Monday, March 28, 2011

The Great Rescue Race by Raymond McGrath

Through my career I have met some incredibly talented and highly motivated people, particularly in the animation industry which is so unique and challenging. One of these people is Raymond McGrath, and I am very excited to show you his most recent achievement - an exhilarating, and beautifully illustrated children's book, The Great Rescue Race.

Cover Artwork from The Great Rescue Race by Raymond McGrath

The Great Rescue Race opens with a tram and a lively ticket collector who discovers 'Scraps' - the missing toy of Nick, aged six.

Illustrations from The Great Rescue Race by Raymond McGrath

The tram is brought to a screeching halt, and the whole town pulls together to find a way to get Scraps back to his friend Nick.


Illustrations from The Great Rescue Race by Raymond McGrath

With the combined efforts of a dedicated community, the toy is successfully restored to its grateful owner who, with excellent manners, thanks each and every one of the rescuers. It is an absolutely charming story, with a positive message, and compelling characters. The illustrations are detailed and dynamic, capturing expression and movement with perfection - undoubtedly the influence of animation coming through here. The fast pace and energy in the story is sure to captivate a young reader who will find interesting new faces and elements with each reading.    

Illustration from the final page of The Great Rescue Race by Raymond McGrath

The Great Rescue Race is one of those rare treasures that combines spectacular artwork with a well-written and satisfying story. I am not promoting it as a favour for a friend and former colleague of mine - I genuinely love this picture book and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

The Great Rescue Race will be available for purchase from its release today (or very soon after). Other children's books written and illustrated by Raymond McGrath include Don't Worry Nana, I'll Drive!, The Bedtime Countdown Book, and Le Cafe Petit On O'Sullivan Street.

The Great Rescue Race, ISBN:9780143306177, Imprint: Picture Puffin, Publisher: Penguin NZ , Publication Date 28/03/11.

Q & A with Raymond McGrath

A Google search will reveal very little about Raymond who is not much of a self-promoter and more of a modest, quiet achiever; I thought this a great chance to ask Ray some questions and get a little insight into who he is and what drives him:

