Meet the illustrator who turned doodles on a T-shirt into a business: Brendan Donnelly

The latest artist to re-imagine the McQ’s signature Bunny is Brendan Donnelly, an American based illustrator who cites counter culture and folklore as the two main ingredients of his work. For McQ he re-created the signature bunny and made it the most sinister, adorable, nose-twitching rabbit one could imagine. McQ caught up with Brendan to ask him about working with us and what makes him tick.

Can you tell us something about your work?

My work is all over the place! There is a lot of dark humour I guess.


What’s the LA art scene like – are you part of a certain movement?

I’m not really part of the art scene or part of any movements. There’s some cool galleries and a lot of great artists here in LA, but I just kind of do my own thing.


We’ve seen a lot of your work at the Museum Of Death in Los Angeles – how did you start working with them and can you tell us something about your work for them?

A few years ago I was living up the street and randomly walked in on rainy day (which is rare in LA!) I ended up spending half my day in there. This place is top shelf! Some of the best obscure memorabilia I’ve ever seen. I asked if they needed any shirts for their store and heard back a few months later. This started the relationship/friendship with the MOD and the owners who are great people. We put out some t-shirts and they purchased a lot of artwork for their various exhibitions in the museum. The GG Allin one is my favourites and I think they released it the day they unveiled the GG wax statue.


What did you work on for McQ?

A series of bunny characters. The McQ collaboration looks better than I could have ever imagined! It’s been an honour to work with such a cool label. We have it all, from dark psychedelia, folklore, humour, American gothic, skulls and cartoons. All the stuff I love to draw, so it was a perfect match.


How did the McQ bunny come to life?

By having fun drawing him…


What inspires you and where do you find inspiration?

Pretty standard shit; music, movies, TV, museums, driving, the internet, talking to people, and the stuff I collect, and  collect a lot of shit. It eventually gets worked into whatever I’m doing. Anything from t-shirts, books, drawings, newspapers, comic books, newspaper clippings, magazines, tabloids, posters, pamphlets, flags, porn, flyers patches, stickers, pins, coffee mugs, ebay purchases, you name it. There is no real era or genre, just anything that catches my eye and can used down the line in my work. I’m starting to use more of it into my personal work.

When do you work best – day or night?

Really depends on what I’m working on, but I usually write or draw in the morning at the kitchen table, then hike my dog and get inspired/work out kinks in my head for whatever project I’m working on, take a few hours to do emails and run errands then work in the evening well into the night in my garage studio. If I have a show or a big job then it’s really manic hours, but I try to pace myself and not get too overwhelmed on a daily basis and see where my mood takes me. (I didn’t do any this today though. I went to the beach to clear my head)


What do you do to chill out?

I binge watch TV shows for days without seeing anyone or drive up the PCH and toss a ball with my dog on the beach.


You started a cartoon called Later Days – what made you start a cartoon and what’s it about?

In 2008 I made a video of “Nosferatu dancing to Lady Gaga” that randomly went viral. My writing partner/co creator and friend since college, Hak and I tried to make a Youtube show based on the character but could never get it right. Whether it was shoot days, finding actors, money, all the stress of doing an independent project. We finally put a shitty pilot together for the show and all the footage was accidently erased. Over the years we kept talking about it but we also have super busy lives and could never find the time to shoot. Over the course of 8 years I’ve also matured physically from an amphetamine body to a Dad bod, and no one likes to see a stocky guy vampire! About 7 months ago we were en route to our friend’s grandmother’s funeral, who we considered our grandmother, and we having a hard time processing it, we were also very jetlagged and stopped for a coffee. Over coffee we kept talking about the Nosferatu show and how it could work. Hak suggested we make it an animation since I had already been drawing the character (which I named Crow for legal reasons) and was in the process of creating an animated show based around him to pitch, but he convinced me not to and that we should do the animation. We had a handshake and began to laugh at the possibilities we could take the character by having him animated in his world which is basically my day to day frustration with the world. Hak suggested we produce it DIY so we have full creative control and I 100% agreed. I’ve been pitching shows for 5 years now, as well as Hak, and we know the horrors and defeat of putting your heart and soul into a project and having rejected by the networks. We started using Instagram as the platform to get it out there to see if people would actually like it and they did! 1 minute jokes turned into 2 minute episodes and now we are going into 4 minute episodes and hopefully 10 minutes depending on where this ends up. It’s a lot of work but it’s so much fun to collaborate with my best friend, write, make the artwork for the characters world, do the voices and see it come to life. I think when you just have fun and make work you’re proud of, people take notice, who knows where this will be in a year, but I know it will be a hit.


What would your dream project be?

It’s a dream to be working with cool people and creating work that I’m proud of that others can enjoy.


What’s next for you in 2017?

The launch of my collaboration with McQ! Hopefully have some shows in the UK and just keep doing what I do and see where it goes.