Kat Macleod really can do it all: having worked as a Melbourne-based illustrator, designer and exhibiting artist over the past twenty years, her journey has now taken her to the world of children’s publishing. Her first series with us is a staple set of four first concept books, covering the ABCs, 123s, colours and shapes. We spoke to Kat about her diverse career and how she was able to combine her love for art, illustration and children’s books.
What sparked your passion for illustration, art and design?
I have loved drawing for as long as I can remember. As a child, my happy place was sitting and drawing at the kitchen table with textas and pencils. My high school art teacher encouraged me to study graphic design at uni, so that’s where I was introduced to the world of design. While I loved design and the structure and processes I learnt working in the industry for the past twenty years, at the heart of my practise is a deep passion and appreciation for art and illustration.
You have worked with lots of exciting clients, has there been a favourite project over the years that you can recall?
One of my favourite past projects is the first book I illustrated back in 2002, Bird. I had free reign to create a collection of drawings that were published as a limited edition art book with embroidered pages and a hand made cover. It’s very special to me as it marked the beginning of my career as an illustrator, and the realisation that I could combine my two greatest passions as a career path — design and illustration.
How would you describe your signature illustration style?
Textural, bright and layered.
Your work is endlessly creative — what inspires you?
Thank you! I am inspired by art, design, creative individuals, fashion, films, music … but my biggest inspiration is nature. Whether it’s beautiful old trees along the Australian coastline, or found leaves at our local park, I am always inspired by the shapes and colours of the natural world.
The Early Learners series is your first official foray into children’s publishing, what led you to the project?
I’ve been keen to work on children’s books for a long time and have made lots of little handmade books with my boys over the years. For my first step into the real world of children’s publishing it felt right to start at the beginning. Early learner board books are wonderful chunky little objects, full of illustrations and minimal text, and were very appealing to me as an illustrator and designer! It’s been a really exciting process to transition my illustrations from the art and design world into children’s books. Every page is an opportunity to create a composition of colour and form and lead the reader through simple narratives and playful themes.
What sets the series apart from other books for babies and toddlers?
These are colourful art-based books that are bright and engaging for babies and toddlers, and also hopefully are a pleasure for parents and carers to look at and read aloud.
What challenges did you face in 2020?
I found 2020 challenging with the Melbourne lockdowns. Like most people, we really missed seeing our family and friends although I had plenty of company with my three active little boys home from school for so many months! The trickiest part was when schools closed, twice. I know I was not alone in finding it tremendously challenging to manage working from home whilst assisting my boys with tackling remote learning (big shout out to all the amazing teachers!) It was difficult to juggle everything but I know how lucky I was to be able to keep working, even if it meant after the boys were in bed. My husband is an essential services worker so I worried a lot about him at work too. It was a strange year but we have been lucky in Melbourne — the lockdowns and restrictions were inconvenient but they kept our city safe and all my loved ones stayed healthy, so I am extremely grateful for that.
What is next for you?
I am working on an exciting new picture book with you guys! It’s a really special little tale I’ve been dreaming up for a long time, I’m deep in the drawing stage. It’s such an exciting project and I can’t wait to share it.
Kat Macleod’s Early Learner series is available now. Text, illustration and design by Kat Macleod. Series includes:
January 28, 2021