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Upfront: Artist and illustrator Fatti Burke on the art of kindness, learning and collecting tattoos

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Illustrator Fatti Burke. Picture by Steve Humphreys

Illustrator Fatti Burke. Picture by Steve Humphreys

Illustrator Fatti Burke. Picture by Steve Humphreys

Fatti Burke (31) is an artist and illustrator from Dunmore East, Co Waterford. She and her father, John, a retired school principal, have created brilliant children’s books about Ireland and characters in Irish history. She also works on solo exhibitions, and projects like the Find Tom in Time books, a collaboration with the British Museum, as well as picture books about Michelle Obama and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

 

What were you like growing up in Dunmore East?

I was always reading and making up plays in the woods. Dunmore East was an idyllic place to grow up, with the sea and a forest. There would be tourists in the summer and then it’d be empty for the rest of the year, with every beach like a private beach.

Choose three words to describe yourself.

Quiet, creative and introverted.

What did you read as a child?

I loved Dr Dolittle and all the Enid Blyton books. Harry Potter of course. Adventure was my thing. I loved all the Mr Men books by Roger Hargreaves. They were really simple and colourful and they didn’t give much away. You had to use your imagination. 

Best advice you give?

Never stop learning. You can apply that to everything in life, especially when you’re learning about yourself. And in business – not everybody can afford you. That’s good in terms of being self-employed and trying to price myself. Don’t fear that another job won’t come along because another person turned you down because of a price thing.

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Best advice you were given.

My dad told me that growing up means you stop caring what other people think. I used to think that was impossible but when it happens, you’re like wow.

What drives you?

I want to leave the world a better place than I found it by teaching and reaching out and having empathy. It mightn’t come across in my work but it is part of my ethos, and how I live. Spreading kindness is the most important thing to me.

Who is your role model?

I think Mary Robinson is an astounding woman because she is always looking out for people who are less privileged than she is and tries to fight for justice. She is a voice for fairness.

Why are you an artist?

I was born this way. It’s just in you. I don’t know any other way to be. In school I was always covering my copy books in pictures and since I was really small I always wanted to draw.

How did Covid-19 affect you?

I moved back home because of it. Up until then I’d been living in Lisbon, and Amsterdam before that. Covid gave me time to focus on what was important and appreciate what I have. It gave me solitude. I found something productive to do.

Most rewarding work so far ?

The Arts Council sponsored me to work with a group of children in Cork city. We did a mural together. It was the first time I’d been with more than two people since Covid began. I loved having all this energy around me.

What makes you laugh?

Tony Cantwell’s podcasts when I’m working. He’s a Dublin-based comedian. And I’m a child at heart. I still watch The Simpsons.

What are you reading?

I’m re-reading The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend.

Why are you going back to college?

I love learning. I’m going to do a Masters in Children’s Literature in Trinity. The plan is to write children’s literature so right now, I’m getting reacquainted with children’s novels. I finished Peter Pan and Pinocchio is next.

What are you listening to?

Elton John and Fleetwood Mac.

Tell us about your tattoos.

I like to collect things and it’s the same with tattoos. I might travel overseas to get a tattoo. I gave myself my very first home tattoo with a needle during lockdown and that was the sorest because I was doing it to myself.

fattiburke.com


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