For the two decades between the two world wars, Mackinlay was kept in permanent employment as an illustrator, first and foremost in the field of popular magazines, then, as his reputation grew, in book publishing. Facility in composition, and the integration of both movement and expression (often lacking in the rather statuesque test pieces at the Slade), was a real forte of the Perth Technical School, where he gained his early training.


As factual periodicals such as the Illustrated London News, which in the nineteenth century had relied on skilled draughtsmen, turned increasingly to photography, so other mass market publications took over the supply of hand-drawn imagery. Illustrated fiction had been a luxury for the Victorians; it remained so in the lavish Christmas annuals furnished with colour plates which became a feature of the publishing industry around the turn of the century. These books established a demand for a more everyday product, which popular fiction magazines were created to fill. The illustrations had to vie not only with photography in their immediacy and truthfulness, but, increasingly, with the newest popular medium, the cinema.

Hutchinson’s Story Magazine was founded just after World War I, and Mackinlay quickly established himself as a regular contributor. Signing at first Mac, and then Mackinlay, after a few years his name appeared under the title along with the author. Despite their large circulation, the market remained fragile. There was no exclusivity, and Mackinlay also worked for rivals, such as the long-established Strand, as well as for new titles which catered to the increasingly specialised female readership, such as Good Housekeeping.


Books for children also developed rapidly after the war. Gone was Victorian conformity, with the dreadful shadow of the duty which had led so many to their deaths in the trenches. Instead, individuality, courage and ingenuity were to the fore. Having drawn the cover for Blackie’s Boys Annual in 1925, Mackinlay kept the honour for the two succeeding years. He started by providing two nail-biting action scenes in 1925 and 1926, then used intense colour and careful placement on the page in 1927, understanding that suspense could be as important an incentive to the would-be purchaser as all-out drama.


Timothy Wilcox