I have long admired Kate Moon’s talent (she prefers to call it a passion – but more on that a bit later) – and I also really like her long red hair. She has been on my TENANT list since I conceived the idea for the blog, but it was her recent zombie character project that triggered the interview chase.
Alongside interesting freelance work for Melbourne art and advertising clients, Kate has been drawing a zombie a day for 79 days straight now, from zombie Can-Can girls to Sumo wrestlers, her list is growing with daily inspiration and requests from fans. Her election day *special* depicting a zombie Obama eating a zombie Romney’s brains was a particular highlight.
I have become part of this growing fan base, thrilled each and every time a favourite of mine is challenged by another day’s stroke of genius. The curious parallel between the zombie character trait of addiction and checking in to get my daily fix is not lost on me, and is part of the project’s genius.
I caught up with Kate at her Princes Hill home to discuss her “zombie-a-day” project, all things Melbourne and some other things that inspire her work.
Hi Kate, thank you for allowing TENANT into your 3054 world this Saturday afternoon. This is an amazing old rambling house. How many of you live here?
There are four humans and one Jack-Jack – my cat who is named after the baby in the movie The Incredibles.
Your ginger boy is a sweet heart… and it doesn’t surprise me you named your cat after an illustrated character. Illustration is a major part of your world. When did it become so?
Probably for as long as I could hold a pen and make some marks. My mother still has five suitcases full of my work, ranging from the ages of three to five. We went through them recently and laughed over one drawing that depicted me as an angel and mum as the devil… Probably after a three year old tanty!
That is hilarious, and it sounds like character design has always been important to you? Do you have any ideas about what got you started drawing; any memories of things that motivated you?
I think it was a mix of the usual things… and I am the middle child and I honestly think that that has something to do with how much I drew as a kid. I think there was a time I was left to entertain myself a bit and I would go and draw. I think I enjoyed the process and the results and I got positive attention for my drawings from my family, which was also a reward.
You mentioned that your red hair came from your Scottish ancestors. Where did you, and your family, grow up?
My mum was born in Scotland but I am Melbourne born and raised. My family moved to Sydney for a couple of years when I was aged two to four, but I don’t really count that. I’m glad they moved back to Melbourne!
Do you have a favourite Melbourne place /postcode?
I feel very at home in any of the inner-northern suburbs that make up the arc from Abbotsford, all the way through Collingwood, Fitzroy, Northcote, Carlton, Brunswick East, Brunswick, etc. These suburbs have made up my stomping ground for most of my life; in fact I went to school around the corner – at Princes Hill Secondary College.
It’s easy to imagine you as a teenager when I look at your illustration of you and your bestie styled all tank girl-esque! When did you know you wanted to be a professional illustrator/ animator?
As a kid I was already way into drawing and I always figured I would grow up to work at Disney. I don’t really remember ever having any other aspirations. Of course, when Pixar emerged the dream shifted a little as I became interested in 3D animation as well.
Where did you choose to study? In Melbourne?
I studied Multimedia Design at Swinburne TAFE. I came away with an Advanced Diploma and right at the end of my study was fortunate enough to land an internship at a prominent Melbourne animation house called Iloura.
They made me work for it though! They told me I didn’t have enough examples of 3D animation work and gave me a month to provide them with examples. By another stroke of luck I happened to be doing my industry placement at a games studio called Iron Monkey. They were generous enough to let me use their character rigs and give me feedback on the animation loops I created before showing them to Iloura. In retrospect I realised the incredible generosity involved in this and ended up sending them a stuffed toy monkey to express my gratitude.
I worked at Iloura for almost three years in their TV commercials (TVC) department. While I really enjoyed my time there, and loved the people I met (I found some real support and mentorship in some of my seniors there), I grew tired of advertising work and frustration started to set in. I quit in 2009 to go rambling overseas, and have been freelancing ever since.
