Illustrator Ciara Phelan on why she set up her own boutique talent agency

Plus see wonderful new illustration work from their roster including Alec Doherty and Owen Gildersleeve.


Ciara Phelan has been working as an illustrator for seven years and is fed up with the ongoing tension between personal and commercial projects as an artist. Teaming up with producer Dorcas Brown, the pair has now launched Grand Matter – a boutique talent agency.

Grand Matter aims to provide other artists with a service born from goodwill; an agency that will nurture creativity.

"I always had lots of ideas for projects but would often disarm them if they didn’t fit with my commissioned work," says Ciara.

"With the two of us approaching this from our respective backgrounds in the creative industry, we both identified a need for an agency that actively nurtures a roster of artists that share common values, but without restriction on output and style."

After taking the leap from illustrator to directing an agency, founding director Ciara has big plans for Grand Matter, whose offices sits close to London's St James Park.

Dorcas says the agency will value and focus on creativity for "causes that matter in as many ways as possible" and will "reflect our principles as people, enabling us to contribute back to artistic community and also wider society".

Artists to join Grand Matter include a range of illustrators, designers and art directors such as Owen Gildersleeve, Alec Doherty, Saskia Pomeroy, Joe Cruz and Toby Triumph, whose stunning work you'll see in this feature. 

The multi-disciplinary agency’s new visual identity has been created by Chris Clarke (seen here), deputy creative director at The Guardian.

"Chris has visualised this perfectly and delivered an identity that reflects both our personable approach as well as our values and integrity, in a way that can be expanded upon and applied in so many ways."


Ciara has background in graphic design but pursued her passion for collage illustration as a freelance artist, working for the V&A, New York Times, Kiehls and Benefit Cosmetics. She’s also behind online gallery Many Hands and ethical homeware brand Kith & Kin.

Alongside her, Dorcas Brown offers her background as an art editor in editorial publishing. She brings a great understanding of production and commissioning for the client-side.

We asked Ciara and Dorcas to describe each of the Grand Matter artists in one sentence. Her quotes accompany the artists work in the rest of this feature. 

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Alec Doherty

"We love his playful characters and compositions, his use of strong primary colour and how well his illustrations adapt to different outputs. He always has ideas for new ways to push the formats he works in."


Alec Doherty

Alec specialises in character-based illustration for clients such as Byron Burgers (see his work here) and The Guardian. His illustrations often manifest as large-scale objects such as sculptures and murals, and even take form as beer label designs for his ongoing partnership with Partizan Brewers.


Joe Cruz

"Joe approaches his pieces with such expression and a great eye for line and shape. A really exciting artist to have on board."

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Joe Cruz

Joe is a mixed-media artist known for his expressive mark-making. He overlays colourful pastels onto black and white photography to create material for a range of formats, including flat illustration, clothing, posters and large-scale artworks. Clients include Liberty, Island Records, Red Bull and Adidas.


Owen Gildersleeve

"He's working with paper in a graphic way, using bold colour and shape to not only create eye catching layered illustrative pieces, but 3D objects and large scale sets as well."


Owen Gildersleeve

Owen has his fingers in many pies – illustration, set design and art direction. Owen’s paper constructs and hand rendered typography has been used by LUSH (along with Charlotte Day’s illustration), Comic Con and American Express. He often collaborates with other creatives to bring a dynamic installations.

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Saskia Pomeroy

"Everything Saskia creates – her surface design, her pottery and her various homeware products – are full of such joy and life."


Saskia Pomeroy

Saskia's background in commercial screen printing has lead to a mixture of print, drawing, painting, sculpture and textiles. Her work explores colour, texture and shape in an either abstract or observational style. Clients include Urban Outfitters, Toyshop, Hopman, Folk Clothing and MTV.


Toby Triumph

"Toby creates impressively detailed work by hand, and what really draws us in is his irreverent spirit and humour that comes through in his creations. His illustrations are very versatile, particularly lending themselves well to a GIF format."

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Toby Triumph

Toby incorporates characters, typography and playful phrases often in mono or duo tone colour palettes. His work has been applied across product packaging, clothing, installations and murals for Skype, Coca Cola and Adidas.