Tíona Farrell is a phenomenal Comic Colourist who works with comic book powerhouses like Darkhorse, Vault, Image, Marvel and more. Her work is distinctive, beautiful and it’s clear that she’s a professional in her realm of work.
Tíona was born and raised and Dublin and describes herself as creative and ‘definitely the artistic nerdy child stereotype growing up’. Though anime and games were two of her main interests, she says that they were hard to get into back in the 90s in Ireland.
‘I remember seeing clips of anime in Italian in Italy that were huge influences on my work. I absolutely devoured anything fantastical,’ she says.
Tríona decided to study History and continued to do a masters in Critical Art Theory and throughout her studies, she was drawing.
‘I knew I wanted to be an artist, but I also had academic parents who were in education and I had always been spun the idea that going into art was hard,’ she explains.
‘So, I did more academic work instead, though I ended up with a love for history and writing as a result. I found myself at a tiny comics convention in 2014 that planted the idea that I could do comics. And it basically grew from there once I came out of college and began my own career.’
Tríona works as a colourist which she explains is the work done between the lines in the comics themselves.
‘Everything handed to me is black and white; it’s up to me to separate out the colours and add flavour to the pages through Photoshop,’ she explains.
‘It’s part technical, part artistic. It’s very flexible, I work to deadlines generally and I can move my schedule around as needed. I tend to work much later because I work for American companies though.’
When it comes to the greatest challenges in her working life, Tríona says that letting go of ego and perfectionism was one of the biggest hurdles.
‘Growing up when you’re the artistic child means that your work becomes part of you, so any criticism when I was younger felt like a criticism of my very being,’ she says.
‘Which obviously doesn’t work in a professional setting so being able to step back and just let your work be just one facet of you is very freeing. Furthermore, sometimes you just have to let something go, even if you don’t think it’s absolutely perfect. It’s been a challenge and I definitely still bristle from time to time, but I think it’s also great to be proud of what you do – too many Irish people are too quick to judge themselves harshly – I know I do myself.’
Tríona tells me that the comic book scene in Ireland is small and insular.
‘I’ve known a lot of the artists in the comics and illustrations circles near a decade now,’ she says.
‘It’s a great community, with some absolutely fantastic people in it. I wouldn’t say there’s really any competition, Ireland’s way too small for that. Any business that does come in is often overseas or hitting specific niches that only one or two people can fill.’
Tríona tells me that she came out of college being unsure of what she was going to do with her career but says that she just sort of fell into making comics as it was what she loved doing.
‘I began drawing them, but one day someone told me, hey your colours are absolutely great and I just started colouring comics in the local indie scene,’ she muses.
‘Boom! A big company in the States contacted me one day and then I just began working there with Weavers. It started to snowball from there and just grew after a few years. I can’t really say exactly what I’m working on in the future, but I am colouring an adaption of Stephen and Owen King’s ‘Sleeping Beauties’ right now with Alison Sampson on inks!’
Is there any comic that she would love to work with?
‘Gosh, honestly, I have no clue. If someone was to ask me to colour old Japanese manga I’d jump on it in a heartbeat? I guess beyond that I’d love to work on a mainline Superman title someday.’
When it comes to the realities of the illustration world, Tríona says that people will probably spend a good year or so learning about their own boundaries and their work as they break-in.
‘I remember when I was younger working crazy hours, like easily 32 hours straight and I look back on that and go, ‘why did I do that to myself,’’ she explains.
‘In a way, companies will expect you to do this, but I put my foot down now about it. You may think you’re invincible when you’re in your 20s, but it catches up to you fast physically, mentally and emotionally. Just because you ‘break-in’ doesn’t mean you have to work yourself to the bone because you’ve been given a golden, once in a lifetime opportunity. You worked hard for it and everyone deserves time away from their work.’
Tríona says that ultimately if you want to work in comics simply start making comics. She says that the best way to begin is to make something short and see if you like it.
‘If you do, get involved locally, chat with other indie creators and slowly start to build a portfolio and a support network. As for tools wise, specifically for my career, a solid computer, Photoshop and a drawing tablet are all very necessary,’ she says.
‘However, it’s best to just shop around and see what suits your needs best in comics. If anything, it’s best to understand that a career in comics is very, very slow and can be disheartening. You can go one step forward and 20 steps back sometimes and you don’t necessarily end up in the place you thought you would. It’s always best to keep an open mind and just keep believing in your own work.’
Apart from being a fantastic colourist, Tríona would also like to try her hand at writing. ‘I’ve always been a writer on some level and I want to create comic books with my own stories in them,’ she says.
‘I always envisioned someone else drawing them, and myself writing and colouring them. That’s far off in the future right now, but it’s a dream of mine.’
Go n-éirí go geal léi. If you want to see more of Tríona’s colourist work, you can check out her Twitter account here.