Freya Blackwood #2 2013This is my interview with Freya Blackwood.

What is your earliest memory? I have a few memories from living out on a property called Gundawunna near Molong, just after my family moved from Sydney to the Central West. I must have been about 3. I remember a bird’s nest outside a window, treading on a thistle when running barefoot in the front yard, kittens walking tentatively down a path and a chicken we looked after that only had one eye.  

What influenced you to start illustrating? I have always enjoyed drawing, but it took me many attempts at various jobs and much early-20s angst to discover I could get work as an illustrator. Painting hobbit feet and working as a production assistant didn’t quite feel like my thing, yet watching the designers draw was incredibly inspiring. My mum, being a painter and art teacher, was a great influence while growing up, and still to this day helps me in some way with most books.

Who do you find inspiring? I’ve always been inspired by my grandfather who was a painter and whose work I’ve always greatly admired. When I first started toying with the idea of trying my hand at illustration, I pawed over drawings by Lizbeth Zwerger, Armin Greder and Shaun Tan. I have since enjoyed and learnt from the work of Janet Ahlberg, Shirley Hughes, Helen Oxenbury, Eva Eriksson and Joel Stewart. And of course, my daughter is a major inspiration for me now as well as all the other wonderful and haphazard elements of our life.

Did you use models when illustrating this book? I don’t use any models when I draw people, – I just make them up, unless it’s something really tricky and then I’m forced to go out and do some observing.  

Which books do you recommend? I don’t do much recommending – I’m generally always asking for recommendations. But a book I recently discovered in our holiday house bookcase and I really enjoyed was Rumer Godden’s ‘An Episode of Sparrows’. I’d recommend it if anyone ever asked.  

Who do you really admire? I admire those writer/illustrators who can produce their own really beautiful books. Shirley Hughes, Emily Gravett, Joel Stewart and Shaun Tan to name a few.  

What are your favourite tools? Could a cello fit into this category? I started learning the cello a year ago and have borrowed my friend’s mother’s cello. The cello is called Gloria and she’s very lovely. We’re becoming good friends.  

Do you collect anything? I collect a bit of crockery, especially Beryl Woodsware, which happens to be the name of my grandmother (Beryl) and also my favourite green. My mum helps me collect a lot of other bits and pieces by frequently giving me things she find at the op shop. One of her common utterances is ‘close your eyes and hold out your hand’ and she hands me some little (or big) treasure she’s found. It’s lovely.  

What is something that most people would be surprised to know about you? I find drawing really hard. And I once played a zombie in a short film, and discovered I had severe stage fright.  

What are you working on next? I’m currently working on a storybook written by Libby Gleeson about a young girl called Cleo.

Read my review of ‘Amy & Louis’ here.

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