What is your earliest memory? Being at a kitchen table with sun on it and seeing a blue and white striped bowl.
What inspires you to illustrate? The writer’s story and its characters are the connection I need for ideas /inspiration. Observing the everyday life of people and my own history of life experience goes into my artwork. I watch people on buses and walking in the street . The way they sit or shape themselves unconsciously to how they might feel or what they are doing. Also the natural environment inspires me; trees, plants, animals insects – their colours and shapes.
What is the most interesting fact thing you discovered from ‘Possum Magic’? I discovered that a story such as ‘Possum Magic’ and its characters having been as popular as it has been takes over a large chunk of your work life. As much as I love Grandma and Hush, I drew them first thirty years ago and my hand for drawing has changed in that time and it’s hard to capture them now as they were in the book, as often as I try.
What was one of the best things that occurred because of ‘Possum Magic’? The best thing is ‘Possum Magic’ has been enjoyed by so many children; this has enabled me to be an illustrator doing what I love for thirty years. To have been part of a book that is an Australian publishing success makes me feel proud and very fortunate.
Which books do you recommend ? Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks’ ‘Fox’. Its illustrations are as powerful as the text and express strong emotion in the shapes, colours and texture of the paint Ron has used. Each time Ron scratches or touches the paper there is contact with a raw feeling of Margaret’s characters; Dog Magpie and Fox . Ann James is the illustrator whose work I much admire. The skill of capturing poses that are spontaneous with a simple line that is fresh and alive .To me she catches the humanness or the animal-ness of the characters, her illustrations evoke humour and or tenderness . ‘Bird and Bear’ is written and illustrated by Ann James and ‘It’s a Miroocool’ is illustrated by Ann James and written by Christine Harris.
What are your favourite tools and products? A fresh white smooth sheet of Saunders Waterford watercolour paper that is actually made from rag. I only like it before I have put anything on it. A new tube of manganese blue watercolour paint before I have lost the lid and it has gone hard. A new nib for my pen, of what I call (the old post office pens) with nibs to dip into ink wells. I wipe water colour onto it and do all fine work and some edges with this pen and nib.
Do you collect anything? I don’t collect anything normally, but I am looking out for smooth but differently shaped stones for my grandson to play with.
What is something that most people might not know about you? I am not good at singing but amazingly I am in a choir and trying to keep in time and in tune as an alto singer.
What other themes would you would like to illustrate? The art work in each book takes too long for me to do. I would rather spend that time with my grandson. An idea /theme means months and months of working alone with what can be frustration which is a normal part of the process of making a book work .
What are you working on next ? Now I am doing drawings for one of four board books for very young children that Mem Fox has written. It’s at the pencil rough stage and Mem has not seen the sketches yet. These will need to be approved by Mem and our publisher because there could be changes to my ideas in the drawings. Drawing them up on watercolour paper and then painting them will happen when we all agree the book as a whole works for young children .