Ross MacDonald is an illustrator, designer, author and movie prop designer. He lives in Connecticut amid a large pile of 19th century printing equipment, dogs and children.
We’ve always been fascinated and in awe of his diverse interests and talents. So we asked Ross a few questions about his work and mentoring.
In one or two sentences, what does story mean to you?
Story is everything! We’ve all seen amazingly beautiful movies or graphic novels that fall flat because the story just isn’t there. It feels like such a waste. On the other hand, a great story can carry really simple visuals and the result is really satisfying.
Illustration and props are a beautiful set of talents. How do they feed each other? Does one inspire the other in your work?
They totally bounce off of each other. In my prop work, I use my illustrator’s eye – either for drawing actual visuals, or for just having a visual sense of how a certain prop should look. How beat-up and old an ancient book or map should look, for instance. And prop work involves tons of research, which always leads me down visual corridors that end up having an influence on my illustration work.
How do you approach mentoring young storytellers?
I think the most important thing is to really listen and ask a lot of questions about what it is they’re trying to say. A lot of times just letting someone talk through their ideas can help them firm them up. If I do give any suggestions, they usually take the form of statements like “you might want to think about…” or questions like “have you tried…?” You want them to find their own way there, not tell them exactly what they should do. Who wants to hear that?