Nowadays I’m renting a desk in a shared space in Collingwood that houses a variety of creative people who I sometimes collaborate with. I’ve been lucky enough to keep up a steady workflow from a mix of industry contacts combined with work that I’ve been offered via my blog and my Facebook art page. I still haven’t built a website or put a showreel together, and am intending to make that a priority in 2013.
Well I, for one, am not surprised you have consistent work, you’re a talented illustrator.
Thanks, but I’m not a fan of that word…
Really? Why not? Does it embarrass you? What would you use instead?
Good question. Perhaps “passion”. I like “passion”.
Passion is a good word. It envelopes focus, obsession and effort but can it speak the truth about a person’s natural ability? Unfortunately for a lot of us passion does not equal a natural talent. My love for singing is testament to the fact! Some people are born with golden vocal cords and I think you were born with a golden arm… Anyway let’s argue more about that another time and focus on your work today!
What would be the project you are most proud of to date?
A big campaign for me during my time at Iloura was the Drumstick Summer Parade campaign. It was my first job with them that required a major amount of character design. I created a host of characters for an animated drumstick summer parade, set in a quiet rural Australian town. The characters were fun and whacky, and I was put in charge of designing them all. It was incredibly exciting to have senior colleagues working with my characters and felt very satisfying to see them come to life.
More recently I was involved in a motion graphics project for the re-opening of the Melbourne Art Centre’s newly renovated Hamer Hall. I was hired by my studio mate Cameron Gough, Director at Dirty Puppet, to provide illustrations depicting the history of the Hamer Hall site in all its incarnations. This was a very satisfying job both because of its abstract, more “fine art” feel and also because of the non-commercial nature of the project. It felt exciting to be working on a project with a stronger cultural lean.
Having worked for the advertising industry, for the arts industry, for employers and now for yourself what would be a dream project for you?
This is something that changes in my mind on a daily basis! One day it’s to work on a comic (something that is actually happening right now), another day it’s to move to Berlin and do more traditional painting and have an exhibition, then it might be to design t-shirts.
One constant, I suppose, is that I would really love to work on a short animated film with a bunch of people I admire. I had very glamorous ideas about the animation industry when I first started to pursue it and have yet to feel the kind of creative energy and excitement that I imagined when working in a group. I’m sure this is in large part due to most of my work being of a commercial nature, so I’m starting to try to manipulate my environment to bring me closer to the possibility of a more satisfying and invigorating group project.
I do think I’m starting to realise, however, that this business of jumping around from project to project, from discipline to discipline, might just be exactly the best thing for me. I tend to have a short attention span, so it doesn’t hurt me at all to work in a variety of different styles and mediums, on a variety of different projects. I just need to improve my time-management skills!
What about travel, have you been somewhere outside of Melbourne that reminds you of it?
The only place I have really travelled outside of Australia is the USA. (I went to India when I was 14 and I can’t really think of anywhere there that reminded me of Melbourne!) Perhaps the closest place I can think of is Portland, Oregon. There was a similar interest in live music and art and a general open-mindedness that reminded me of home.
How about local travel, where did you holiday growing up?
Our main holiday destination was a small beach ‘town’ on the south-eastern coast of Victoria called Walkerville. It’s not far out of Foster and can barely be called a town. It consists of a single road with a caravan park at one end and some houses that dot a couple of ‘k’s’ along the hill along the beachfront.
To get to this single road you turn off a highway and follow a winding downhill road for about 10 minutes, so it’s a fairly quiet and isolated place. It is, however, incredibly beautiful.
There are islands and caves and rockpools filled with crabs and anemones; an old, collapsing brick mill that you could climb around in next to the beach; every kind of native bird you can imagine; koalas, lizards, wombats, etc. It was a regular fairground for my sisters and I as children.
Alison Lester, the famous Australian children’s book author and illustrator, actually wrote a book about Walkerville called Magic Beach. My mum first took me there as a child when I was suffering night asthma, and within a week of staying there my night asthma was gone for good, so it’s hard not to fantasise that there was something special about that place, if only at least for our family.
