Friday, July 3, 2009

Interview - Biddy Maroney of We Buy Your Kids!

Illustration for an article on bullying in the workplace - Australian Financial Review's Boss magazine, August 2008.

Illustration for an article on stem cell research - Harvard Divinity Bulletin, April 2008.

Illustrations for Tourism Victoria - Melbourne Theatres print campaign (detail)

Illustrations for Tourism Victoria - Melbourne Theatres print campaign. OH my how much do you love this Melbourne map? Wish I could afford to commision such brilliant illustrations for my TDF shopping guides!

This one's been in the works for a while now... unfortunately New York kind of got in the way! But I am so excited to finally share an interview with an INCREDIBLE Sydney-based illustrator and designer - Biddy Maroney!

You may remember me gushing about We Buy Your Kids here earlier this year? Well, Biddy Maroney is one half of WBYK - the other half being her partner Sonny Day. I cannot get over their awesome comic-book style names. 'Biddy Maroney' sounds to me like some kind of crime-fighting bounty-hunter or film noir detective, and as for Sonny (Sunny?) Day? Come on.

But aside from that, I cannot get over their super-awesome work! Wowsers.

Sonny and Biddy's collaboration started with band posters for Popfrenzy records back in 2006... and it's quite incredible what they've achieved in only 3 years since then! These days the prolific pair churn out an amazing variety of creative work including websites, Tshirts, animation, interior design, retail display, and anything you can put an illustration on, basically. I love their eclectic style - at times deco and very graphic, other times fluid and painterly, and often cartoony, gothic and creepy kitsch. It's no surprise to learn that the pair are inspired by a synthesis of varied interests, from Italian horror flicks to 1970's science fiction books!

Other places to see the amazing work of Biddy Maroney and We Buy Your Kids -

We Buy Your Kids work website
We Buy Your Kids 'news' site (blog-style)
Jacky Winter folio page
Biddy's folio site

Big thanks to Biddy for her time and all the links! Please note all work shown here is by both Sonny and Biddy :)

I'm Not There - poster

Tell me a little about your background - what path led you to what you’re doing now?

I did study Graphic Design at Canberra Uni a million years ago but I was a terrible student who left without a degree and with absolutely no computer skills or idea of what the real world of working design was like. While I was there I would turn every design project into an illustration project and spent my time making comics with friends, which was fun and I drew A LOT but I had no qualifications or clue. So I was super lucky a friend got me a job at a design studio where she worked and I was the office helper – I got coffee and did scans. But I ended up working there 7 years and when I left I was a Senior Designer and building websites (which is hilarious). So that’s where I learnt my technical skills I guess – on the job. Then I went to work at Mathematics for a few years and while working there I was introduced to the world of animated music videos and I taught myself to create digital illustrations reaaaalllly fast. I had always worked with ink before that – and would colour in Photoshop, but about 5 years ago I started doing more digitally. Then I started collaborating with Sonny in about 2006 and soon started working from home on those projects fulltime.

What have been some of your favourite illustration projects that we might be familiar with?

I am always happy with the album covers for Youth Group – mainly because its been a span of a few years working with them. Also because when Toby asked me to do their Skeleton Jar album he said he knew I’d never done any album art so he thought it might be fun for me to do. Since then I’ve worked on a fair bit of album art, so I like that it started with that one, which is an album I love. Also I feel quite close to all those covers and the albums and they have changed in style as my drawing style has changed, so I like that sense of a timeline.

Youth Group - Skeleton Jar poster

Youth Group - Casino Twilight Dogs poster - a Sydney show which was basically a fantasy line-up of Youth Group , Belles Will Ring and Bridezilla all together.

Other than that I like the Mecca Myer windows cos it was exciting to see my drawings turned into something so big and lit up with fancy city folks walking past in their fancy suits and hairdos.

Illustrations for Mecca Cosmetica / Myer windows - a collaboration with designer Christie Hunt / Houndstooth, and Don McQualter.

Also any of the animations that I’ve been involved with, they are my favourite jobs. The “Clementine” video we did for Washington is a favourite - the drawings are all collaborative between me and Sonny and he also did a lot on that job and I was amazed at his ability to solve some problems and his weird imagination etc.

Tell me about ‘We buy your kids’!? Awesome work! How did the collaboration with Sonny Day come about…? How much work do you do independently and how much as a duo?

Thanks! We have known each other about 7 years but we didn’t start working together until Sonny started doing posters for Popfrenzy – I kinda just invited myself in to work on those, taking his sketches and working on them on the computer. And then he screenprinted them. Since then we’ve just found a good way of working where a job passes back and forth between us. Sonny does a lot of the initial ideas and sketches. When it gets to me I might put forward a few ideas but often he has something there that works really well so we just start building it up. And it goes back and forth. He helps me a lot when I am doing my own illustration work – he often suggests compositional ideas and new ways of approaching things. We really do most stuff as a duo. Sometimes we make our own individual work for exhibitions, but when we work as Webuyyourkids the style we work in is sort of a third personality – its not exactly Sonny's drawings and its not exactly mine – it’s a hybrid monster.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

We work from home, so it pretty much starts the moment we’re awake. We’ve had a third designer in working freelance with us the last month or so and that’s been great for many reasons but one is that it helps define the “work-day” rather than just being sat infront of a computer or a desk 20 hours a day 7 days a week. I have to say I'm really bad and get waaaay too caught up in work. I just don’t leave the house for days and days and days, but I’m working on that, so there’s a bit of the day where I just go for a walk through Sydney Uni and look at some mad buildings. Gargoyles!

