Heath’s book – The Aussie A-Z – an epic task of logistics, copyright
and crowd control let alone drawing!
The Age Newspaper’s Book Week cover art.
Melbourne illustrator Heath McKenzie has a bunch of job descriptions and an AWESOME folio to his name. Heath has written and illustrated over a dozen children’s books for local and international publishers. His work has featured in magazines, newspapers such as Melbourne’s The Age, and advertising campaigns.
On top of writing and drawing, sometimes his role includes that of a graphic designer or comic book artist. He’s even done some public speaking ….but would rather be back at his desk quietly illustrating! Having said that, Heath will be part of the regional tour for the upcoming Melbourne Writers Festival in August!
His hand drawn illustrative style is real and certainly brings out the personality of his characters. I love Heath’s good sense of humour! I think you need to have that to keep you going when working from home, by yourself most of the day! He has an amusing 25 questions on his website that features a photograph of his favourite snack – a cheese toastie!
Check out his website!
It was a quick after thought in the concept design process but has proven to be one of my most successful cover designs…I think!
This is the rare unedited illustration taken from Adam Wallace’s book,
‘Mac O’Beasty‘ …before the lawyers got nervous about ‘Donald’s slightly too iconic looking appearance!
How have you got to where you are today? For the longest time I didn’t quite know…
A: exactly what I wanted to do (I mean, I always loved drawing and cartoons and movies and all that sort of stuff and used art in a few different forms to express that – but never quite knew what specifically I wanted to do within that whole realm!)
…and B: how to get into doing it professionally.
Initially, through later years in high school and on into university, animation was on my mind. It still is to this day, however, back then, the way it was being taught to me, I just found I didn’t have the patience. I wanted something more immediate and played about with puppetry for a while. The logic was that I could literally design and build my own characters and be able to then have immediate performance from there!
It wasn’t until mid-way through a teaching degree, illustrator Ann James did a lecture with us and I found she did folio appraisals and so a little window of opportunity opened up. Following a successful folio appraisal she sent me to a few suggested publishing contacts and away it gradually went from there.
In a few words, describe yourself… Laid-back, a bit hungry, hopefully amusing.
What are you spending your time on at the moment? Having just assessed the schedule I’m currently sluggishly ignoring today! I realise that right now I’m spending my time on 2 picture books, 3 kids novels, a bit of web based stuff, 2 private commissions and a couple of personal projects – so I should probably stop procrastinating soon!
Do you have a ritual for getting into the creative mindset? Or a creative process? Sort of! It tends to meander into procrastination when I can’t get something kick started!
I search for inspiration – especially at the beginning of a project – I find images, music, books that get my head in the right space that I want it to be in. So having a few things going at once can be a bit jarring when you’re nicely into one zone and have to jog yourself out of it and into another quite quickly. Once I’m getting into it the process is fairly straight forward, roughs, to finals to edits!
I tend to prefer the final art stage much more than the roughs. I don’t love churning out a collection of rough art, although I obviously have to – I much prefer once that’s done and approved – then I can sit back, get into it properly and begin to see new ideas and change things about at ideally, a pace of my own.
Thats’ where I really get down to getting it how I want it. But I find the roughs I dragged kicking and screaming (sometimes) onto the page, are often pretty spot on in the end anyway….just often very messy!
What or who inspires you? Many things – other people’s art, much music, many movies and people (both ones I know and ones I don’t). I’d say they’re the main influences – those and my own life experiences – often specifically objects, bits of furniture or clothing or anything that was around and in houses I grew up in or still know. Perhaps it’s a weird nostalgia thing whereby in my mind at least, using such things in my drawings will evoke the feeling and atmosphere I envisage for the moment.
What are you most proud of? Professionally – that I’ve managed to pull this whole ‘full time professional illustrator’ gig off for just under 8 years now! May I get away with it for many many many more years to come!
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? To take this back my earliest memories…a zoo keeper. In my, surely at least 5 year old brain I presumed this largely entailed driving about the zoo feeding animals and patting them! I have since come to notice it doesn’t – entirely.