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Thursday 9 September 2021

Meet The Illustrator: Matt Cosgrove

Matt Cosgrove

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
My illustration style adapts to suit the story best.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
A flat surface and good light are the essentials. A comfy chair and no nearby construction work are a bonus! And then there’s all my tools of the trade I’ve accumulated over the years. I never throw anything out! I still use my set square from Technical Drawing classes in Year 9. My lightbox was an 18th Birthday present from my grandparents. My desk is a 2nd hand architect’s desk my father in law salvaged from the tip! And I couldn’t work without my MacGyver-style pencil extenders to get the most value out of my pencil stumps.
Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
Pencils! I received a tin of 12 Derwent Artists Colour Pencils as a ‘Get Well’ gift from my Nan when I was 10 years old and I’ve used them ever since. (Obviously I’ve bought new ones along the way - they don’t last long as I sharpen them constantly to get the finest tip - but I still have the original tin case I was given).

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Every artist inspires me - I’m in a constant state of awe of what people create and I’m the most tragic fanboy you could imagine - but to name three picture book creators who never, ever disappoint: Shaun Tan, Jeannie Baker and Oliver Jeffers.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
The Pop Art Period sure sounded fun - as long as my name was on the door at Studio 54.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
Books were a huge part of my childhood. My parents encouraged reading. My library card was in constant use. Our school librarian was great. Book Week was the highlight of each year. And I always just connected to books. I love telling stories, using my imagination, and creating art - so being an illustrator is the perfect job for me.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it.
We’ve just moved to a new place where I finally have my very own room to use as a studio! It’s still in the slow process of getting unpacked and set up so I thought it would be better to share this photo of where I drew Alpacas With Maracas - the best selling book of my career. There’s my 2nd hand desk wedged between my kids’ bikes, the wheelie bins and all our junk in the garage. The perfect space: quiet, out of the way and all my art supplies within easy reach, but very cold (and creepy) at night! Over the years I’ve illustrated books on the breakfast bench, the floor, a ping pong table, the dinner table and in public libraries.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
At the start, when the ideas are fresh, anything is possible and there’s the excitement and exploration of creating something brand new. That’s the best feeling and the most fun part. Then the reality of deadlines, actually doing the work, and the unfortunate shortfall between my technical abilities and my artistic ambitions sinks in and it’s slightly less fun!

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
I think giving advice is tricky as every illustrator has their own path - there isn’t a fixed, predetermined right or wrong way to forge a career as an illustrator.

But… if you draw what you love in the style you enjoy and then only put those artworks into your portfolio, you’re going to increase your chances of being commissioned to do similar work. In general, it’s the work you’ve done in the past that determines your work in the future so showcasing what you actually want to be drawing is probably the best way to manifest more paid opportunities in a similar vein.

I used to think showing how versatile I was as an illustrator, and the range of styles and techniques at my disposal, would be impressive and get me work but the reality is Art Directors and Commissioning Editors are time poor and don’t have the luxury of taking chances or imagining how your work might translate into other genres or subjects. The people who can pay you basically want to know, and see, exactly what they’re getting up front so use that to your advantage when creating your portfolio to steer your career in the direction you want.

Matt Cosgrove is the author and illustrator of the bestselling Macca the Alpaca series. With over 25 years experience in the publishing industry, Matt has also been a lecturer in comic art at Western Sydney University, the creative director of Marie Claire magazine and even one of the guys who drew the animations on the tv show Burgo’s Catchphrase.

For more information, please visit Matt's website or follow him on twitter or instagram.