Corkonian Hayley Mulcahy on illustration, Formula 1 and living with chronic pain


Hayley Mulcahy was born and raised in Cork City.

She studied dance as a child and went to ballet and tap-dancing classes after school and at the Firkin Crane. But despite this, Hayley never wanted to be a dancer when she grew up.

“I remember specifically saying I wanted to be a Beyblade World Champion!”, she explains. When Hayley was six years old, she came across Sailor Moon on Fox Kids.

“After seeing the pretty colours and gorgeous character designs, I wanted to make things that looked as pretty as that,” she says. “So I started drawing around that age, mostly fanart of things I loved, including other cartoons and video games I loved”.

Hayley went to college in Cork to study Animation and Illustration and knew they she wanted to create her own stories with art. From there she began to do freelance work for local indie films and adverts, doing concept art and storyboarding.

Hayley properly began selling her artwork under the name ‘Hayley Mulch’ and self-published comics at various anime and comic conventions around Ireland. “I have sold art to people from the USA to New Zealand!”

When it comes to illustration it can feature across various types of media including anything from books to video games to ads and magazines.

Hayley tells me that you can use a big variety of mediums to create these pictures, including but not limited to paints, collages, sculpture, and original photography with manipulation.

“Comic art can overlap with this, hence why I love to make stories through my art too,” Hayley says. She’s primarily a digital artist and uses a program called CLIP STUDIO PAINT on her Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 with a pen to draw directly on the screen with.

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Because the tablet is portable Hayley can get comfortable anywhere to draw. As Hayley works primarily work with digital mediums, she has pretty much the whole gamut of colours to work with.

However, she does take into account night mode on screens and other screen colour temperatures to make sure that the colours on her artwork remain consistent across devices.

Then printing my art is a different story because you need to make sure that the colours are suitable for print. What we see on the screen doesn’t translate into print, so prepping your chosen colours for print is important. But other than that, yeah I pretty much can use any colour. The eye drop tool to pick colours from photographs is a blessing too!

Hayley Mulcahy

Hayley also loves playing around in sketchbooks using traditional media too such as pens, markers, pencils and paints.

“Sometimes I like making pieces that look raw and messy to help me remember that anything I make doesn’t always have to be perfect. It helps me to take more pressure off myself when creating.”

Despite Hayley’s keen work ethic, without a shadow of a doubt, the toughest challenge is managing her chronic pain which can make it very painful for her to draw.

In 2021, Hayley was diagnosed with myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) and fibromyalgia.

“These are two chronic pain diagnoses: MPS is where your muscles and joints can feel in a constant state of ache and pain,” Hayley explains. “Fibromyalgia then can stem from that, and bring with it fatigue and difficulty sleeping”.

Hayley has had this pain ever since 2010, and sadly it’s gradually increased over the years. To combat this, she has found ways to work around it.

“One thing I did was to become somewhat ambidextrous,” she explains. “If I take my time with drawing and writing, I can produce pieces now that you’d swear I had just used my dominant hand to create. But now there’s plenty of pieces I’ve managed to create either fully left-handed or using a mix of both hands.”

Other than the medicine Hayley is prescribed to ease the pain, she also does light yoga and stretching when possible.

Recently I discovered ulnar nerve gliding and vagus nerve exercises which are showing some results when I do them daily. Along with breathing exercises and rest, I use a combination of these to prepare myself for making art. Although I seem to have developed a type of procrastination in the past few months, probably due to the fear of pain which I’m still currently working on!

Hayley Mulcahy

Hayley tells me that for such a small island as Ireland is, there is an “overwhelming amount of comic artists and illustrators”. Despite this, Hayley says that so many different artists have such a unique vision in their work, and you can tell who has created what.

“And I certainly do feel I have my own niche too, as I haven’t come across many others here drawing Formula 1 drivers in an anime style or creating an original comic book about motorsport,” she muses.

“If you have a passion and you communicate that in an art form and want to share stories through art, you’re definitely going to find people that are attracted to it and will enjoy it.”

Hayley Mulcahy's comic Paradiso

Something that Hayley Mulcahy has been working on since 2017 is a webcomic called Paradiso.

Paradiso is a fictional coming-of-age sports drama about a young girl from Cork looking to become a Formula 1 driver. It chronicles her beginnings in karting, all the way up through junior championships and more.

“While I don’t have a consistent or even guaranteed schedule to upload pages online, I make a few pages in batches and share them when I can,” Hayley says. “Usually, you have a whole team to work on a comic – a person for sketching the pages, another then for inking the art, another again for colours or special effects and then lettering. But I do all of that myself as a one-person team, so it does take me a long time.”

Hayley says that the satisfaction she feels after every page is complete is unlike anything else. She managed to print the first chapter in a full colour, A4 size edition during the first COVID lockdown in Ireland. You can in fact read the whole comic here for free here.

“With the fatigue and frequent pain, it’s always felt a bit like I’m taking extended breaks in general and then doing art in between,” she tells me. “Now, I’ve been made redundant in the past few weeks, I am looking to upskill in something else that I can do”.

Doing art full-time currently is not viable for her at the moment. “I feel I don’t constantly have to produce things all the time, because my older work I believe still deserves to be admired,” she says.

Hayley’s love of motorsport, in particular, Formula 1 and Formula E as mentioned is to be keenly seen across her work.

Hayley has even gotten to go see the British Grand Prix in 2019 which she describes as an incredible experience and when she gets the chance, she loves to go karting at Watergrasshill, Co. Cork.

The first time she ever drove there, it was pouring rain and she learned so much about driving in adverse conditions.

I’d secretly love it if I could somehow be like an amateur kart racer and maybe do some Grand Prix around Ireland. Who knows! But I am happy right now to be working on growing my online store so that more and more people can discover my art. I’d love it if I could have a physical studio store in Cork City, or even somewhere in the county like Kinsale or Cobh.

Hayley Mulcahy

Hayley ends by saying that if you love drawing or creating images in any way and wish to tell stories with your pictures, then just never stop doing that.

“Keep getting inspired by the media that you like and prefer. Maybe even create your own fan characters or fan fiction,” she says.

“We’ve seen some of the century’s most popular works spring out from that. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s cringe or silly. If the act of creating your own images, characters, worlds and designs genuinely makes you happy, then you are living life to its fullest. And besides, I think we need people’s unique voices, individuality and vision more in the world we live in currently. So why give that up?”

I'm a freelance content creator, author, and journalist who has a strong desire to share interesting content about Irish people and things about Ireland at home and abroad. I am constantly curious.

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