Local artist Mackenzie Cox, 19, was recently commissioned to illustrate a special project for airdrielife and Genesis Land to celebrate the babies of 2021. The book, which features birth announcements from local families, includes a custom commissioned children’s book by author Leonor Henriquez. Limited copies of the book are available at Genesis show homes in Airdrie and can be viewed in digital flip-book format here:
We asked Cox about her experience and advice for other young artists.
Describe your art style
I am always working to improve and create my style. My art has notably improved in the last year and that’s always a special time for me when I see improvement. It gets me excited for how much further I can learn and grow. My art teacher from high school, Mr. Gray, would call it “the Macki style” but I always keep my favourite themes within my work. Bright colours, textures, impasto and childlike wonder. With Baby Bunny Boing I’ve kept my bright, colourful watercolours at play and charming little characters within it. Sometimes as an illustrator it’s about adapting your style to what the author/client wants for their story. As an example for this book, I used more of the colour blue to represent Genesis Land’s relation to the project.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I have been drawing and writing since I could remember. My parents told me since I had been with my Papa in the summer after I was born that I had learned how to write and draw with a pencil at only 10 months old because he is an accountant and I had been watching him work and write. When I truly made the decision was after I had written my first book when I was 15. I knew I truly wanted to invest and continue to make art, be an artist and teach art eventually. I knew I could do it then and I have had a drive since to make those dreams come true. So far I’m making them happen!
What was your process for creating the images for the book?
I originally gave what I call blueprints to the team and author, story boarding to the writing Leonor had so far provided. This included character designs and development ideas. After everyone was set on which route and colours we were taking I started with pages I could really see in my head.
I individually cut watercolour paper to the right dimensions, tape it down to a board with masking tape and then either trace the blueprints I’ve laid underneath or redraw them in pencil. I use the window or my light box to trace my original plans. Then I outline with a black felt pen. The next step is to erase the pencil and go in with the paint! I usually start with the background and work my way forward to the foreground and characters. After the paint is dry I untape it from the board, number the back with what page it is and then proceed to getting it scanned so it can be placed into formatting for the book. Some pages take longer than others. For this book they ranged from two to five hours each. Fuller images taking longer.
What did you learn about yourself during this book project?
I learned that illustrating was something I really wanted to continue doing. Before this book I had only done one other smaller illustrating project and my own books. I ended up falling in love bringing (the) author’s story and characters to life with the art. I learned I wanted to teach art and continue my career in illustrating for others and continue publishing my own books as well. This project was a goal and a dream of mine; a great start to my illustrating career that I am going to continue to pursue.
What are your future plans?
I plan to take some post-secondary art courses and maybe some business courses so I can eventually start up an art school/studio space. I’d love to create a place where artists can come together, work together and help another build their passions. A place to learn from one another and (that) I could teach art classes in.
What is your advice for other young artists in the community?
I didn’t just wake up one day with magical art powers! I have worked at my art and my dreams for years now and I am even now still learning. Practice is great, passion is beautiful but hard work and patience with yourself and your growth is where it all lies. If you keep at it, no matter how soon or far, improvement and growth will follow.
What does Airdrie need to do to support local artists?
Airdrie is a community that is already doing a great job at supporting its local artists. If anything, I’d suggest that local businesses could look out for local artists and rent or purchase art for their spaces/buildings. I love what the library does in supporting students and putting their art up on the walls. We have such an incredible community, and it is filled with so many amazing people with talent and practiced craftsmanship. If people are shopping online for art in any form, I’d take a look at the artists in our city first; the students at our high schools and local businesses are creating beautiful work! I know the artists within our schools jump at opportunities to commission and create art for people and businesses. It’s so important that a community helps build up its students’ confidence, providing real opportunities to encourage their talents.