Interview with Illustrator Carla McRae

Interview with Illustrator Carla McRae


Interview by: Abi Koh  |  Cover Photo by: Tatanja Ross  |  All other images by: Carla McRae

23 year-old Carla McRae is an extremely talented freelance illustrator and designer based in Melbourne, Australia. She grew up in the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, but moved to Melbourne 3 years ago after finishing her studies. Her work has been featured in Urban Outfitter's and Frankie's blogs as well as various publications. To view more of her designs and illustrations, visit

Where did you go to school and what degree did you receive?
I went to school at a pretty small uni - The University of the Sunshine Coast. I studied a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in graphic design and communication. 

How did you figure out that you wanted to be a designer and illustrator?
I’ve always been a visual person and have been drawing forever. When I enrolled to study I didn’t know much about design except that it would allow me to potentially have a creative career. The illustration stuff came later and more naturally - I found I enjoyed it more than design and was approached for it more too. I guess I’ve just followed my gut a lot and things have been working out.

What is the most challenging aspect and the best aspect of freelancing?
The most challenging aspect for me is self discipline and time management. Making sure that you allow time for basic life stuff like eating well, exercising, getting outside and actually forgetting about work for a little while is really important. Working for yourself means you have to keep an eye on your own bad habits and sometimes it’s really easy to get wrapped up in work and lose sight of what is important or healthy. I really love being my own boss and having the power to schedule my week however I like. There’s a freedom that comes with freelancing that I think is hard to beat.

Was it difficult to get clients and establish yourself as a freelance designer and illustrator?
In the beginning, definitely. Like anything, starting out is the hardest. I’ve kept a blog since uni and most of my initial work and exposure came through that. I worked part-time in hospitality for quite a while before I could ride the bike with no hands, so to speak. 

What advice would you give to aspiring designers and illustrators?
Don’t underestimate the power of the internet and your online presence. I owe a lot of my successes to the internet! Also, don’t forget that real life is cool too - it’s really important to interact with people that inspire, challenge and push you to do better work or grow. Build a support network and encourage each other, it can be super special and I really treasure my like-minded friends. 

What tools and mediums do you use?
My staples are paper, pencil, fine liners pens, Copic Markers and my computer for cleaning up final scans or design work. I’ve been dabbling in gouache paint recently too which has been super fun. 

What project did you enjoy working on the most?
I just finished up a personal book project, combining a collection of photos and sketchbook drawings from a trip to Japan last year. My best friend Leona Fietz ( worked on hers at the same time and it was such a good time re-living the trip and putting it all together. 

Who are some of your favorite artists?
Oh man. Off the top of my head - I’m super inspired by and look up to the work of Seiichi Hayashi, Hisashi Eguchi, Ikko Tanaka, Tove Jansson, Nathalie Du Pasquier, Ettore Sotsass, Geoff McFetridge, Dick Bruna, Chris Johanson, Margaret Kilgallen, Malin Gabriella Nordin, Beci Orpin, Ghostpatrol…

Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years, with regards to your career path?
Hopefully still hanging in there, freelancing, with a lot more travel and big, fun personal projects. 

Anything else you'd like to mention?
Gurlz rulez. 

To view more of Carla's work, visit the following links!


Re(de)fining Magazine is an online magazine dedicated to young women as they redefine and refine who they are. In a magazine industry that tells women they're not good enough, Re(de)fining Magazine is countering that by spreading a positive message. We highlight topics relevant to young women today, ranging from social issues to mental health to fashion. We celebrate creativity by sharing the artistic endeavors and entrepreneurial ventures women have made. We value honest stories and reflections that instill a sense of hope and challenge us to grow.