

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