top of page

Gay McKinnon



Date of Success:

Gay McKinnon has a PhD in molecular biology and has worked as a research scientist, glass artist, temp and lecturer in studio glass. Between 1984and 2012, she published numerous scientific articles, travel articles, and a book chapter on plant evolution.


Secretly, however, Gay nursed a lifelong ambition to illustrate and write children's books.


In 2009 Gay left scientific research and began to study illustration. Her first chance to illustrate a text was for the 2009 CYA illustration competition. She illustrated 'The Glasshouse' by Paul Collins and was runner-up.


In 2010 Gay entered again unsuccessfully, but drew inspiration from attending the CYA and SCBWI conferences.


In 2011 she won the competition with line drawings for Claire Saxby's 'SuperKate and her MagicCape'.


Since then she has completed a diploma in children's book illustration with the London Art College and published her first book as illustrator, 'The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land' by Anne Morgan (IPKidz).


Gay's most treasured possessions include 100-year old colour plates of Edmund Dulac illustrations, rescued from decaying books of fairytales owned by her grandmother.


She lives in Tasmania and exhibits her work at OffCentre gallery.


When I attended the CYA conference in 2010, I was greatly heartened to learn that most authors and illustrators work hard at their profession for at least four years before they publish their first book. I'd been working away for a year and thought I must be abnormally slow to have achieved so little!


Hearing other people's success stories was inspirational and made me realise that with persistence, and despite rejections, I could succeed too. It was also wonderful to get out of my own little world and meet other people who loved children's books and were passionate about what they did.


I'm still in touch with some of the people I met on that first day and have been truly encouraged by their support.


In particular, I found the CYA illustration competition an excellent learning experience. Having a well-written, original text to illustrate,and knowing that my work would be seen by industry professionals, really inspired me to stretch myself and put in my best performance.


The competitions gave me a taste of what it's really like to try to illustrate a book. It’s much harder than I thought it would be, but also, infinitely more satisfying.

bottom of page