'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 9 November 2023

Meet The Illustrator: Cat MacInnes

Cat MacInnes

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Bright, quirky, whimsical, warm, strong and friendly.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
My sketch book, pencils, iPad and iMac. Indoor plants and windows are relaxing to have around. 

Another important element is Fizzy the Jack Russell, who loves a cuddle and forces me to take a break and get outside every now and then to throw her a tennis ball! 

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I love my iPad and Procreate, it’s really given me so much more freedom and possibilities with my digital work. Almost all of my client work is digital, but if I have a bit of spare time (which is usually don’t!) I do love acrylic paint and oils. I studied in Seoul, South Korea for 6 months back in 2002 as part of my Swinburne uni degree, and we did weekly portraits in oil on big sheets of card. It taught me so much and I fell in love with the medium.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Isabella Di Sclafani, Elin Matilda Andersson and Abel Macias.
(…because I only used 7 words to describe my style in the first question, can I use the extra 3 to say: Richard Scarry too?)

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
I think I’d visit Mexico in the 1930s. I have loved Frida Kahlo’s work since I was a little kid. Growing up in a creative household, there were always heaps of art books everywhere. Frida’s work always fascinated me - the pain and strength in her paintings really grabbed me (I also was pretty taken with the pet monkey, deer and birds that sometimes featured!) I really love Diego Riviera’s murals too, and it would have been a really amazing place and time to be around.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
I have loved drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. I originally studied graphic design because I thought it might have more career opportunities than fine art. But design never really came naturally to me and during the course I realised I only really wanted to draw and paint. My time at Hong-ik University in South Korea really solidified that for me, too.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it.
I love my big windows to let in some natural light. The aforementioned Fizzy is also pictured! Picture books on my desk as inspiration, and I just love looking though them when I need to take a break from the screen. I have two sculptures on my desk which were given to me by my Dad: the wooden one he sculpted, and the other is a butterfly made of two nail brushes. Apparently when I was about 2, I stuck the brushes together and said “butterfly”. Dad always kept them stuck together like that in his art studio. He recently attached the brushes to a plinth and gave it to me, in his final years. Mum and Dad always encouraged me and the butterfly is a beautiful reminder.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
I get a bit of a thrill during the initial brainstorming and sketching stage. I feel like a bit of magic happens there. But I equally love it when I get to the stage of adding colour and finessing the illustrations. It’s very exciting and fulfilling bringing them to life.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
If you love it, keep at it, and keep practising. The times when work is quiet, I draw faces I love, or my pets, or scenes I’ve seen on holiday... Actually, about 15 years ago I did a drawing of Yoko Ono just for fun. And just last year, a music writer saw the portrait online and asked me if she could use it on the cover of her new book about Yoko. And to my delight, Yoko loves it. So you never know what might happen with illustrations you do ‘just for fun’!


Cat is a freelance illustrator based in the Dandenong ranges. With an artist father and ceramicist mother, Cat was always arty. She studied graphic design and fine art in Melbourne and South Korea. Her diverse range of clients runs across books, advertising, stationery, murals and portraits.
Her works are gentle, bright and whimsical. When Cat is not working, she likes hanging out with her family, thrifting, sticking googly eyes on things, and squeezing her dog, Fizzy.

For more information, please visit Cat's website or follow her on instagram.