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Exploring Creativity

with Illustrator Andy McNally

Designer, illustrator, and sketchnoter Andy McNally shares some creative tips and insights into his creative process.

Hello, my name is Andy McNally. I’m a freelance illustrator. My professional background is in UX/UI Design. I have had a successful career over the last 15 years as UX/UI Design Lead. I have worked or consulted for Cult of Mac, iMore, FedEx, AutoZone, Hilton Hotels, Cardinal Health, Ascena Retail Group, and International Paper. Getting to incorporate design and illustration into the products we made has always helped to keep my artistic fires burning.


Can you tell us a bit about your creative process? Where do you find inspiration?

I try to sketch in my sketchbook daily and then develop the sketches I like into final illustrations. Keeping a sketchbook is an important part of my creative process. It helps me keep focused and remember to keep going on days when I struggle to generate ideas. Looking back at sketches from a few weeks or even a year ago reminds me of ideas I would like to explore further.

My mother is my original source of inspiration and a constant source of encouragement. She is an artist, painter, and creative entrepreneur. Animation and comics have always influenced my style. In grade school, I mimicked the comics I read in the Sunday newspaper comic strips like Hagar the Horrible, Garfield, and the Wizard of Id. The cartoons that I watched on television, especially shows by Hanna Barbera, like Yogi Bear and the Jetsons influenced my art style quite a bit.

I’m inspired by many artists, illustrators, animators, and graphic designers. Marvel comics, Charles Schulz, Bill Watterson, mid-century modern designers, Massimo Vignelli, Saul Bass, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat are all creative influences. I love simple shapes and bold designs.

Most importantly, my two daughters and my wife inspire me. I always want to draw things to make them smile. Their support and love encourage me to do my best. My wife is from Brazil, an Africanist scholar, and a poet. She has introduced me to South American cartoonists like Mauricio de Sousa and Liniers. My daughters are the ones who convinced me to watch newer cartoons like Dexter’s Lab, the Fairly Odd Parents, and the PowerPuff Girls, which are all sources of inspiration for me.

Your style is quite distinct, what has your creative journey been around finding a unique visual voice?

This is a tough question. My style is a synthesis of influences since I was a kid. Now, I see the thing I want to illustrate in my mind and do my best to bring it into the world. Some days, I can create an illustration on the first try and some days I never achieve what I see in my mind.

Looking back through my sketchbooks, I can see influences, especially from different moments in time. For me, the creative voice is an ever-evolving thing. If you are lucky, you keep working at it and refining the pieces, styles, and techniques that you encounter in the world and you keep the things that resonate with you. Hopefully, the journey never stops. The fun is to keep learning from everyone around you, both young and old.


How has technology changed the way you approach your creative practice? (new apps, social media, etc.)

Technology is really exciting. I love all of the digital tools that are available now, like iPads, Apple Pencils, and creative apps like Concepts. Creating on an iPad has been the biggest change for me and has helped speed up my creative process flow from idea to the final illustration.

In some ways, social media has helped. Platforms like Twitter and Instagram have helped me get exposure to a larger audience, but it can also be a struggle to keep up with trends and algorithms.


Do you have any thoughts or advice for creators like yourself who are looking to excel in their own creative practice?

Don’t stop learning. Whether it is a new technique, skill, or technology, there are always new things to learn and try. Most importantly, keep making art. Keep making things and putting them out into the world.

How does Concepts fit into your workflow, and how do you use the app? (Which tablet and stylus do you use?)

Concepts is a wonderful addition to my workflow. My artwork has been vector-based for around two decades now. I have always wanted to introduce an analog look and feel to my vector illustrations. Concepts allows me to use brushes and tools that look like traditional analog art tools, yet retain all of the ability to scale my illustrations due to being vector.

All of my digital work is created on an 11-inch iPad Pro(2021) using the Apple Pencil. The iPad is an amazing art

What is your favorite Concepts feature? How do you prefer to apply this tool or feature to your work?

My favorite feature is vector brushes. The ability to change brushes on the strokes/lines that I have drawn is magical. Being able to change the brushes helps me to find the exact look that I have in my mind. Additionally, the vector brushes in Concepts allow me to draw and illustrate by hand and then apply smoothing to the lines.



Andy McNally is a freelance illustrator, full-time artist, and UX/UI Lead Design Consultant. He has worked with many companies over the years including Cardinal Health, FedEx, AutoZone, Fujitsu, Pfizer, International Paper, and Hilton Hotels. His strong design sense, imagination, and user-centered design approach have helped him create beautiful illustrations and useful products.

Cover Photo - Your Sketchbook is Full of Creative Inspiration by Andy McNally
Interview by Annelise Sandberg


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