Angela McKay is ‘The Real McKay‘.
Brighton-based Angela graduated from Glasgow School of Art and then went on to become a professional illustrator with clients including: Country Homes & Interiors Magazine, Grand Tour Magazine, Random House Publishing and House of Fraser.
Her quirky line work has a sort of country-kitchen-in-a-seaside-town feel. A watercolour and waterproof fine-liner kind of gal, it’s her illustrations of simple objects that have us weak at the knees: a pair of boots (black with brown insoles), a table fan, an old-fashioned rocking horse, an aubergine.
Whether it’s a toy rabbit riding a dog (and holding a carrot on a stick), or a pug in a top hat, there’s a quirky element to Angela’s art too. But it’s her frugal use of colour, and sloping line work that really brings her work alive.
We spoke to Angela about her path to illustration and her favourite time of day for drawing:
How did you end up as an illustrator?
When I was a teenager and started to go into town on my own, I found myself in a lovely bookstore picking up illustrated fairy tales by Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac. I was in awe. Then I went to college after school to study interior design but after a few years a tutor dropped an Association of Illustrators monthly magazine on my desk. I devoured it. I was in heaven. I was so inspired. So then I swapped courses and went to study illustration/graphic design at Glasgow School of Art. As part of our course we had trips to London organised where we were introduced to famous illustrators of the 1980s. The ones in the AOI magazine! I picked their brains for all the information needed on how to become an illustrator in London. I emigrated from Glasgow six weeks after graduation to the Big Smoke.
Can you describe your style in three words?
Full of character.
What does your studio look like?
It looks like someone’s living room. Comfy leather armchair and a sofa; Laura Ashley rug, Habitat solid wood furniture, Farrow & Ball painted walls, and a much admired dark brown wooden plan chest. Plus it’s overflowing with stuff, so I need to get rid of the clutter.
What are your favourite tools?
I like Venus pencils. I recently bought four boxes off eBay because they don’t make them anymore. I use gel pens and waterproof fine-liner pens, Chinese brushes and a paint tray of Windsor & Newton watercolours which I never wash – just add water when needed.
What time of day do you prefer to work?
I usually settle to work after lunch. I like to do errands first of all so I have a clear head. I put the radio on and then get engrossed on my own oblivious to the outside world. Then I go home at about 6pm for dinner. Evenings, I’m back on the laptop for admin, emails and marketing.
How do you go about finding new clients?
I use the AOI client directories. Then I hand deliver 150 postcards over four days of current artwork off to potential clients in London. I make a follow-up phone call and email which always helps. I manage a mail-out every six months as it takes a bit of time to organise.
What’s the hardest part of being an illustrator?
It’s the up and down of how jobs come in, and managing finances to cover the regular bills.
Do you have a favourite piece you’ve worked on?
I actually don’t have a favourite piece. I’m fond of several pieces and how they have turned out. But I can only tell that several months down the line. I’m too critical just when I finish artwork. Once I forget what I had in my mind’s eye at the time I get to like what I’ve done. I forget that I’m an illustrator because I’m so busy doing it. I don’t have time to take stock and remind myself this is what I do and these are your illustrations hanging on the wall. I disconnect from the pieces. It’s as if I’m fond of another artist’s work. But I wouldn’t like to be doing anything else. The life of an illustrator has it’s quirks and can be a roller coaster ride at times. The ride suits me and makes me feel contented at fulfilling and expressing my potential. It feels right.
You can see more work by Angela on her website www.bytherealmckay.com.