In conversation with the J.S. Battye Creative Fellows

How can contemporary art lead to new discoveries about collections and ways of engaging with history?  Nicola Kaye and Stephen Terry will discuss this idea drawing from the experience of creating Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved.

In conversation with the J.S. Battye Creative Fellows
Thursday 27 April, 6pm
State Library Theatre.

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Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved is the culmination of the State Library’s inaugural J.S. Battye Creative Fellowship.  The Creative Fellowship aims to enhance engagement with the Library’s heritage collections and provide new experiences for the public.

Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved
visually questions how history is made, commemorated and forgotten. Through digital art installation, Nicola Kaye and Stephen Terry expose the unobserved and manipulate our perception of the past.  Their work juxtaposes archival and contemporary imagery to create an interactive experience for the visitor where unobserved lives from the archive collide with the contemporary world. The installation is showing at the State Library until 12 May 2017.

For more information visit: http://www.slwa.wa.gov.au

Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved

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Still scene: Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved, 2016, Nicola Kaye, Stephen Terry.

Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved visually questions how history is made, commemorated and forgotten. Through digital art installation, Nicola Kaye and Stephen Terry expose the unobserved and manipulate our perception of the past.  Their work juxtaposes archival and contemporary imagery to create an experience for the visitor where unobserved lives from the archive collide with the contemporary world.

Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved is the culmination of the State Library’s inaugural J.S. Battye Creative Fellowship.  The Creative Fellowship aims to enhance engagement with the Library’s heritage collections and provide new experiences for the public.

Artists floor talk
Thursday 6 April, 6pm
Ground Floor Gallery, State Library of Western Australia.

Nicola Kaye and Stephen Terry walk you through Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved

In conversation with the J.S. Battye Creative Fellows
Thursday 27 April, 6pm
State Library Theatre.

How can contemporary art lead to new discoveries about collections and ways of engaging with history?  Nicola Kaye and Stephen Terry will discuss this idea drawing from the experience of creating Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved.

Tableau Vivant and the Unobserved is showing at the State Library from 4 April – 12 May 2017.
For more information visit: www.slwa.wa.gov.au

Through the mirror-glass: Capture of artwork framed in glass.

 

State Library’s collection material that is selected for digitisation comes to the Digitisation team in a variety of forms. This blog describes capture of artwork that is framed and encased within glass.

So let’s see how the item is digitized.

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Two large framed original artworks from the picture book Teacup written by Rebecca Young and illustrated by Matt Ottley posed some significant digitisation challenges.

When artwork from the Heritage collection is framed in glass, the glass acts like a mirror and without great care during the capture process, the glass can reflect whatever is in front of it, meaning that the photographer’s reflection (and the reflection of capture equipment) can obscure the artwork.

This post shows how we avoided this issue during the digitisation of two large framed paintings, Cover illustration for Teacup and also page 4-5 [PWC/255/01 ] and The way the whales called out to each other [PWC/255/09].

Though it is sometimes possible to remove the artwork from its housing, there are occasions when this is not suitable. In this example, the decision was made to not remove the artworks from behind glass as the Conservation staff assessed that it would be best if the works were not disturbed from their original housing.

PWC/255/01                                                         PWC/255/09

The most critical issue was to be in control of the light. Rearranging equipment in the workroom allowed for the artwork to face a black wall, a method used by photographers to eliminate reflections.

 

We used black plastic across the entrance of the workroom to eliminate all unwanted light.

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The next challenge was to set up the camera. For this shoot we used our Hasselblad H3D11 (a 39 mega pixel with excellent colour fidelity).

 

Prior to capture, we gave the glass a good clean with an anti-static cloth. In the images below, you can clearly see the reflection caused by the mirror effect of the glass.

 

Since we don’t have a dedicated photographic studio we needed to be creative when introducing extra light to allow for the capture. Bouncing the light off a large white card prevented direct light from falling on the artwork and reduced a significant number of reflections. We also used a polarizing filter on the camera lens to reduce reflections even further.

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Once every reflection was eliminated and the camera set square to the artwork, we could test colour balance and exposure.

In the image below, you can see that we made the camera look like ‘Ned Kelly’ to ensure any shiny metal from the camera body didn’t reflect in the glass. We used the camera’s computer controlled remote shutter function to further minimise any reflections in front of the glass.

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The preservation file includes technically accurate colour and greyscale patches to allow for colour fidelity and a ruler for accurate scaling in future reproductions.

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The preservation file and a cropped version for access were then ingested into the State Library’s digital repository. The repository allows for current access and future reproductions to be made.

From this post you can see the care and attention that goes into preservation digitisation, ‘Do it right, do it once’ is our motto.

