Thursday, 22 October, 2020

Jess McGeachin

Author and Illustrator from Melbourne, Australia

Website: https://drawthemoon.com

Jess McGeachin

* What brought you to illustration?

I’ve always loved to write and draw, but I actually studied graphic design at university.
It was only a few years ago that I realised there was a path which would let me draw everyday - writing and illustrating picture books! Having a background in design has been really helpful when it comes to creating compositions and laying out text, so experience is never wasted.

* What does a typical work day look like for you?
I still work full time, but I’m lucky that my day job is as a graphic designer for a museum.
Generally I practice my illustration in the evenings and on weekends. I’ll always start with a list and try to tick as many things off as possible before my hands get tired.

* Are there any illustrators who influenced/influence you?
Lots! I look up to some of the classic children’s illustrators such as E. H. Shepard (Winnie the Pooh) and Judith Kerr. I also draw inspiration from fantastic contemporary illustrators such as Shaun Tan and Oliver Jeffers.

* What was your very first illustration?
I think it would have been something from nature, like a crab or a shell. Kids aren’t often
self-conscious about their drawing which is definitely something I miss.

Illustration from "Fly", published by Penguin Random House Australia

* What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
I’m very inspired by nature. I try to go walking with sketchbook as much as possible and just draw the world around me. I also love reference books and use them all the time.

* Do you have a favourite illustrator/artist/author?
I may be a little bias, but one of the artists I most admire is my mum. She’s worked for many years as a scientific illustrator and printmaker, drawing lots of different specimens for museums and books.

* Do you like listening to music or audio books while working or do you prefer silence?
I love listening to podcasts while I’m drawing, especially true crime. It’s quite funny that I’ll often be working on a children’s book illustration while listen to a grizzly murder - I don’t think it’s influenced the art yet!

Illustration from "Finn and the Stone Giant" (https://drawthemoon.com/finn)

* Do you have a favourite place to work?
I have a little studio in Melbourne that overlooks a big park. It’s a great place to watch the world go by, especially all the dogs taking their owners for a walk.

* Is there a particular story you would love to illustrate?
I’m open to anything. I do have a soft spot for dragons though…

* What was your favourite illustration you have made so far?
I’ve got a few favourites, but there’s one spread in my picture book "Fly" that I’m very fond of. It shows lots of birds flying from above and I was really happy with how the colours turned out. I love drawing interesting angles and perspectives. It reminds us that there’s so many different ways to see the world.

Illustration from "Fly", published by Penguin Random House Australia

* What makes the art of illustrating special to you?

I love the idea you can create a whole new world with a few pencil-lines. People and places that might have never existed can come to life for you and other people to meet - what could be better than that?

* What makes a good illustrator?
I think the best illustrators are constantly reinventing themselves. It can be comfortable to draw the same subject matter or use the same materials, but the best artists I know are always trying something new, whether it works or not.

* Do you struggle sometimes? Do you have to motivate yourself, and if so, what helps? Is there a kind of 'illustrator’s block'?
There’s definitely an illustrator’s block. I find the only way through is to draw yourself out of it - even if it’s just drawing squiggles on a page, if you do it for long enough they’ll start becoming something else. Making strong coffee also helps.


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