We usually are working on a few different jobs every day – always involving crazy deadlines. For example our work day today was me sending off some poster files to print, skinning an artists Myspace page, then I got stuck into a movie poster we’re doing which is a lot of fun, and that is what I spent most of the day on. And then I just finished up some fixes to a illustration we just did for The Jacky Winter Group. Sonny’s been working on some Tshirt designs for an artist, some illos for a pitch for a band's album art, a comic for Faesthetic and some early ideas for a couple of group shows we are in very soon in Brisbane. Hunmi was helping us on the Tshirt designs as well as some layouts for a website. So you can see its all a bit all over the shop, and very rapid.

How would you describe your illustrative style?

I would say its very camp. And Gothic, but in a Vincent Price sort of a way, not in an Anne Rice sort of a way. Working with Sonny has made my stuff lately more graphic and less girly, and that’s a really important part of Webuyyourkids stuff.

Which designers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?

Sonny Day (those images are all about 5 years old though)
Joe Allen (his artwork and also the community he fosters)
Garry Trinh (his series work is beautiful and looking at his blog will often astound me that he sees those moments and captures them)
Raymond Pettibon
Shary Boyle
Steak Mountain
Tim Burton
Siggi Ergetsson

They are all illustrators or visual artists but that is what I like! Sonny has been introducing me to the movies of Dario Argento and we are both inspired by that a lot.

I like this question – some people don’t like to get asked who their influences are but I could list you names and links all day. Actually this is my favourites page on YouTube – it’s a good long list of things that inspire me.

Where else do you find inspiration – ie books, fine art, your environment, travel, your family and friends?

Well recently its been a lot of movies. Like I said Sonny’s got me onto his whole Italian horror land at the moment and its reminded me heaps of stuff I liked a long long the ago – like Hammer Horror and I love looking at stills from Kenneth Anger films. And a lot of old stuff my Dad has always been into – TV shows like The Avengers or Night Stalker. My Dad has always collected old movie posters and been into quite kitsch old cult stuff – so I guess his tastes and collections have been my biggest inspiration cos that’s where I got my appreciation for some of my favourite stuff like Vincent Price, Aubrey Beardsley, Night On Bald Mountain, Saul Bass, Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, Death on The Nile, EC Horror comics, Flash Gordon, Robert Crumb, The Monster Mash…. And animated video clips oddly enough.

What’s the best thing about your job?

And the worst?

What are you looking forward to?

I wanna go to Cornwall next year. Rurally seaside Cornwall. And solve crime. And go to the pub. And visit the witch museum.

Sydney Questions

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?

Apart from the amaaaaazing lamb stew Sonny just made I would say Bodega – I cant get enough of that place and their Fish Fingers! (Toasted sour dough, rubbed with garlic, topped with raw kingfish, finely sliced onion and cuttlefish cervice)

Best gallery space in Sydney to see the work of great Australian illustrators?

China Heights or Monster Children.

Where do you shop in Sydney for the tools of your trade?

We go in the King St Secondhand Bookshop (the one with the cat, near Istanbul on King) to buy old paperbacks with really amazing covers. Lately we’ve been looking for 70's science fiction wonders. That bookshop window serves as one of my favourite gallery spaces in Sydney actually – they display some amazing covers there.

Paul Dempsey - Out the Airlock single cover (inspired by 70's Science fiction book illustration)

Kids Today (Limited edition of 4 prints for the Kids Today exhibition at MTV Gallery 2008) - We don't want your corn and London Dungeon (Giclee prints 2008).

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Still working or sleeping in. Possibly sitting up in bed watching giant murder-mysteries projected on the bedroom wall. If I was awake I'd be patting a cat.

Sydney’s best kept secret?

The Golden Cobra Coffee. It’s very very good coffee. You can get it at:
Pure Bronte Pistachio, Bronte Beach
Cordial, Newtown
Paddington Market Cafe, Paddington
Tiger Mottle, Paddington
The Falconer, Darlinghurst


  1. What a great write-up Lucy! In all the time I have known them, their work never fails to inspire and surprise me in new ways. Sonny also has the best beard in the entire world.

  2. Great works! What an inspiring post, thank you!

  3. Hello Lucy:)

    I've tagged you and in case you are interested or just want to know what is it, please see this post (

    I believe you probably won't participate since this site is not really about you, but I thought I would give it a try:P

    Oh I'm the girl who wants to live in Paddington:P

  4. Hey JW - thanks! Yes I am completely inawe of their incredible work! I must say I was not aware of Sonny's amazing beard but will have to request a viewing :)

    Alexandra - thanks so much for your comment! So glad you like this work as much as I do!

    Sofia - Hi! Thanks so much for the tag and the link...! ...but perhaps as you guessed... I might not post my answers here! I get shy when this blog becomes about me! I like to be a little bit anonymous! :) But thanks so much for the tag! It was nice to learn a little more about you! xx

  5. Lucy another great interview! I am really liking all the people you've been showcasing recently.

  6. great interview. what a talented duo! jaw-droppingly good.