I can honestly say that re-joining SCBWI when I migrated from England to Australia was the best idea I’ve ever had. I came here in 2012 as a middle-aged frustrated author/illustrator. Having been first published way back in 1988 I had since stagnated into the doldrums somewhat, with few and far between books coming my way in the UK and was feeling pretty isolated.
The Sydney 2012 Conference Illustrators Showcase found me determined to reinvent myself and make a proper go at this children’s book thing. I will keep forever that precious little piece of paper with names and nice comments from Australia’s publishing fraternity that came back with my portfolio in the post.
When the 2016 Conference came around I made sure this time I would attend in person and it certainly paid off. Walker Books had commissioned me for three books since that 2012 debut with View from the 32nd Floor, Howzat!, and Desert Lake - but I was sadly ignorant of the Walker imprint Blackdog Books until Maryann Ballantyne tweeted me from the conference hallway asking if I’d like to chat.
Very excited I found myself receiving the dream job for a non-fiction illustrator in visualising Carole Wilkinson’s beautifully written story about her own family’s immigration back in the 1960’s Ten Pound Pom. So much of her tale rung true with my own journey and made it a delight to delve into. I loved researching details for the cruise ship they travelled on and especially enjoyed being able to ‘dress’ the characters in Anelli fabrics, sourced from my grandparents’ photo album.
Being able to spend my days out drawing or in my Newcastle studio making artwork for books is such an amazing privilege and one I take very seriously. We might seldom see our work hung in fancy galleries but I honestly believe we are the most important of visual artists because we are the first experience a child has of pictures. We teach toddlers to read those first words on a page by image association and quite often it is those narratives that stay with a person for life.
My published books in Australia are View from the 32nd Floor, Howzat!, Desert Lake , One Photo (Penguin), Grace and Katie (EK Books). Coming soon Maddie’s First Day …with a second Nature Story Series book under research.
One Photo is currently on display at the Literature Centre Fremantle http://www.thelitcentre.org.au/book-exhibitions