Sonny Ross

Interview by Ellen Tannam

Sonny Ross is a talented illustrator, and the mind behind the wonderfully macabre illustrations for our special Halloween Issue, Young Blood. We asked him a few questions about creativity, horror films, and his cat Alfie.

Where did you grow up, and what were you into?

I grew up in Congleton, Cheshire. Nothing really ever happened there, and there was very little to do. So music and art seemed like the most exciting thing that could ever happen to anyone from there.

As a teen I was a great big long haired greeb in a shite black metal band.

Fortunately it was a phase. I don't know what clicked but it seems overnight I started drawing all the time, cut my hair and everything.

But my friends and I were into everything all people that age are, music, tech, hiding stolen beer in the woods for late. Proper rebs.

How would you describe your own work?

Broad. I've been criticised by fellow illustrator friends that my portfolio isn't focused enough. But I've seen great illustrators push the same work week after week and not change over years. That's just sad, this past month I did vampires, supermarket product design, food illustration, children's book work and some dark personal work. I like variety and I don't wish to settle down.  

Who are some other illustrators that you like or draw inspiration from in your own work?

So many people, but without sounding like a dick it's often the stuff I don't like that inspires me.If something in an image makes me wince, then I know I'll never do something like that.

The artists I like do the kind of work I know I wouldn't do, it's healthier that way. Without that I tend to compare myself to others and that's a spiral. It took a while to accept that just because I like something, I don't have to emulate it.

Do you ever experience creative block, and if so, what do you do to fix it?

There are days where whatever I draw just doesn't work, so I rework it, still bad. The trick is catching the early signs of an off day and accepting that today, it isn't getting done. 

If I’m really stuck I’ll ask fellow illustrators for their thoughts. It’s often a case of having a second set of eyes on it.

What do you do for fun?

I cook, I bother my cat Alfie. I play video games and I am a huge podcast listener. Other than that just spend time with my fiancé and friends. 

What's the best/worst thing about being an illustrator?

The best thing is actually liking something you send off. The worst is the admin, being self-employed is hard for anyone, but maintaining a steady flow of work is hard to judge as sometimes you end up with four jobs on the go, too busy to have anything on the horizon.

Once you're done those, it's panic mode and you blanker contact art directors everywhere. Feels a lot like 'beg friending' and it's my least favourite part of the job.

What advice would you give somebody who wants a creative job?

It depends what you want. If you want to be a freelance illustrator like myself, get ready to stop going out. You're going to be busy for a long time until it feels like payoff. You can get a 9-5 out of university in a sort of creative position but you have to be honest with what you want to do. I thought I wanted that, but honestly I like being asked by people to do things for their mag, paper, site etc.

I think a desk job would leave me itchy.

Since you are illustrating our Halloween issue, what's your favourite spooky/horror movie and why?

Growing up, we had a video rental place down the road and my mum was pretty lax about what we could and couldn't watch. So there's a lot to choose from, but for me it's always The Thing, it isn't a scary film as such. It's just the ambiguous ending that leaves you sitting through the credits in silence. Love it. 


SLANG TRANSLATION - 'Greeb' - Northern English word for rocker. 'Reb' - Rebel

Here is Sonny's website, where you can buy prints of his work, pick up a copy of his children's book Duck Gets A Job or contact him. You can see his work in our Young Blood issue, available from October 14th, 2016 as part of the Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin. 

We're having a party to celebrate the issue on October 31st at the Fumbally Stables. All the gory details are here.

All images thanks to Sonny Ross.