The Dirigible Balloon
Poetry for Children

Artist Feature ... Elaine Macintyre

Find out about Elaine Macintyre ...
Hello Balloonists!

Jonathan here!

When you write poetry for different magazines, sometimes you are lucky enough to have your work illustrated by a wonderful artist. The same is true for short stories. A few weeks ago, I found out my story about a small dog called A Trick for Grimsby was being published in that marvellous magazine for children The Caterpillar and it had been illustrated by an artist called Elaine Macintyre. When I visited her website, I saw her excellent range of artwork and so I decided to ask Elaine if she would be willing to be the Dirigible Balloon's featured artist for February.

Elaine is an illustrator and picture book maker from Edinburgh who also draws pet portraits and sells illustrated cards and gifts in her Leopardy Nonsense store on Zazzle. She specialises in bringing animal characters to life in a colourful, busy world. She is especially keen to work with educators, particularly around environmental issues, animal welfare, vintage fashion and music.

You can find out more about Elaine on her website at

So, without further ado, the Dirigible Balloon is proud to present ...

The Artwork of Elaine Macintyre

How did you get into illustrating?
I've always loved drawing, ever since I was little. I used to spend hours making little books and drawing cards for unsuspecting friends and family.
I'm not sure how old I was when I drew this – maybe about nine or ten? It's from a book about a family of corgis who have to organise a jumble sale. Never say my plots aren't thrilling ...

I only started taking drawing seriously about eight years ago, when I began my first illustration evening class at Edinburgh College of Art. Before that I'd been doing a course in textile printing, which I was really bad at – I loved drawing the pictures to be printed but then made a terrible mess with all the colours. So my tutor tactfully suggested that maybe I should take an illustration class instead – and after taking several more courses I realised that what I really wanted to do was children's book illustration.

In 2019 I took the plunge and exchanged my full-time job for a new part-time role so I could go to the University of Central Lancashire to do an MA in Children's Book Illustration. Of course I didn't see the pandemic coming, so most of my two years at uni were spent stuck at home, but at least I had plenty to keep me busy!
This picture is from the first book I made at uni, Dear Tree, Dear Sea. It's about a gorilla and polar bear who are best friends but have never met – until now!

This is a picture from another of my uni projects, Animal Fashion, a magazine 'made by animals for animals' – it's edited by a tiger and has an agony aunt called Di Llama!

My third uni project was Keith Gibbon, Superstar, about a gibbon who loves to sing, but no-one loves to listen – so he decides to learn the drums and form his own band.

I also set up an online card store, and started doing pet portraits, which I love – who doesn't want an email inbox full of photos of cats and dogs?
This is Roxy. She's a rescue dog who'd had a rough start to life. When her owners first got her, she didn't know how to play – the toy in the picture is the first toy she ever played with. Now of course she's the happiest, most loved dog on the planet – with her own portrait to prove it!

Do you have a favourite artist?
It might be a bit obvious but one of my all time favourite artists is Quentin Blake. I just love the spontaneity and joy of his drawings. Richard Scarry is another favourite – I love all the detail in his images, and how there’s so much to spot in every picture. I think that's maybe why I like filling my pictures with little details. I also love Emily Gravett, Ross Collins, Jackie Morris and will always have a special place in my heart for the American illustrator Tasha Tudor, who drew corgis in a charming, old fashioned animal world. Everyone in my family loves corgis!
This is a Christmas card I drew for my sister, featuring her corgi, Mabel, along with her cat and guinea pig, dressed as pantomime characters.

What are your illustrating ambitions?
My dream is to get a children's picture book published. I sent review copies of Dear Tree, Dear Sea out to school children in Edinburgh to see what they thought of it and it was just so heart-warming to hear what they had to say. It made one little girl want to go and see the animals in the Zoo 'when covid's gone away' which brought a lump to my throat!
The first spread of Dear Tree, Dear Sea, showing Gorilla setting out on his travels.

What advice would you give young artists?
I'd say, if you like drawing when you're little, never give up! It took me until I was nearly 40 to realise how much drawing meant to me and make it more of a central part of my life, so it just goes to show, it's never too late! Don't think the choices you make in school will define you for the rest of your life – there's plenty of time to change your mind.
The audience aren't too sure what to think when Keith Gibbon's band play – but who cares what other people think?!

The final picture from Animal Fashion. The aim of the book is to encourage us all be a bit more 'green' – and this is why.

Thank you, Elaine!

All pictures by kind permission of Elaine Macintyre ... article organised and edited by JH

About the Writer

Jonathan Humble

Jonathan lives in Cumbria. His work has been published online and in print in a number of magazines and anthologies. His first collection of poetry, My Camel's Name Is Brian, was published by TMB Books in 2015. His second poetry book, Fledge came out in 2020 through Maytree Press. His poems for children have been shortlisted and highly commended in the Caterpillar and Yorkmix poetry competitions and he is the editor of The Dirigible Balloon. His poems Masterclass and This Work is Done were chosen as the Milk House Poem of the Year at the end of 2022 and 2023.