Kelly McMahon comic con artist

Interview: Designer & Illustrator Kelly McMahon

This Q&A feature article is the one of many to come for our Gals For Gals series where Geek Gals interviews a variety of women from different backgrounds and fields.

I had the pleasure of meeting Australian designer and illustrator Kelly McMahon when I browsed through the Artist Alley aisles back in the spring at Fan Expo Dallas. I always find myself drawn to women artists whose styles are chic and minimalist (and geeky, of course!).

Australian designer and illustrator Kelly McMahon
Photo via Kelly McMahon

Kelly McMahon specializes in bold minimalist illustrations. Recently, she showcased her art at major conventions across Australia, New Zealand, and America. She creates design that celebrate the female form.

All photos and images are from Kelly McMahon

Read our interview to learn more about Kelly McMahon!

How did you get your start in creating art?

Ever since I can remember I’ve loved drawing and all things creative. A majority of my senior year subjects focused on art and design and after high school I went on to study graphic design and visual communication. At university, my illustration teacher encouraged me to use vector as a medium for the class. I was hesitant at first; it wasn’t a popular medium back then and the simplicity of my work had me feeling as though it might not be “enough.”

After university, I started working at a design studio, focused on branding, publication and web design. Whilst I adored my job, I felt that there was a side of me I kept repressed working on corporate projects. I began indulging in fan art in my spare time and eventually grew enough of a following that I started taking commissions and before I knew it pins, charms and conventions where my full time job!

Kelly McMahon minimalist princess design
Illustration credit: Kelly McMahon

What attracts you the most about minimalist illustration?

I seem to naturally gravitate toward it, minimalism has always been visually pleasing to me. There is something so cool about being able to tell a visual story with a small amount of detail. 

The graphic designer in me is also pleased about things that are visually concise!

How do you find inspiration?

As cliche as it sounds, everywhere! I’m forever taking photos of things that inspire me, saving images of my favorite Disney films, animes, and mangas.

Disney, manga, and anime are some of my biggest style inspirations alongside artists like Mary Blair, Megan Hess, Joey Chou and Griz and Norm. 

Favorite worlds of fantasy growing up?

As a young child, I was enthralled in the gorgeous world of fairies and magic Shirly Barber created. Her work was always so sweet and inviting, it gave me faith that fairies did live in our garden. 

Princess, pumpkins and sassy animal sidekicks where another aesthetic to my childhood. The world of Disney has stuck with me as I’ve grown up, I love nothing more than disappearing into a world of song, dance and magic.

Kelly McMahon Sailor Guardians
Sailor Guardians / Illustration credit: Kelly McMahon

Favorite anime series (past and current)?

Oh this is a tricky one! 

  • Sailor Moon will always be a symbol of feminism and feminine strength to me. Watching girls fight evil in flippy skirts, heels and big bows light up my life as a child! This ultimate girl squad made me believe I can take on anything!
  • Fullmetal Alchemist is another story very close to my heart, so beautifully executed. 
  • My Hero Academia, is a never endless stream of motivation for me, it leaves me feeling that it’s never too late to start and even if you fail you just have to pick yourself up and keep trying. 
  • Some of my other favourites include Umaru Chan (there’s a little Umaru in us all), Akame Ga Kill, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Soul Eater, Stein’s Gate, Attack On Titan, and Psycho Pass!
Totoro illustration
Totoro illustration / Graphic credit: Kelly McMahon

I love your World of Ghibli art prints. Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service were my favorite Miyazaki films growing up. What are yours?

Thank you so much, I really enjoyed creating this series! Howl’s Moving Castle and Totoro will always have a special place in my heart. It’s impossible not to smile when you see that big warm fuzzy forest spirit! I was lucky enough to visit the museum last year and I found myself falling more in love with the quirky universes he created. 

The Disney Princess-Villain mash-up artwork are fantastic and so creative. How did you come up with the idea for those prints?

Halloween at Disneyland is one of my favorite events and I’ve been lucky enough to attend on more than one occasion, the villains take over is one of my favorite parts of the celebration. I am however a Disney princess at heart, so I got the idea of mashing the two concepts together. I had seen many people draw the princess’ in the villains attire but never a cross over!

What advice do you have for fellow women artists getting started on their artist shops/businesses?

Go get em! Don’t be scared to fail and keep trying, not every attempt or idea will be brilliant but it can lead you onto bigger and better things, nothing worth having is without hard work but here is no reward quite like being able to make a living off doing what you love.

You can follow Kelly McMahon on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest. Her shop is on Etsy.

Kelly will appear at Rose City Comic Con in Portland from Sept. 13-15. Learn which other conventions and events she will attend.

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