That was a nice story. I got a really strong visual of the place and would like to go and experience it with all of my senses. I haven’t read Magic Beach, maybe I can start there.
As a visual and sensory person yourself is there a season in Melbourne that you prefer to any other, for its lights, colours or smells?
I feel that any way I answer this it’s going to sound corny, so I’ll just say it. I have always LOVED Melbourne in the autumn. I suppose the same can be said of autumn anywhere but it’s all those usual aspects of the season that I love; the crispness of the air; the colours of the leaves (particularly in the CBD, places like Victoria Parade, Collins St and St Kilda Rd always look fabulous with all the European trees dropping their leaves); the smell of open fireplaces. Add to this the fact that I am not really a hot-weather person, what with my Scottish heritage and all, so the temperature and the colours and the impending colder weather is pretty much what makes autumn my most appealing season.
What’s something else you like about Melbourne, something you might tell to a traveller, or that you missed during your months in the US?
The food and the live music scene I’d say. We’re very lucky to live in a city where we have access to live performances every night of the week. And as far as the food… need I elaborate?
Well not to me, I live here. Yeah, I think it’s pretty safe to say that our general standard for cuisine is very high and that any establishment not respecting that standard will be punished – with empty chairs! So, via la good food and live music in Melbourne… But is there any change you would like to see?
Like a lot of Melbourne public transport users at the moment, I’m not particularly enamoured with our public transport system. There’s a huge amount of things that could be done to improve it, but since I am no expert on infrastructure I would not presume to suggest any. I’m using it less and less and I ride my bike everywhere now.
And another! Perhaps it is time that TENANT profiled a politician or planner re this reoccurring answer! So many talented people in this city with such a long-standing headache!
Speaking of talent in Melbourne, who in this fair city inspires you?
There are dozens of Melbourne artists and animators that I could mention. I know a lot of very self-motivated and driven people that day-to-day inspire me to improve my art. At the risk of sounding corny again, however, I am also very inspired by people like my mum, a yoga teacher who works weekly at the drug and alcohol rehab centre at St. Vincent’s, or my good friend Piers, a human rights researcher who specialises in disability justice. Melbourne is full of creative people whose skills manifest not only in ‘artistic’ ways, so even though my focus is visual art and cartooning, I draw inspiration from these people as well.
What’s on for the week? A yoga class?
I’ll be continuing to wade through the pile of work that I’ve found myself faced with. I have a couple of logos to look at; one for a games company, one for a band, one for a production company; some technical toy drawings to do; some illustration for an agency; and also of course I’ll be keeping up the zombie drawings.
It’s such a great idea for a series, how did you come up with it, and how many more do you think you’ll do?
Well, as you know I love comics, and the physical character development, the angles and the detail in them… and I’ve always been overwhelmed by the commitment required to complete one! The zombie-a-day project was my way to commit to a daily character design practice. As I mentioned earlier – I feel I have a short attention span, so I was looking for a project that was simple enough for me to complete daily for at least one month; and as you also know, I love zombies. I like horror in general and zombies in particular.
Well congratulations, it’s been well over a month now and the requests are still coming. Stay on that zombie wagon, who knows where it will go! I’m trying to think of a Melbourne-themed zombie request…
In the meantime, can you recommend a Melburnian you admire that you would like to see profiled on TENANT?
Piers Gooding, I mentioned him before. He’s a human rights researcher at Monash University with a focus on disability justice. He is a PhD candidate in law and a board member for a disability advocacy organisation called ‘Belonging Matters‘. He’s also an occasional journalist and his writing has been printed in The Big Issue and various other publications. I find him inspiring because while he’s very passionate about his area of study, he is also very practical and level-headed. He’s someone who will really get things done, instead of merely talking about them.
Fantastic recommendation Kate, thank you, I Iook forward to meeting him soon.
Thanks for your time today, Kate. It’s been a delight seeing your personal space and some more of your work and listening to all that inspires it. Thanks again for your time and best wishes for your upcoming projects.