Big Issue Illustrations

I have done an update to my folio site which includes the illustrations I have done for the Australian Big Issue Magazine.

Currently I am illustrating a regular column by Gina Morris which is called “Diary of a New Mum”. I have just finished my fourth installment and it’s been an interesting experience.

Firstly, doing some work again for the Big Issue is a strange thing for me. The Big Ish will always be an important part of my life – I was part of a tiny team that launched a magazine that is still in print 8 years later. For most of my year or so there I was entirely responsible for the design, layout and print production of the magazine. Having never done this kind of thing before, every single day I was stressed, challenged, and exhausted, yet amazed that I was able to get it together every two weeks. It was the steepest learning curve I have ever been on.

In no other job will I meet such an huge array of people. The editorial staff and the homeless vendors all worked out of the one office. We sat behind computers while vendors dropped in for coffees and gossips and to pick up a pile of magazines to take back out and sell on street corners. The staff were all passionate and slightly crazed (oh yes, you know we were!), the board of directors who occasionally stopped by drove huge cars and had very nice suits but most had kind eyes and clear visions, and the vendors were from a section of our society I had previously had no exposure too with my safe Private schooling – their stories of homelessness, drug, alcohol and gambling addictions would weigh heavily but their personal victories when they managed to sell an enormous amount of magazines or even just one or two, or move into a flat or find a new job were always inspiring.

In no other job will I work until three am and then lock up, step quietly over a vendor who had made our front steps home for him and his two dogs and catch a cab home only to get up and do it all again the next day.

In no other job will I be asked out on a date by a guy who is as high as a kite, sporting new stolen sneakers (and proud to tell me so!), with syringes lined up in his top pocket like a row of pens. It was difficult to turn him down, only because I had heard the whispers in the staff kitchen that he had killed people.

In no other job will a huge smelly guy wearing a father christmas hat and a pair of crazy 70s sunglasses regularly give me huge hugs and make me feel like it’s all worth it.

And in no other job will I catch crabs from innocently sitting in the staff lounge on an extremely festy couch… mmm.

Putting that magazine together is one of my major lifetime achievements but I was daily discovering my personal and creative limitations and professional weaknesses.

So not only is there all that, but there’s Gina and her stories of her little girl, Lillah Rae. Lillah Rae is only six weeks old so far in these entries so I am being called on to illustrate breast pumping, baby acne, mother’s group and all these other scenes which now seem so far away to me and my little girl who is 2 and a bit and getting more independant every day. It’s weird and kind of emotional to remember exactly how I felt on my first mother’s group get together, and how exactly you hold a breast pump. I am surprised at how much I have put out of my mind, yet how quickly it comes rushing back. None of it is exactly inspiring me to go there again in a hurry.

Anyway, if you’re in Australia, find a vendor, have a chat and lash out on a three dollar copy of the Big Issue – because it rocks.

18 Responses to “Big Issue Illustrations”


    Good on you. I have read and liked your blog a lot for quite a while. I read todays’ blog and understand how strong you are, I admire you. I would like to hear more about your work at the Big Issue, but maybe you have already written things I have not read? Have you ever done any pictures, I imagine the combination of your talent and insight would be very interesting. Please let me know.


    Claire — I just peeked at your folio, and I chuckled at your “breast pump” illo. I spent many an evening in such a state. I giggled at the husband too — just going about his day w/ his wife pumpin’ away. This looks so routine for them!!! So great!


    I love your new illustration – especially the “after baby tummy”. You are seriously my hero for making an illustrated Mum really look like she just had a baby. I get sick to death of seeing perfect, skinny non-tired looking Mums in baby magazines.


    I loved your description of working on the Big Issue. I pass many homeless people on my way to work and often don’t know how to respond. Your blog inspired me to hunt out those Big Issue sellers and help them out – regularly. I have bought the magazine a few times before and it is great – you did an unreal job starting it up.


    crabs? eww…
    but i agree with you, the big issue rocks and i always give a few extra dollars to the sellers.

    and how wonderful to have such interesting memories of such a unique job. you’re lucky 🙂


    My God Claire! What other amazing things have you done??!! You certainly are one clever girly*L* Love the illustration section, just pinched last years Christmas card as my desktop to get me in the Christmassy spirit.Im so lucky to have you working on my site : )




    I have been reading your blog for a while now because I love your illustrations and all your craftiness and now I have one more reason to like you… the Big Issue… I always buy the Big Issue when I make it to the big city. it’s great to know that you have been a part of it…


    I loved your entry today. I’ve spent so many years writing for The Big Issue and it all rings true. A unique, enriching and crazy work environment, and those fortnightly deadlines just banging away relentlessly. But crabs!!!? That is Very Worrying.


    Oh my stars! I love the breast pumping illustration!
    Cripes…I just got married so I don’t have kids yet, but is that what I have to look forward to?



    Claire, I love it when you put up posts like this.
    I think from now on I will call you Amelie, this post just reminds me of that film for some reason.


    hi clairei saw your illustration a few weeks ago when the vendor handed me my issue- i was like “hey, that’s claire! you KNOW, loobylu!!” and was all proud. i showed my gf and she said “who’s claire, do you know her?” and then i had to admit that actually, we’ve never met. then i felt like a freak for getting so excited about it! he he he.

    the big issue is the only reason i’m doing journalism. seriously! i first heard of it in the UK where it is a total institution. my dream job would be writing for the big issue, because i’ve seen the difference it really makes.

    longest comment ever, sorry! but i’m totally proud of you… and sorry about the crabs!


    Hello from everyone at The Big Issue. We love Claire’s work too, Clementine you should get in touch, and good news everyone: we’ve had the couch cleaned!


    The Big Issue rules, and is a wonderful testament to the good side of humanity.
    I remember going through a particularly rough patch a few years back and chatting to the vendors in Bourke St always made me smile. Keep up the good work.

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