Digital creatives are fast becoming a force to be reckoned with. one small seed has managed to travel to the far ends of the earth to bring you an exclusive interview with an illustrator by the name of Missy McCullough.


The Los Angeles native currently lives in her downtown loft, accompanied by both her husband and her dog. Missy explains that both her parents worked in the fashion industry, and have always encouraged her creativity. However, her career took off when she became the senior designer for an international company in LA, where her illustrated designs were produced in overseas factories. Missy would work on a line for up to six months at a time, even though the actual illustration was a very small part of the process. Since May of 2010, Missy has been a full-time professional illustrator, and is now living and loving her dream.




one small seed: Have you studied anything related to illustration before?

Missy McCullough:Yes, I studied fashion design in college. One semester I took a fashion illustration class, which was my favorite, and it sparked my love for fashion illustration.


oss:  We’ve noticed you do a lot of portraits, would you say portraits are your signature work?

MM: I never really thought about it being my signature work, but I do love creating portraits, especially of celebrities or unknown people I admire. I usually find something in the subject that appeals to me and then I try to enhance it. I especially love illustrating faces or close-ups. They can be difficult sometimes, because unlike a complete body illustration where your eye has plenty to take in (clothes, pose, style, etc.) to get an idea of the subject, a face has very little but its expression. I mostly work from photographs and I love the challenge of trying to get across what the subject was thinking of. The eyes are my favorite way to create expression.



oss: There are also references to fashion in your work.

MM: I love fashion. My background is in fashion and I worked as a designer for many years, designing many different things, from apparel and accessories to toys. I also worked as a stylist’s assistant to a top celebrity stylist and as a product stylist at photo shoots.


oss: What can fashion photography learn from fashion illustration?

MM: I don’t know. But I have learned a lot from photography. Growing up, I would assist or sit in on many of my father’s photo shoots and I learned a bunch like composition, lighting, angles, posing, scale, perspective, etc. A trick I learned was to look at a photograph of a model and cover their mouth and look at their eyes. If the eyes matched or gave the same emotion as the mouth, then it was a good shot. Like if they’re smiling, then their eyes should look bright and happy too. I try and do that with my illustrations as well.


oss:  Will we see more illustrative spreads in fashion magazines?

MM: I hope so! I love doing them. I love photography and don’t think illustration will ever replace it. Illustration is amazing because you are not as limited by lack of big budgets in order to get a picture sometimes. I could draw a fashion story spread that takes place in Sahara desert for instance without having to be there physically. I could make my models wear the most expensive, luxurious fur and have crazy, expensive hair extensions and pose next to a polar bear without being mauled or breaking a sweat in the desert. I am seeing more and more illustration being used commercially and editorially and get excited because that just means more opportunities.

oss: What would you say has been your most challenging project to date?

MM: I agreed to do a project before I left for a two week trip to Paris a few months ago. It was supposed to be done four days after I got back, which was plenty of time. However I arrived home two days after my scheduled time because of flight delays and weather problems. I was stressed to say the least. In the end it all worked out great, the client was thrilled and it turned out to be one of my favorite illustrations. I think because I had limited time it made me focus and not spend time questioning myself. However, In the future I am leaving a few days cushion for any jobs due after I get back from a flying trip.


oss: We are also interested in your exhibitions, where can our international audience expect to see some of your work?

MM: Right now the only place to see my art is on my website and the magazines that have published my work. I would love to exhibit my work soon in a gallery though. Lately people have been contacting me through my website inquiring if I sell prints. I have been working on setting that up and in the near future people will be able to buy prints from my website.

oss: Lastly, our social website gets many young illustrators from different backgrounds uploading their work each day, what is your message to these young artists like yourself?

MM: Promote, promote, promote! I just started freelancing eight months ago and I would have never gotten work if I just put up a website only. I try to network and talk to people in my industry and try different and clever ways to promote my work and services.


Also, never stop persisting on your given course. I have been trying to get in contact with this amazing company for almost a year now and am now just hearing back. I can’t really talk too much yet about it, but its all great stuff. I know it is easier said than done, but try not to be discouraged. Sometime if you don’t hear back immediately it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Sometimes people want to see your drive, how often you update your work or even the fact that you are still around and trying after a year before they give you a chance.


Interview by Tebogo Mohlahlana