As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A princess so I could wear a tiara or an archeologist so I could discover Atlantis.
What other jobs have you had? Shop assistant, barmaid, waitress, finished artist, graphic designer, mural painter.
Where did you start when illustrating this book? I started with research. With most of my books, the illustrations are driven purely by my interpretation of the text. Occasionally I reference something I’m not that familiar with, like cars. Because Gallipoli is a historical account, there was limited room for improvisation – every detail had to be accurate, from the uniforms to the bully beef tins. There was no drawing out of my head for this book.
What kind of research did you need to do to prepare for this book? I read, looked at photos and films and had many conversations. Reading letters written from the trenches, looking through photos of very young men in unfamiliar and frightening surroundings and trying to take in the enormity of Gallipoli was at times quite a harrowing experience.
What was the most interesting thing you discovered when illustrating this book? As well as broadening my knowledge of this brutal period of modern history, illustrating this book plucked me completely out of my comfort zone. The challenges that arose when illustrating Gallipoli were very different from my earlier books.
Do you have favourite images in the book? The images I like best are the series of illustrations I did at different times for the front cover. The editor and I tried quite a few ideas – some of which ended up on the ‘photo album’ endpapers. In the end, we chose the simple image of the Lone Pine, which I had drawn for the dedication page, and added some other elements. Also, the illustration showing everyday life in the trenches because it shows that the tedium and lice were just as much a part of the soldiers’ lives as the battles.
What is your favourite product? My pencil extender. Also, a good quality tube of cobalt blue oil paint.
Do you collect anything? Picture books and random small treasures that live in my shadow box.
What is something that most people might be surprised to know about you? Though I am not good at sports, I won the Hula Hoop competition (2000 revolutions) at school when I was 13. Also, I don’t mind hanging out washing.
What are you working on next? I’m working on my next picture book – ‘Clementine’s Bath’. It is a follow up to ‘Clementine’s Walk’, which was the first book that I wrote and illustrated. Both books are written in rhyme and are about Clementine, a rather untrained dog of indeterminate breed who tends to leave a trail of destruction behind her, whether she is rustling up someone to take her for a walk or trying to escape from the horror of a bath.
Read my review of ‘Gallipoli’ here.