Creating culture with illustrator, Stephen Heffernan

Áine O'Boyle

The Dublin-based designer, illustrator and creative that is bringing cultural Irish references and social issues to life through his work. 

Stephen Heffernan, better known under the pseudonym of Hephee, can be easily found through his distinguishable Instagram page, adorned with simple but effective illustrations of everything from satirical jokes to Irish cultural references. 

The illustrator originally studied multimedia in the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) with his love for drawing as a child creating a drive within him to learn how to produce art with technology. 

Within this course a lot of the focus lay on the production of websites and upon graduation, Stephen realised that he wanted to avert his attention towards design processes. 

“I realised towards the end of my time in college though that I was a lot more into the design side of things so I knew I wanted to jump into that headfirst when I graduated.” he said. 

On producing illustrations, Stephen found that his greatest inspiration came from talking to people. 

“Chatting to people, listening to podcasts or talks, even just overhearing conversations on the bus can lead to new ideas from nowhere.” he said. 

According to Stephen, the heavy Irish influence on much of his work comes simply from living here and being ingrained in the culture itself. 

“A lot of my work is satirical or based on little jokes but I like the idea of representing different aspects of Ireland in my work that’s outside of things you might find in places like Carroll’s,” he said. 

With the majority of his illustrations being made available via Instagram, Stephen notes that social media platforms are an incredible tool for artists to avail of, particularly if you are unable to attend an art college or haven’t grown up within artistic circles. 

“I’ve met so many other artists through Instagram from being able to instantly connect with them through their work.

“Earlier this year I was working with an agency from California because someone in the agency had randomly followed my work and thought I suited the job,” he said. 

Stephen commenced his creative career in Dublin and notes that the city is “a bit of a weird one at the moment.” 

According to the illustrator, at times it can feel as though Dublin is “a city that doesn’t love you back,” 

Despite Dublin’s “cultural drain” that has came to the forefront of the media and political landscapes, Stephen feels that within a small city like Dublin it’s easy to get in touch with people running exhibitions or collectives and to get involved. 

Stephen himself is involved in a collective under the name of “Peachy Dublin”. He stated that the collective began four or five years ago, originally intended to be a single weekend event but was so well received that they decided to keep it going. 

Their first exhibition was carried out over three days in the Temple Bar Art Gallery and featured the work of around 45 artists. 

“None of us had any idea what we were doing and literally so many friends and strangers from the creative community came out to help us put it together,” he said. 

According to Stephen, the creative industry can be a tough one to break into but there is most definitely a place for everyone. 

“In the interview for almost every job I’ve ever had they want to see what I’ve been working on in my own time. 

“Having a personal interest in what you do is so important. Anyone can learn to mock up some work on a billboard but it’s a lot more exciting when somebody shows personality in their work,” he said. 


Áine O’Boyle

Image Credit: Hephee