Jess McGeachin Author and Illustrator from Melbourne, Australia


What brought you to illustration?

I’ve always loved to write and draw, but I actually studied graphic design at university.

It was only a few years ago that I realised there was a path which would let me draw everyday — writing and illustrating picture books! Having a background in design has been really helpful when it comes to creating compositions and laying out text, so experience is never wasted.

Illustration from "Fly", published by Penguin Random House Australia

Illustration from "Fly", published by Penguin Random House Australia

What does a typical work day look like for you?

I still work full time, but I’m lucky that my day job is as a graphic designer for a museum.

Generally I practice my illustration in the evenings and on weekends. I’ll always start with a list and try to tick as many things off as possible before my hands get tired

Are there any illustrators who influenced/influence you?

Lots! I look up to some of the classic children’s illustrators such as E. H. Shepard (Winnie the Pooh) and Judith Kerr. I also draw inspiration from fantastic contemporary illustrators such as Shaun Tan and Oliver Jeffers.

What was your very first illustration?

I think it would have been something from nature, like a crab or a shell. Kids aren’t often

self-conscious about their drawing which is definitely something I miss.

Illustration from "Finn and the Stone Giant" (

Illustration from "Finn and the Stone Giant" (

What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?

I’m very inspired by nature. I try to go walking with sketchbook as much as possible and just draw the world around me. I also love reference books and use them all the time.

Do you have a favourite illustrator/artist/author?

I may be a little bias, but one of the artists I most admire is my mum. She’s worked for many years as a scientific illustrator and printmaker, drawing lots of different specimens for museums and books.

Do you like listening to music or audio books while working or do you prefer silence?

I love listening to podcasts while I’m drawing, especially true crime. It’s quite funny that I’ll often be working on a children’s book illustration while listen to a grizzly murder — I don’t think it’s influenced the art yet!

Do you have a favourite place to work?

I have a little studio in Melbourne that overlooks a big park. It’s a great place to watch the world go by, especially all the dogs taking their owners for a walk.

Is there a particular story you would love to illustrate?

I’m open to anything. I do have a soft spot for dragons though ...

What was your favourite illustration you have made so far?

I’ve got a few favourites, but there’s one spread in my picture book "Fly" that I’m very fond of. It shows lots of birds flying from above and I was really happy with how the colours turned out. I love drawing interesting angles and perspectives. It reminds us that there’s so many different ways to see the world.

What makes the art of illustrating special to you?

I love the idea you can create a whole new world with a few pencil-lines. People and places that might have never existed can come to life for you and other people to meet — what could be better than that?

What makes a good illustrator?

I think the best illustrators are constantly reinventing themselves. It can be comfortable to draw the same subject matter or use the same materials, but the best artists I know are always trying something new, whether it works or not.

Do you struggle sometimes? Do you have to motivate yourself, and if so, what helps? Is there a kind of 'illustrator’s block'?

There’s definitely an illustrator’s block. I find the only way through is to draw yourself out of it — even if it’s just drawing squiggles on a page, if you do it for long enough they’ll start becoming something else. Making strong coffee also helps.