Aztecs – Join the Empire

I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to draw Aztecs, lots of Aztecs—it was awesome.

These illustrations were for an app that is part of the Aztecs exhibition at the Australian Museum in Sydney. The app itself was done by Beaconmaker, a startup, which a mate of mine launched a couple of years ago.

As people reach the end of the exhibition there are some iPads set up on a wall, which has this app—Join the Empire. They can take selfies of themselves with the app, which puts their faces within the illustrations. From there they can share it with their friends and find out about the different types of Aztecs—from the emperor to a commoner.


Noble Woman




Commoner Woman

Big red noses

Also, originally I gave them red noses, which was purely a stylistic decision—I like to really bring out the nose. But the museum wasn’t so crash hot about it, so went with normal colour. I still prefer the coloured noses, I think it adds character and could have looked great plastered over people’s faces.

The exhibition

The illustrations were also used as a poster in the exhibition itself, to help draw people over to the iPads when they are on their way out of the exhibition.


Below are the sketches for all of the characters. They were pretty much approved first go, which is very rare.

For me sketches are a very important part of the process. I always do rough and then “tidy” sketches to present to the client before moving on to the final illustrations. This way all of the kinks can be worked out in the rough stage, instead of making massive changes to a final, fully coloured illustration.

These sketches were also very quick and easy for me to do as the Museum supplied me with tonnes of images of the various Aztec characters.


All the colours

I also used a consistent colour palette with this project, which to be honest I do very rarely. But it’s to the benefit of the project, as all the illustrations are consistent and look part of a set—this is something I’m going to do regularly from now.

The staff at the Australian Museum are some of the loveliest people I’ve ever worked with. Every stage of the process was meet with enthusiasm, and I lapped up all of the details on this ancient civilisation with vigour—it’s absolutely fascinating stuff.

The staff at the Australian Museum are some of the loveliest people I’ve ever worked with.

Every once in a while you get an amazing project like this and you realise this is why you became an illustrator, to draw super interesting stuff and hopefully make people happy in the process.

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Role Illustrator

Client Australian Museum

Studio Freelance

Credits Design and development – Beaconmaker, Design – Amanda Lo

If you have leporiphobia, I'd stay away from the next project.