In Conversation With: Mackinzie Rekers
last updated 18 May 2023
Interview by Nina Fiol
After being drawn to illustration (pun intended) from a young age, Bright Artist Mackinzie Rekers has made incredible strides as a children’s book and greeting card illustrator. We got to chat with her about her inspirations, her fascination with “chonky bears,” and how she turned her career in banking into being a full time artist. Mackinzie’s agent, Lucie Luddington, had some lovely things to say about working with Mackinzie throughout the past 3 years:
“Mackinzie is beyond a joy to work with. Not only does MR listen and absorb feedback, but she comes to each new brief with fresh ideas and thoughts. A kind and beautiful soul with a joyous sense of humour but above all a wonder to work with.”
Talk us through your creative process. How do you approach a brief?
After I read through a brief two or three times in a row, I let it ruminate for a day or so. Oftentimes, in those wee minutes between sleeping and waking I’ll come up with ideas that were in the recesses of my brain, so I keep a notebook next to my bed. I build a Pinterest inspiration board for every project I work on that includes references for color, shapes, scenes, animals, and people. I’ll also research the subjects. I love the research process, but it’s really easy to get lost in the weeds, so I often have to cut myself off and tell myself to get cracking! Then I lay out all the pages and start sketching!
Who/What have been your key influences as an illustrator?
I have so many influences it would be hard to name them all, but I’d say my parents are my top influences. They instilled a love of art and books in my life. I used to pour over my mom’s graphite sketches from her art classes that had been long packed away and forgotten. And my dad would take us to Border’s Book Shop every week to read and pick out one (just one… THE PRESSURE) book to buy. Titles like Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl showed me the complex, hilarious, and often not-so-endearing characters that could live in books. I also pull inspiration from my travels, the people I see, animals in their natural habitats, and the nature that surrounds me in far-flung corners of the world.
How did you begin illustration?
I’ve had a long winding road with art and illustration. I grew up asking my mom to draw horses for me until I could draw them myself (although never as well as her). I also spent my childhood drawing and emulating the art of Disney characters. I took all the art classes I could and joined the art club in high school, but unfortunately, like many young artists, I didn’t fully realize all the options available to me to pursue an art career. I thought that because I wasn’t a fine artist specializing in painting or sculpting, for example, I wasn’t as relevant. So I went to college and took a detour through banking for 15 years before becoming a stay at home mom. I was designing an invitation for my son’s birthday party when I thought, “this is what I love, being creative, drawing, piecing a puzzle together…this is what I need to be doing.” So with all my free time (ha!) I started taking online illustration classes and joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I also joined online illustrator communities, started an Instagram page for my work, and took Graphic Design classes. Through all that, I realized that my true love is children’s books, so that’s where I’ve started to narrow my focus.
What’s your favourite part of the illustration process?
Oooo, each stage has its ups and downs. I especially love coloring, and I used to really dread the sketching process for some reason. But as I’ve come along, I’ve found that the sketching stage is now my favorite part of my process. I can experiment and stay loose and be less precious with my work when I’m sketching.
To an up-and-coming artist, what’s one piece of advice you would give?
Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. It’s really easy to think that the artists you see getting awesome book deals or thousands of likes on social media are better than you. But comparison truly is the thief of joy, and behind those deals and beautiful images are hours, and months, and years of work that has gotten them there. It’s as feasible for you as it is for them.
What would be your dream brief?
My dream brief would be a project about the bears of Katmai National Park in Alaska. Every Fall, the park hosts Fat Bear Week, where the world watches and votes on which bear has packed on the most pounds over the summer in preparation for hibernation. I would love to work on a project about those big, chonky bears. I’d also really love to work on illustrated travel books for kids.
Thank you Mackinzie for taking the time to answer these questions! To work with Mackinzie, please get in touch with Lucie here!