I am thrilled to be welcoming one of my favourite children’s picture book makers, Elly Mackay, to my blog; author and illustrator of Butterfly Park, If you Hold a Seed, Shadow Chasers, Fall Leaves; and illustrator of the new Anne of Green Gables books. You can read my review of Butterfly Park Here.
Elly lives with her two children and husband in Ontario, Canada. She found her popularity selling prints of her vibrant and whimsical paper scenes on her Etsy shop, Theatre Clouds. She is inspired by her own children, as well as playing with Victorian inventions including tunnel books, magic lanterns, stereoscopes, and paper theatres. Both her parents were craft makers and so it felt like a natural progression from her childhood growing up in an old church on the shores of Georgian Bay.
As a teen, Elly made Victorian style tunnel books, and tried to sell paper-cut-out books at a gallery.
She met her husband, a wood worker, when she was at the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design. They both struggled for a while living off odd jobs and creating art. But now they live in a “classic eclectic” 115-year old home, messy and filled with flowers.
“I have been making little paper worlds since I was a child. I use ink to make small drawings that I cut out and set up in a miniature theatre. Then I light the scene and photograph it.”
Elly kindly took the time to answer a few questions for me, and I am over the moon to be sharing her answers with you!
What are your favourite things to draw?
If I look at my sketchbooks, my drawings are usually either of landscapes or automatic. I like to see what happens. Lately I have been sketching expressions quite a bit too. My family always laughs because I can’t help but make the facial expression I am drawing.
Do you work in any other media just for fun?
I love using all sorts of materials. My kids and I love to experiment together too. We use clay, paint, oil sticks, and blocks of wood. We like to collect things outdoors too which often find their way into our art. I always have my camera with me when we take car trips and have developed a strange hobby of taking blurry long exposure images from the passenger seat. Actually my kids get in on this too. I pass the camera around. Some have a really loveliness to them.
Do you have any top tips for authors and illustrators?
Gosh, I guess it isn’t ground breaking advice but it seems like good advice… Just be yourself. I thought my work was too odd/unusual to ever be commercially viable and it will always be a bit niche I think, but the world is large and there is room for all of us.
Elly hopes to continue creating; making more picture books, and perhaps dabble in animation. She would like to have a family adventure to Spain, but most of all she enjoys the quiet creative life.
Visit Elly’s Etsy shop, Theatre Clouds, for these prints and more.
Elly can be found on these platforms:
To see Elly’s creative process, watch the trailer for If you Hold a Seed.