Illustration We Love: Sonny Ross
Sonny Ross is a freelance illustrator and author based in Manchester, UK. We discovered his work on instagram and particularly enjoy his colour palette, loose sketchy lines and ladder obsession. We got chatting recently with him and he kindly agreed to answer some interview questions for us. Read on for some shocking revelations such as what he does with his sketches, music recommendations and his current fave illustrators.
1. What’s a typical day in the life of Sonny Ross the freelance illustrator, author and dungeon master?
I wake up, recently later than most as I’m trying to gather a few US regulars so I suppose you could say I’m ‘on nights’. I feed my awful cats then I get into the bulk of what makes up any creative career: ADMIN. Seriously if you had told 18 year old me being an illustrator meant being a 10 person design team I would have just joined the circus like my heart told me. So I send out emails to art directors either introducing myself, following up with new examples or even previous clients to see if they want to use me again, this is most of my day everyday. Sounds bleak but it’s a job like any other, just happens to mean I get paid to draw at the end of it so I’m happy. Then I cook dinner for myself and my wife Sarah (married in 3 weeks so I guess I can start saying that now) and feed the awful, dreadful cats again. Then if I have a spare hour or so I play video games or be a person in the real world with real people.
2. You mentioned to us you never keep original drawings! As sketchbook hoarders we were pretty shocked. What is your illustration process?
I have a stack of cheap and nasty A4 70gsm print paper I got from Asda and I rough all my work there and bin it once I’m done. For me sketching is just a step in the process and I suppose from my perspective at least, the bit I don’t care about keeping. Maybe I’ve grown cold, but I work very quickly and the sketches I do are often so loose, the rest I make up along the way, I just get my basic shapes down in the sketch. So my process is sketch in thumbnail, about stamp sized, then larger, then I import that into Procreate, a drawing app on the iPad, then I finish the piece, attach it to an email to the client with an invoice all in one go. People are genuinely shocked when I say I do everything on a £5 app but I have for years and nobody can tell unless I tell them to be honest so I don’t think it matters how, the image is the important bit. I make my own brushes so the work looks as handmade as possible, might seem obvious to go analogue but I dunno man I love efficiency.
3. Do you like to listen to anything while you work? If so, any recommendations?
Mainly instrumental music, jazz, trip hop, folk music, stuff that is pretty low impact and won’t distract me but manages to be good background music. I love podcasts but found I could either enjoy the podcast or the illustration and not both at the same time. Suggestions for work music:
Woodfall by Musk Ox, just have the whole album on repeat and the hours fly by.
Try any of the trip hop playlists on Spotify they’re better than ones I could curate, also some of the vapourware mixtapes on YouTube are great for concentration. For admin I blast retrowave, some 80s classics and classic rock so I can feel like the confident business boy I’m showing the world, it kinda works.
4. You’ve published a children’s book, Duck Gets a Job. Is this based on true life events? Did you previously have a city job?
I wrote it in my final year of university, scared that I would leave to work in an office and give up on the dream, then that’s what I did. I got a job in an office as a print technician for magazines and stuff and although I do love print and always will, I really hated working there. I felt like everyone there was pretending they were okay being there too, despite it being soul crushing. So I printed a copy at work (naughty) and sent it off to the first publisher recommended to me, they took it right away and I was shocked to be honest. I’m an editorial illustrator and suddenly I have a children’s book out, so I stopped being one thing and became 2, then 3, now I’m like 6 I think. “Do everything” I say; there’s much worth doing.
5. Do you have any favourite children’s books that you really love still?
Truthfully as a child I hated children’s books. I always felt talked down to by them so me and my brother would watch Robocop and Predator and that became our sort of influential media. But I will say kids books now are so cool, inclusive and they respect the child’s intelligence, and some aren’t afraid of dealing with difficult issues and I love that. So I don’t have a favourite from my childhood, I mean can I say Robocop? Yeah, Robocop was my favourite children’s book.
6. Whose work are you admiring at the moment? Anyone/thing you want to big up?
My friends who are illustrators continue to blow me away with their work. Kelsey Wroten in Brooklyn might be my favourite editorial illustrator right now because it’s so different to what’s out there. My mate Raj Dhunna is one to watch too, incredible work and he’s just finished his masters so I can imagine he will be making waves pretty soon. But I also try to spread the word on twitter about new talent because I remember being in year 1 of illustration and every boost being so important and I dunno I think it’s worth doing, my twitter is just pictures of my cats so I’m not gonna get precious about sharing new work all the time.
7. What’s up in Manchester? Where would you take us on a little tour?
Manchester is so lovely I can’t say that enough. If I was to take you for a day out, it’d be the Nexus art cafe for a brew and a look at the zine library, Magma books for some gorgeous magazines, then to Crazy Pedro’s pizza for a fried chicken pizza and a massive cocktail. And that’s maybe one of a million brilliant days you can have in Manny.