5 Minutes with… Illustrator, Malcolm White

5 years ago by

Thanks to our friends at Portfolio Recruitment, we recently got the opportunity to chat with freelance illustrator Malcolm White about his work, his career path, and what motivates him:


Hi Mal, can you tell us a little bit about who you are, what your background is, and how you first got started in the industry.
From year dot I always loved the smell of crayons and paint, and spent most of my spare time as a kid drawing or painting. I also loved to make things out of wood in Dad’s old shed, and destroy what little tools he had left. I did really well in art and technical drawing at school, and decided to pursue that in some form or other when I left. I started out silkscreen printing my illustrations at home, and ended up getting my first commercial silkscreen printing job through friend and well-known artist, Ted Dutch.

I then moved on to prop making for Farmers Trading Company, which gave me the chance to design and illustrate, and build my own projects for all the Farmers stores. I also took night classes at AIT in sign writing and graphic design, which gave me the skills I needed to take the next step. I managed to get my foot in the door of one of the biggest New Zealand advertising agencies back in the 80’s, Mattingly Advertising, where I worked in their darkroom (the dungeon) for about 6 months. The agency discovered that I could also draw and had technical and design ability, so I left the dark dungeon and became a graphic artist.

After working at a couple of smaller agencies, I worked in a freelancing role with Insight Creative for 13 years, expanding on my creative skills, including image manipulation and retouching. I then moved on to work with Maxim Group, and then Ellen and Company part-time, working on some very challenging projects that demanded a high level of conceptual design and rendering skills.

I am now based at home, as a freelancer, mainly focused on illustration, but still doing retouching and design when required from my studio at home, which I share with my lovely wife and demanding cat.

How would you describe your illustrative style?
I have always had a sense of humour, and at any opportunity I like to inject a bit of that humour into my illustration. My style has had to adapt over the years to follow trends and occasionally break them. The work I do for agencies tends to be of a more commercial level, particularly the Photoshop illustrations, so I adapt my style to fit the brief. The work I do for my own enjoyment is a lot looser in style, and I love to introduce quirky loops and the koru into my style when I can. I also like to experiment with different materials and techniques which often end in either total disaster or a pleasant surprise.

What project, personal or professional, are you most proud of and why?
The project I am most proud of are the laser cut panel designs I created recently for a company called ‘The Outside’ featuring North Island and South island flora and fauna. It was a bit of a learning curve for me in terms of working out how to illustrate using interlinking positive and negative detailing, allowing for the fact that anything within the illustration that was too thin or too long would either fall off or bend, even out of 5m thick steel. The work has featured on the series ‘The Block NZ’, in the Habitat Magazine, and displayed at the recent Home Show in Auckland… I also have several giant laser cut panels in my own back garden.

What excites you the most about what you do?
Problem solving an idea and seeing it come into fruition. I also apply these creative and technical abilities to projects around the house, particularly our large gardens. It’s like seeing your ideas in 3D.

Where do you go to find inspiration?
From nature, books, the internet, colours and textures, and from observing people and situations, or simply talking to people. It is amazing when you really click with someone and you start talking over an idea, you can see the infinite possibilities going through their mind, and then pop!, their head explodes.

So, what’s next for you in 2017/early 2018? What have you got lined up?
I have only recently become self-employed again. This will hopefully give me the opportunity to try new things as well as worry-to-death about how I am going to pay the mortgage and food for the cat. I have recently done up a large old woodblock press, and I am keen to experiment with woodblock printing as another way to add texture and colour to my illustrations. The printing process is quite organic and the results can be quite unexpected. The great thing is that you can be quite creative in what you use as a base to carve or cut into to apply the ink. My wife keeps telling me I can’t use the dining table for cutting my designs on, so…she will have to go.

Thanks for your time, Malcolm, where can we see more of your work?


Up Next...

AUT To Sum it Up South Campus Visual Communication Graduate Exhibition

The graduates of the Visual Communication Design Program are celebrating the success of their designers and would like us to join them. Featuring Moving image, Mobile/Web Design and Graphic Design, they will be exhibiting projects centred around social themes and encourage you to be a part of the conversation. Opening night: 7 November 2017 6pm…

More from 'Book Design'...

Fresh from the field — TEDxWellington, Strategy

This week’s Fresh from the Field celebrates the recent identity work for TEDxWellington by Strategy Creative. If you’ve got new or recent work that you’d like to share in our weekly Fresh from the Field series email Zoë for details. TEDxWellington approached us with the theme of ‘perspective’ for this year’s event. We looked past the obvious…