We had the good fortune of connecting with Dev O’Reilly and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dev, why did you pursue a creative career?
In a sense, pursuing an artistic career didn’t really feel like a choice to me. I’ve loved drawing since I was a kid, and I wanted to be an artist so badly when I grew up. Unfortunately, I got discouraged as time went on and didn’t think it would be possible to make a living off art. From junior high to the beginning of college I gave up art almost entirely, except for doodling in my notebooks.
In college, I would constantly think of what I should major in and what career to pursue, and everything I thought of sounded so boring I knew I would indefinitely fail at it due to sheer lack of interest. One day I was doodling in a math class and a friend of mine really liked it and suggested that I could do something with drawing career-wise. That reignited the thought that I could pursue something creative professionally.
The more I thought about it the more excited I became and decided I was going to give it a shot. I fell in love with art all over again when I began taking courses. I excelled in virtually all of my art classes, particularly in drawing and illustration. At the time I still wasn’t sure how I’d make a career out of drawing but I was so obsessed it didn’t matter. With that passion and drive, I continually progressed and knew that I was on the right path. I pursued an artistic career because it was one of the only things that I could see myself doing for the rest of my life and genuinely enjoying.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am currently the artist and graphic designer of Institution Ale Co. based in Camarillo, CA. I started working at Institution 5 years ago as a busser but applied for the job with the intention of becoming their artist one day. After two years of bussing and bartending they started canning beers and needed an artist for the labels. I filled that role and the whole thing happened very organically. I started off doing a few labels here and there but eventually started doing all of them. I’ve now illustrated around 80 beer labels for Institution and helped shaped their brand identity with my work.
A lot of Institutions beer names are off the wall and really fun, which went hand in hand with my style of art. My illustrations are usually very fun and weird, loaded with details and strange things. I think what makes the artwork such a success is the consistent quality, recognizable style, and unique content.
One of the most important things that I learned from this job is the importance of creating opportunities for yourself. The job that I wanted with the company didn’t even exist when I was hired as a busser. But I positioned myself strategically to increase the possibility of filling that position when the time came. Starting from the bottom of the company helped me form a relationship with the owners, customers, and crew, which has helped the popularity of the artwork tremendously.
Alongside Institution, I also do freelance illustration and design. My freelance gigs are always a blast because they let me branch out stylistically and experiment. Freelance can range from Album covers to logo design, to family portraits with my unique spin on it and so much more. The majority of these opportunities have stemmed from people seeing my beer label illustrations and it’s had this wonderful snowball effect.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m not too familiar with LA as I’m from Ventura County. But if we had some time to kill, I’d definitely check out some of the breweries around town. Brewery hopping is a great way to spend time with friends, meet new people and enjoy some delicious beer + food. I’d also hit some galleries for sure, LA is truly blessed with the amount of talent it has, it would be a shame not to soak some of that up. Live music would be a must, music is a huge part of my life and I’ve been to many incredible concerts in LA.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First and foremost, my mom has always been the most encouraging person in my life when it came to pursuing art. She’s an incredible painter herself and was always trying to get me to draw and paint as a kid. She also exposed me to many of the legendary artists of the past at a very young age. Without her helping to nurture and encourage my talent I’m not sure I’d be where I am today artistically.
Secondly, my friends were instrumental in giving me the confidence to pursue art as a career. My family always told me I was talented and whatnot but you tend to write those things off because family is supposed to be encouraging regardless. Having that outside encouragement really helped me to think about taking art seriously.
Lastly, my Art professors from Moorpark Community College & Cal State University of Channel Islands. My professors exposed me to so many new mediums and ways of thinking about art and design. I know of many professional artists who didn’t go to school for art, but for me it was a huge advantage. From painting to sculpture, to digital illustration, to using vector programs, all of these skills became invaluable tools for my career and ultimately helped me to excel and progress very fast. Not to mention that they were also just awesome people to be around!