Bendigo's best creatives: Five minutes with Chris Kennett

Grab a cuppa and join us for five minutes with Bendigo based (but internationally succesful!) illustrator Chris Kennett.

Born in Canterbury, England way back in the mid-70s Chris grew up in a very busy house. As the youngest of five kids, drawing meant quiet time for Chris and he drew a LOT!

Fast forward a few years and Chris is now managing his own family of rowdy kids and pets so the skills he built up to shut out the family chaos and noise in order to get on with the job have proved invaluable. Especially working from home!

Chris made the move to Australia in 1998 with his Aussie girlfriend, his leap definitely paying off as he and his now wife have happily settled in beautiful Bendigo, with two children and two cats.

Starting his career as an illustrator, writing and animating online greeting cards, Chris has since gone on to work on animated productions as both an animator and character designer. He now writes and illustrates picture books and junior fiction and can even claim a credit as an illustrator for the STAR WARS franchise, certainly a long way from greeting cards. His most recent work includes illustrations for Kid Lit novels Nerd Herd and the School of Monsters series.

Get comfy while Chris shares some of his career highlights with us.

Chris' illustrations drive the action and ramp up the emotional intensity of Rip and Mei’s quest in Pixel Raiders.

Describe yourself in 10 words or less:

Someone who hasn't quite grown up yet.

Who are your creative influences?

A lot of my influences still come from my childhood, where I devoured UK comics (Beano, Buster, Oink), Warner Bros cartoons, Hanna-Barbera, Tex Avery, Disney, Garfield, Gary Larson. Basically anything I could get my hands on. I also love collecting "Art of" books from animated movies. There are so many incredible artists who pour their hearts into a movie's visual development, and a huge portion of it never gets seen by the general public. It's hard not to feel inspired after flicking through the pages of one of those books.

What does a typical work day look like?

I'm usually sitting down at my desk by 8am most mornings. I find I'm generally more creative in the mornings, as opposed to the evenings. I'll check my emails to see if there's anything urgent I need to look at. If not I'll just jump straight into whatever project has the most looming and scary deadline. Then I'll work pretty solidly until around 5.30 or 6pm. Stopping for the odd snack, coffee or social media fix. Rinse and repeat. On a non typical day, I get to travel to schools and libraries for workshops and talks. I get to draw silly pictures and make up silly stories and its great!
When the popular Andy Griffiths book "The Day My Book Went Psycho" was made into a TV series, Chris was the Design Supervisor, overseeing a team of Character Designers.

What is the thing you like most about your job?

I love the variety of projects I get to work on. Sometimes it's books, sometimes it's jigsaw puzzles or characters for animation. One time I got to design a giant cartoon octopus for a splash park! Which was brilliant fun. So I love having the flexibility to jump from project to project, playing with styles and different characters. That really keeps me engaged and invested in everything I do.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Don't compare yourself to others. Just focus on your own path and if you have to compare yourself to anyone, then take a look at yourself 1, 5 or even 10 years ago. I bet you'll see an improvement and that's really the only comparison that matters.

What are you most proud of accomplishing in your career?

I think there are lots of milestones that you hit at various times in your life, and they're all as important as each other. When I was 16 I got my artwork used for an ad column in the local newspaper and that was huge for me at the time. It's small potatoes now, but back then it was exactly the kind of validation I needed. Then you ask yourself, what can I do next? Fast forward 20 years and I'm writing and illustrating my first picture book (Alpha Monsters), which was a huge moment for me, in what was to come. I guess the crowning moment came when I was asked to work on the Star Wars Golden Books. Something which I still pinch myself about to this day. Working on a franchise that I've loved since I was a kid and working with Disney/Lucasfilm was exciting, surreal and ever so slightly terrifying.
Illustrating for the Star Wars franchise was a dream come true for Chris.

What are you working on at the moment?

Right now I'm working on two amazing book series for kids. The "Nerd Herd" is a heavily illustrated, middle grade series about a petting zoo written by Nathan Luff. I'm currently working on book 3 in the series. On top of that I'm also working with Sally Rippin on the super cute "School of Monsters" series for first time readers. We managed to produce 6 titles last year during lockdown and there are at least 4 more to come. So they're keeping me nice and busy.

What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in a career in the creative industries?

Don't work for free. If someone asks you to work on their dream project for the "exposure", politely decline and work on your own dream project. Don't devote your precious time making someone else's vision a reality, set yourself a brief and work towards your own goals.
Alpha Monsters was the first book Chris wrote AND illustrated.

What’s your superpower?

Identifying songs within the first few seconds (as long as its pre 2015).

On Sunday mornings, you can usually find me...

Making coffee and pancakes and filling the house with music.

If you like what Chris does, you can find out more at his website:

Website: https://chriskennett.com

Or follow him around on social media:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/crikeyboy/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChrisKennettIllustration

Who is your favourite Bendigo creative?

Tell us which one of your favourite Bendigo creatives you’d like to see featured in our profile series at hello@emporiumcreativehub.com.au.