You will be a new name to most of my readers. Could you please tell us a little about your artistic background and career?
 - I have no formal training in art and I was in my early twenties before I'd even picked up a pencil after I left school. I learned traditional 2D animation first, at a time when things were just beginning to ink and paint was very new, 3D had barely scratched the surface of what it is now. Nowadays I usually introduce myself as an Animation Director, but that doesn't really cover the whole spectrum of what I do as I am involved in almost all facets of animation. I learned 3D as a matter of necessity, as well as compositing, editing, storyboarding, design, live action, stop motion, vector, and at least a dozen industry standard software packages and of course Directing. I've worked on a lot of television commercials, national and international. I've also worked on many Television series for children, local and international, and I am the creator/writer/director/animator of 'Puzzle Inc' which is a pre-school show. I've been in animation for over 15 years now...
At night I tend to please myself creatively because not every idea I have is relevant to animation or even commercially viable (...and by the end of the working day I must admit I've kind of had enough of animation and want to explore other creative outlets) so I do this mostly because I can't help myself. I HAVE to get ideas out of my head onto paper otherwise they don't leave me alone. So I write, do life drawing, photography, write music/songs, illustrate and do all the things I enjoy doing that I don't get to do at the studio during the day with no deadline and at my own pace. I've illustrated lots of educational books, illustrated trade books for other writers and The Great Rescue Race is my fourth book as a writer/illustrator. I've also been involved in theatre both on and off stage.
What media did you use to create the illustrations in The Great Rescue Race? And how do you approach book illustration from the planning stage through to completion?
The Great Rescue Race is a mixture of pencil sketches, Illustrator, Photoshop, collage papers and Painter. If you get a chance to look at any of my other books, I don't usually work in any one particular style. I like to challenge myself and I also believe that the IDEA should primarily dictate what the book should look like. The style should compliment the story, but I usually have the same basic process:
I develop an idea, mull it over for a while, do a few basic designs, write and re-write until I think I've got the bones of a story, then I illustrate the whole book in rough form to see if it actually will work. I try to plan enough so as to know where it's all going but not so much as to stifle new ideas and changes of direction.
When I write I don't use words to explain anything I can show, and I use the pictures to progress the story as much as possible. Personally, I don't like too many words in picture books (In fact the fewer words the better!). As a result often my manuscript feels empty without out the artwork, because a lot of the story is within the pictures themselves. So in order for anyone to even understand my stories I HAVE to finish both text and artwork. I don't want to run the risk of someone misinterpreting anything, so I make it clear and say 'There it is, that's the story and that's what it will look like...what do you think?'
From there, if my publisher likes it, I'll move onto final artwork. I work digitally for final colouring because I like the flexibility. I can change things about easily without starting again and when you're working on things only in your spare time, doing things twice can be quite a setback and very annoying. I don't do the typesetting on any books...I give the publishers an idea of what I'm thinking, but I let them do what they think is best. And they do a fantastic job. The fresh eyes and ideas they bring to the table can lift the product to a new level and I like to let them really run with it. My commissioning editor (Katie Haworth) has done a fantastic job of adding new ideas, fixing text mistakes and making loads of clever suggestions for adjusting rhyming patterns and making the book the best it can be. The book wouldn't be half of what is without her efforts and Anita (who designed the text layouts) and the wider publishing team at Penguin Group, NZ. This is as much their book as it is mine.
Who do you look to for inspiration in writing, illustrating, and animating?
My inspiration comes from pretty much everything and everyone, everywhere. I am constantly admiring other people's work from writers to artists to photographers to designers to fashion to Directors, theatre, music... the list would go on and on. I get quite jealous of other peoples talents, to be honest, and it annoys me when my work isn't as I work harder at it...because I WANT to be good at it. I find that there can be something to learn from everyone (even if it's discovering that what they do is not what you want to do). I am constantly writing down little things I notice as well. Snippets of conversation, things my friends and family do and say, watching other children play and interact. These little moments are the same as a photograph. A good Photo freezes time and reality into a split second but will also imply a before and after, a story behind what led to the image. These can be the kernel of an excellent idea. If you keep your eyes and ears open there are ideas pretty much everywhere. You just need to learn to recognize the potential...then do some work to pull the story out.
Ray, from what I know of you, you enjoy learning and extending your skill-set. You have mastered hand-drawn animation, computer animation, illustration, and a whole host of other skills. Where do you see yourself going from here? Do you enjoy the mix of interests, or do you see yourself focusing on one of these things, perhaps even moving on to something else entirely?
I love making meaningful content for children and I genuinely want to be good at what I do so I work very hard at it. Drawing doesn't come as naturally to me as I'd like so I have to work at it. Every drawing is a battle of persistence and personal critique. Animation is extremely challenging and I love that challenge...particularly traditional hand crafted stuff. Writing isn't something I've trained in either, it's something I'm still struggling to get a handle on (but I'm working on it) and my biggest dream is to one day to write/draw stories that parents will look back on nostalgically and say 'I loved that book when I was a child!' and pass it on to their own children, or just inspire children to explore artwork and actually 'see' picture books, not just read the words. I want to make television shows and movies for children that are entertaining and educational that parents don't mind their kids watching. I want to become a great photographer and show the world as I see it. I want to do gallery exhibitions of paintings that somebody will think are good enough to take home and put on their walls. I want to record albums and write novels and books of poetry and act. And I want to draw until I die...
So, I guess the answer to this question is: I hope to keep doing what I do, become the best I can be at it, and maybe inspire someone else to do the same. 
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Ray - I'm sure many readers will be inspired by your words and your book, as I am :)

These images are copyright. A huge thanks to Raymond McGrath and Puffin Books (Penguin Group NZ) for allowing Kitty as a Picture Kids' Design Blog permission to feature The Great Rescue Race.


  1. Great that you've come across so many talented and inspirational people during your life and career. This book looks amazing!
    I love you blog. Do you have a lot of traffic here?

  2. Yes, it is an amazing book. And there will be more to come; I can't wait to see the next. Thanks for all your kind comments. Traffic to the site is picking up, and I think pretty good for having been around for only 4 mths. I just wish I had more time to devote to it!