Announcing our new feature Interviews with Illustrators! We scour the web in search of awesome illustrators who have a knack with the brush (or pencil, or pen, or tablet..) and ask them all sorts of questions to gain an insight into their lives.
To start us off we want to introduce you to the talented illustrator Clayton McIntosh of Domestic Cowboy. Clayton moved from rural Australia to a bustling city in Japan and his retro-chic style immediately grabbed us! Here we talk to Clayton about his daily routines, how Japan informs his work and what his dream job would be. Scroll down to download free printables too!
Can you give us a bit of info about your background? Did you study, have you always wanted to illustrate? And where did the name Domestic Cowboy come from?
I grew up in Tamworth, a small rural city in Australia. I have always wanted to do something creative, but have had trouble sticking to one particular thing. As a high school student, I was under the influence of a lot of Homestar Runner (an online cartoon), so I decided to move to Brisbane to study animation.
While studying I started to draw simple comic strips and had them published in a couple of Australian street magazines. It was then that I came up with the name Domestic Cowboy. The idea of a cowboy doing the vacuuming or the dishes is hilarious to me.
After studying animation, I worked on two series of Pixel Pinkie – a children’s cartoon about a girl who has a digital genie in her mobile phone. Changing direction a bit, I went to university to study Social Science, and during that time I met and married a lovely lady, who was interested in living in Japan. So that’s where we live now, and I work as an assistant English teacher. All the while, I’ve continued drawing and creating.
What is a day in the life of Domestic Cowboy like? Tell us about your daily routine.
I get up at six every morning and try to do a bit of drawing or something before squeezing onto a crowded train and heading off to work at one of two schools – an elementary school (students aged 6-12) and a junior high school (ages 13-15). I do a lot of songs, games and fun activities with the younger kids. Junior high involves a lot more reading of texts, getting students to repeat after me, asking questions and making worksheets. I also spend a lot of time each day having simple conversations in English with students to help improve their language skills. It’s a fun job and the kids make me laugh.
After school I head home and often have a couple of hours to work on one of the million creative projects I’ve started – illustrating, writing, drawing, editing videos of my travels, and working on my website – librarywalls.com. I’m also studying Graphic Design online while planning and developing ideas for future projects.
Tell us about your move to Japan. What prompted it and how does living in Japan inform your illustrative work? How is it different from Australia?
I’ve always had an interest in Japan. My family hosted Japanese exchange students a few times when I was in high school, so I already had some Japanese connections, but I’d never seriously considered living overseas until I met my wife. She had studied Japanese at university and was keen on living here, which sounded good to me! We both got English teaching work, and I’m now in the fifth and final year of my contract.
Living in Japan I am constantly surrounded by the most incredible images. I get a lot of inspiration from children’s drawings at school. I’m also inspired by posters, advertisements, logos and other things I see around the place. There’s a mix of simple child-like designs, retro designs and nostalgia, and unexpected craziness and surrealism. It’s a magical place and I’m constantly taking photos of cool things that I just wouldn’t see in Australia. I think Australian designers are a little more restrained and you don’t see the same range of styles. I enjoy searching Japanese second-hand stores for old books, magazines, and unusual knick-knacks.
I can’t help but notice that you do a lot of educational work: Library Walls – the posters and bookmarks, the library games. What drives you, or what do you enjoy most, in your personal work?
I was never very good at school, and even now I struggle to sit and study for long periods of time, but the world is fascinating and exciting and it’s such a privilege to learn about it. I think it’s unfortunate that the delivery of education is often boring and dull. It should be fun and awe-inspiring. We should encourage children to explore and read and play and create, and I want to create resources that facilitate this. I enjoy fun things, silliness, and having a good time, and children like those things too.
What tools or techniques can you share about your process? Is it all hand done or is there a computer involved?
I always start with pen and paper to sketch some rough ideas. When the end goal is hand-drawn outlines, I neaten up the original sketch, trace it with a marker, scan it, and colour it in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. If I’m after cleaner, neater outlines (or no outlines) I take a photo of the rough drawing and upload that to my computer, then trace it with the pen tool in Adobe Illustrator and move the elements around until I’m happy with how it looks, colouring as I go.
What social media platforms do you use, and do you feel social media is very important to your practice?
Social media is essential for people like me. These days I think it’s not necessarily the most talented people who are succeeding, but rather those who use social media to their advantage. I’m currently working to develop my online presence as I move towards working full-time in illustration and design in the future.
My favourite social media platform is Instagram as I think it’s the best way to share my artwork. I mostly use other social media platforms, like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, to keep up with family and friends, and to share video projects.
Who would be your ultimate client or collaborator?
My ideal project would be to work on my own Australian children’s TV program. Something involving puppets, animation, costumes, sets, stories, jokes and silliness – that would be wonderful! Australia had a Sesame Street-style kid’s show in the 90s called Lift Off. It was one of the best and wackiest shows I’ve ever seen. Most people remember the show because there was this creepy faceless doll that would occasionally move, as if it was possessed. It wasn’t actually supposed to be creepy – I think they were trying to make us use our imaginations or something. It also had all sorts of crazy scenarios, like some frill-necked lizards trying to document and understand humans, and an elevator with artificial intelligence that always misunderstood people. It was pretty fun. I realise it’s a bit of a fantasy, but I’d love to do a reboot of Lift Off for the Australian Children’s Television Foundation and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
More realistically, I would love to do something for Anorak Magazine, the “happy mag for kids.” It’s just such a great publication that mixes all the right kinds of fun, cool and nostalgia together.
Where can you see (or would like to see!) your illustration work heading?
I’ll finish up my teaching job in a few months and move back to Australia, where I’m going to do all I can to make a living from my illustration work. I’m currently working on a website that will provide screen-free activities for children, which I’m pretty excited about. I would also love to illustrate children’s picture books, puzzle books, textbooks and other resources, and continue making use of my animation background, working on things like motion graphics, lyric videos, and other online content.
Fave kids book?
My favourite kids book is The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery by Graeme Base. It’s an illustrated mystery and Aussie classic. The illustrations are extremely detailed and you can always find something new hidden in the background. It’s a fascinating book!
We love teachers here at Curved House Kids. Was there a teacher you had who inspired you to do what you do?
Most of my teachers were supportive and encouraging. There was one English teacher, Mr. Young, who encouraged me in my writing, which had a big impact on me because I wasn’t very good at English. I think if he hadn’t encouraged me I would have always avoided anything to do with writing or books.
The Curved House Kids x Library Walls
We collaborated with Clayton on two awesome print-at-home posters!
Click on each poster to download a high-quality, print-ready PDF. Read the Library Walls printing guide here.
To see more of Clayton’s work visit:
And follow him on Instagram