Illustrator Mel Baxter designed our gorgeous celebratory issue of Pip Magazine. We caught up with her to learn more about her artistic process, find out some of the ways she reduces her carbon footprint, and what her hopes are for a sustainable future.
Mel Baxter – aka Moonshine Madness – is a talented illustrator based in Queensland. Inspired by botanical illustrations, retro calendars and Australian tea towels from the 1960s and 70s, her intricate line work and warm colour palette captivates a genre of retro Australiana which has earned her a strong and well-deserved following.
Mel studied Visual Arts at Queensland University of Technology before becoming a full-time freelance designer and illustrator in 2009. She now works from a wood cabin surrounded by the Queensland bush, being sure to tread lightly on the earth.
Mel designed our gorgeous celebratory issue of Pip Magazine – our 20th! We caught up with Mel to learn more about her artistic process, find out some of the ways she reduces her carbon footprint, and what her hopes are for a sustainable future.
How do you describe yourself and what you do?
I’m a commercial digital illustrator – so I get to draw pictures for money. These pictures can go into books, on beer cans, clothing – pretty much any digital or printable surface.
Where do you find the inspiration for your work?
My work significantly changed when I moved to the bush six years ago. I found an endless source of inspiration from the land around me. I was able to experience the flora and fauna and take time to appreciate it.
This gratitude worked its way into my illustrations. My colours come from years of collecting. I’d use programs like kuler to select colours I loved from photos, nature, vintage posters, etc.
What are some of the important lessons you have learnt along the way in your career?
I slogged it hard for three years straight – night and day, trying to find my style and hone my skills. I’d built up this incredible momentum where I was getting my dream jobs and my online store was going nuts. and then I hit a wall of exhaustion.
I learned that it’s important to work at a sustainable speed. I still try to burn the candle at both ends sometimes, but I then need to take an actual break; my health is my priority now.
What’s the single best piece of advice you could give someone wanting to follow a similar path?
Cultivate a good support network. Set your goals and celebrate all achievements. Plan for rough times in good times. Practice your craft as often as you can and get good business advice.
Do you try to live a sustainable lifestyle? What are some of the ways you try to tread lightly on the planet?
I source locally grown food as much as possible, that conveniently gets delivered to my door (thanks Fresh Local Provisions!).
I try to keep down plastic consumption with reusable water bottles, containers, beeswax wraps and coffee cups, and my online store uses compostable mailing bags and recycled cardboard mailers.
I choose to invest my money with businesses that support renewables and/or provide carbon neutral options like Bank of Australia, Future Super, Amber Electric, Sendle.
I still forget to turn the lights off when I’m not using them and having a kid definitely amps up the wastage (especially around birthdays and Christmas) but I think it’s important not to aim for perfection but to do what is achievable when you can and build from there.
What in your mind are some of the most impactful changes people can make to help – rather than harm – the planet?
I find it important to research. To be aware of where things come from and choose businesses that are ethical and transparent with their manufacturing and practices. Money talks. Be aware of where your bank and superannuation companies invest your money. A lot of them invest in fossil fuels and it’s important to find that out.
We’re now at the point where ignoring climate change is impossible. Do you have hope that we can bring about the change in our society to tackle this head on?
I do hope. Some days it feels like we’re all on the same path, other days, far from it. My hope is that we employ the knowledge of First Nations people when dealing with the land. We’ve mistreated it and its people for far too long.
My hope is that new technology and new ways of thinking are heard and invested in. My hope is that we all see the value in cultivating and celebrating community.
Talk us through the creative process of designing the cover for Pip’s special 20th issue.
Working with Robyn was great. She was clear with what she wanted but also gave me some freedom to follow my creative intuition.
We wanted to illustrate some of the main elements that have formed Pip and to celebrate nature and sustainable living. I dove right into the Instagram and website and got a good feel for Pip. I had a list of elements and then jigsaw-puzzled these into the shape of a 20.
What do you love most about Pip?
I love its voice and what it stands for – helping us live a more fruitful and sustainable lifestyle.