Five minutes with Kyle Hughes-Odgers

Kyle Hughes –Odgers is a Western Australian artist and author known for his innovative illustrative style and public art.  Dazzling original illustrations from his new book On a Small Island are on display now at the State Library of Western Australia.

We spent some time hearing from Kyle about the inspiration and ideas behind his work. Here’s what he had to say…

Kyle Hughes-Odgers: Photo by Chad Peacock

Kyle Hughes-Odgers in his studio: Photo by Chad Peacock

1. Describe your book making process. Which comes first for you, the narrative, illustration, or the idea?

I had the initial idea for On a Small Island and I could visualise the flow of the artwork and some ideas I wanted to explore. I sketched all the artwork as a story board, then wrote the narrative to work with the images. After this the painting process started. For my next book the narrative has been very clear from the start so I have focused on developing this before starting any artwork. So I don’t seem to have a consistent process when approaching books.

2. You are known for your picture book illustrations and public art. How do you switch between extremes of scale and medium?

I love working across many different scales. I like the challenge of painting buildings and getting to spend time outside but I also love when I have time to be in the studio and work on paintings, drawings and children’s books. The variety keeps me slightly sane and it’s great to change my head space!

3. Your illustrations for On a Small Island include a lot of repetition, geometric shapes, and a variety of textures. How did this style evolve?

Very naturally – I think because I am constantly driven to make new work, the time spent exploring ideas and techniques has helped develop and progress my work to what it is today. I’m sure in another 5 -10 years it will have evolved again.

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On a Small Island exhibition. Photo: State Library of Western Australia

4. You grew up in and currently reside in Perth. Is there anything unique or iconic about the Western Australian environment that influences your work? 

There are many unique and iconic aspects to the Western Australian environment, but I’m not sure it has had a direct influence on my artwork. I’m inspired by many different parts of life

5. Would you describe On a Small Island as more universal or more autobiographical?

I wrote it with a universal reach in mind, but I do connect with it personally. I think the idea of being positive and productive to change your situation is something that most people can connect with.

6. In 2012 you collaborated with author Meg McKinlay to produce the book Ten Tiny Things. What was it like to be both author and illustrator with On a Small Island? How was it different or similar to working on Ten Tiny Things?

The artwork process was fairly similar in terms of planning and creating, the writing process was challenging compared to making artwork for Ten Tiny Things. I’m a very visual person and have never thought of myself as a writer so it was something I was really excited about but also cautious because it is very new ground for me.

7. Where do you find your creativity? Which artists and authors inspire you?

I’m really inspired by nature, creativity, human behavior and life! I draw/paint every single day and I really love it. My favourite illustrator of all time (at the moment) is Charley Harper.

A number of original illustrations from On a Small Island have been included in the State Library of Western Australia’s Children’s Literature Collection. The exhibition is on display in The Place on the Mezzanine floor, State Library of Western Australia and is open until 28 February. For more information visit our website.

On a Small Island exhibition. Photo: State Library of Western Australia

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