Ellie O'Neill

Studying and trainee teaching (Further Education and Training PGCE in Art, Design and Media), Greater Brighton Metropolitan College


Ellie O'Neill

Sketchbook process: drawing as research



In my second year of University Alice Moloney brought up the issue of illustrators being commissioned for their hand rather than their head, which led to her not identifying as an illustrator. She explained if illustration was classified in a much broader way she would have been more confident to label herself as one, but also said she would not know how it would have worked in industry.

I believe a more expanded definition of illustration can be accepted if the illustrators process is understood and an inductive approach is valued. I propose there are three different types of approaches/briefs in the creative industry: Inductive, Abductive and Deductive:

  • An inductive approach is process-driven, where knowledge is constructed without preconceived ideas. An inductive brief would outline what it would like the artist to achieve, not produce.
  • An abductive approach specifies the outcome, but allows the artist control over a different type of process to that in the inductive approach to achieve the product.
  • Finally, deductive specifies both process and product in the brief. Renting the same work for different commissions honours a deductive approach and contributes to illustration stagnation.

Abductive and deductive strategies have an emphasis on product art, which could be used to describe more ‘traditional’ illustration briefs. Whilst these commission models are favourable to the restrictions of industry, the process of an inductive approach generates new, thereby more engaging, products. An inductive model is already valuable within education and research-based illustration and I propose how this could enhance all areas of illustration practice and speculate how this could be harnessed in the commercial industry. I believe a universal understanding of these different briefs could contribute to closing the gap between education and industry.


Ellie O’Neill is an illustrator and recent graduate of Kingston School of Art.

Her practice is research-driven, using a range of methodologies more commonly associated with anthropology. Her authorial projects always have a documentary element, spending time in an environment, where narrative naturally unfolds. Emphasising her time-based approach, she is often drawn to content that is transient, and therefore overlooked, giving ephemerality permanence through visual documentation. Whilst she intends for the experience of her illustrations to be long-lasting, they are often formed quickly and embrace the immediacy of drawing by hand on location. Although thoughtful and honouring the research, the outcome is unplanned as she explores drawing as an inductive process, working with subtle colours and lines that are quietly descriptive of her interpretation of the subject.

She is currently training as a tutor with a placement on the Illustration Degree at Brighton Metropolitan College alongside studying for a PGCE in Further Education for Art Design and Media. During this time, she is practically developing her research of inductive, abductive and deductive approaches.