sketchbook stories :: mati rose mcdonough

I first met Mati (pronounced Matey, like the shipmate) over 8 years ago when we were both taking an evening Children’s Illustration Class at UC Berkeley Extension taught by Mira Reisberg. Since then Mati, has ventured off into this brave creative world making art and living a truly creative and inspiring life. I love the way she describer her journey of becoming an artist in her 2009 interview with [e]housestudio she says “Becoming an artist has been like climbing a mountain, but instead of going straight to the top, I’ve been going gradually around the mountain, getting distracted along the way by scraping my knees, setting up camp along the way and other fumbling and sustained moments of grace.”  I feel very luck to call her a friend and honored that she has asked me to be part of a group of creative ladies called the Ladies Independent Design League (LIDL). Mati is incredibly warm and inviting soul, and this comes thru in her work by the emotional bond she forms with her audience in a way that is uniquely hers.


Here is Mati’s Sketchbook Story ::

MRM: I wasn’t sure what to focus on for Sketchbook Stores, but then this illustration I did for Baby Bug Magazine just arrived in the mail! It’s a super cute magazine for babies and toddlers that’s in the same family as their older read, for bigger kids called Ladybug.

MRM: I got hired by Baby Bug to illustrate a poem called “Sleepy Sparrows” by Charlotte B. Deforest. They liked my collage work with birds like these 2 pieces.


MRM: The first step was I got sent a sample magazine and printed layout of the poem.


MRM: I researched sparrows on google images to get a general sense of their shape and colors and how they have been stylized by other artists.


MRM: I sketched in pencil a general layout and eyeballed where the poem would fit.


MRM: Then I colorized the sketch in photoshop, scanned in the text placing it digitally over the art, and made adjustments to the composition too, like the size of the sun and shape of the tree branch. This is the sketch I sent the client. The client’s feedback was “We need to see the soft inside of the nest. Sparrows will line their nest with soft white feathers. The outside of the nest is made with course grass, string, sticks, pieces of cloth and white feathers. We would like to see more mixed media on the nest. Have one bird with it’s eyes open. To add a little interest add a little bug sitting on the tree branch under the text. No need to send another sketch as these are small changes.”

All of these changes seemed doable and great, especially given that the final would be in collage. I sorted through my collage paper to find similar colors to the ones I had proposed and then thought about how I could make the nest more mixed media. I decided to drop by the fabric store to see if there was anything that would help me and found these white feathers~ perfect!


MRM: You can see here that I added a little lady bug to add interest and opened the eyes of one of the sparrows. I cut up the paper on the nest to make it more tactile as well as the white feathers. I like how you can tell it is imperfect and done by hand. The client’s reaction was “WOW! The final art is wonderful! Love it!!!!!!!”


MRM: Here is a close-up of the sparrows.


MRM: And here is the final that just arrived in the mail! Thanks Cindy for the opportunity to share my Sketchbook Story!


And here’s where you can find Mati:



if you are an artist or would like to recommend an artist or designer to be featured in Sketchbook Stories please feel free to drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you :-)

  1. I just discovered your blog recently and am so happy! These Sketchbook diaries are wonderful! I love Mati's work.

  2. I love Mati's work and was so happy to see her here. Great Sketchbook Story!

  3. I love Mati's work, and her birds, especially. Thanks for sharing the process!

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