A Day in the Life: Illustrator Ross Kinnaird

Ross Kinnaird has been a children’s book illustrator for 15 years, and his first and most recent collaborations were both with Dawn McMillan. The first was the acclaimed Why do dogs sniff bottoms? (Reed), and last month saw the publication of I’ve broken my bum (Oratia Media), following on from I need a new bum (Oratia Media), which went viral last year thanks to the Scottish Granny. Here, he tells us about his life and career.

Once upon a time. OK, no, actually in the late 60’s / early 70’s I successfully failed at school. This did not take much effort at all and I think my last report said “Must try harder at failing.”

At that time, Art was not a subject that would lead to a “real” job. So thank my lucky stars there was a graphic design course at the then Auckland Technology Institute (now AUT).

I had finally found my niche. I could draw, and there were jobs for “commercial artists”!

Cup a Soup illustration

I worked for 30 years in advertising, drawing nice pictures and living the life that a job in advertising in the 80’s and 90’s allowed in Auckland, Sydney, London, and Hong Kong.

Then, feeling the need to redress my karma and with the arrival of my lovely daughter I looked around for a more rewarding activity, and hit on illustrating children’s books.

My first book, Why Do Dogs Sniff Bottoms?… a collaboration with the author Dawn McMillan won a neat prize. Children loved it.

test alt text

So here I sit today having more or less made art my job for over 45 years. Children’s books for the last 15.

I work digitally on a Wacom 24HD drawing tablet – monster of a thing which I am known to occasionally strike with a large stick. I also work in Procreate on an iPad Pro.

The little drawing animation here is from final printer ready art done on an iPad. It’s essential to work digitally if you want to work with publishers offshore. I am presently working for a Chinese publisher.

Whatever I’m working on it all starts with a cup of tea.

Occasionally I’ll do a detailed storyboard but more often than not now i’ll do a quick rough of the book from start to finish, rather haphazardly. I will scribble lots of ideas in the margins and start on the first page. Jokes come more easily that way. I don’t like to think too hard – I try to think like my readers.

I work in my studio in Birkenhead Auckland, beneath a huge pohutukawa, away from my lovely family watching reality television. It’s bliss -apart from on windy days when branches and twigs rain down on the tin roof. I work quickly – a hangover from my advertising days – and will often redo pages multiple times to get it right, drawing over my previous images.

The little chap running here is from our new book I’ve Broken My Bum by Dawn McMillan, published by Oratia Media.

He never reaches his destination.

I am so grateful that I have been given the opportunity to scribble away in this beautiful place for a living. I occasionally look out at the bush – I live on the edge of a large reserve – and watch tūī and kererū, pinching myself that this is all true.

test alt text

i’ve broken my bum

by Dawn McMillan and Ross Kinnaird

Published by Oratia Media

RRP: $20.00

Buy Now

Ross Kinnaird
+ posts

Ross Kinnaird first began illustrating children’s books in 2002 with the popular Why Do Dogs Sniff Bottoms?, by Dawn McMillan, which won the Children’s Choice Award at the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. In 2007, his collaboration with Sharon Holt, It’s True! You Can Make Your Own Jokes, was nominated as a finalist in the non-fiction category of the New Zealand Post Book Awards. He illustrates for New Zealand and Chinese audiences, and has done over 150 school visits in New Zealand, and 50 in Japan.