Teacup – One Boy’s Story of Leaving His Homeland

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“Once there was a boy who had to leave home …and find another. In his bag he carried a book, a bottle and a blanket. In his teacup he held some earth from where he used to play”

A musical performance adapted from the picture book Teacup written by Rebecca Young and illustrated Matt Ottley, will premiere at the State Library of Western Australia as part of Fringe Festival. 

Accompanied by musicians from Perth chamber music group Chimera Ensemble, Music Book’s Narrator Danielle Joynt and Lark Chamber Opera’s soprano composer Emma Jayakumar, the presentation of Teacup will be a truly ‘multi-modal’ performance, where the music of Matt Ottley will ‘paint’ the colours, scenery and words into life.

Performance Times:

Fri 27 January 2:30pm
Sat 28 January 10:30am, 1pm and 2:30pm
Sun 29 January 10:30am, 1pm and 2:30pm

  • Suitable for all ages.
  • Bookings not required

Matt Ottley’s original paintings from the picture book Teacup from part of the State Library’s Peter Williams collection of original picture book art. The artworks will be displayed in  Teacup – an exhibition in the ground floor gallery between 20 January – 24 March 2017.

Image credit: Cover illustration for Teacup, Matt Ottley, 2015. State Library of Western Australia, PWC/255/01  Reproduced in the book Teacup written by Rebecca Young with illustrations by Matt Ottley. Published by Scholastic, 2015.

This event is supported by the City of Perth 

Final week to see Unfinished Business

The statement ‘without stories there is silence’ powerfully captures the essence of this exhibition.

Unfinished Business brings to focus the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who are affected by disability through photographs by Belinda Mason and film by Knierim Brothers.

Historically the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Islander peoples, and the voices of people with disability have been misrepresented, silenced or excluded from documentary histories.

The images and words of this exhibition convey the reality of lives affected by the ongoing historical, social and political impacts of colonialism. The stories represented in the exhibition are not sugar coated. They are raw and honest, attesting to the strength, resilience and power of all participants, and all people with experiences of disability.

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Yamatji man, Marlon Noble with his photograph titled ‘Noble Cause’, Unfinished Business exhibition launch, State Library of Western Australia 12 May 2016.

Photography is a creative expression which is capable of commanding the viewer’s attention. Each photograph has power to open the eyes of the audience, conveying personal stories in an autobiographical way. We have seen this in action, where visitors stop, take time to experience and are visibly moved by the images.

Accessibility is a the core of this exhibition. The Open Access Tours app provides access to additional audio and video material.

Unfinished Business closes 3 June 2016. For more information visit the State Library website.

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Maui and The Big Fish

Be amazed by original illustrations from Frané Lessac and Babara Ker Wilson’s story Maui and The Big Fish, on display now at the State Library of Western Australia.

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Frane Lessac, “Front cover illustration Maui and the big fish”, gouache on paper and acrylic, PWC/137, State Library of Western Australia

The illustrations in the exhibition form part of the State Library’s Peter Williams Collection of original artworks by leading Australian illustrators. 

Maui and The Big Fish tells the Polynesian folk tale of “Maui of the Thousand tricks”. Maui dreamed that one day he could go fishing with his brothers, each time he asked his brothers they would make excuses, “Maui is too small. He will never catch a fish”.

How Maui outwitted his brothers to catch the biggest fish in the ocean is part of a New Zealand creation story. Over many thousands of years the fish became part of the landscape and the islands of Maui, Molokai, Kuaii, Hawaii, Oahu and Lanai.

Lessac’s beautifully rendered gauche and acrylic paintings are full of colour and movement.  Words by Babara Ker Wilson introduce young readers to new vocabulary and concepts.

Frané Lessac is an award winning author, illustrator, and painter who lives and works in Western Australia. She has published and collaborated on over 35 books for children including: My Little Island, A is For Australia,  Magic Boomerang, Midnight and Simpson and his Donkey and many more.

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Frane Lessac, “Maui’s mother told her four big sons”, gouache on paper and acrylic, PWC/132 State Library of Western Australia

Maui and The Big Fish will be on display in The Place Gallery until February 29 2016. For more information visit our website.

  • Visit the exhibition during our Books From Your Backyard Family Day on Saturday 16 January to create an illustration with Frane Lessac.
  • Copies of Maui and The Big Fish (Published by Frances Lincoln, 2003) are available to purchase from the State Library shop.

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The Lynley Dodd Story

On a scrap of notepaper of paper in 1979, Hairy Maclary was born.

The Lynley Dodd Story exhibition reveals the evolution of Dodd’s creative process and clues to her characters rise to international fame. More than 50 original illustrations including preliminary sketches, drafts and notes showcase the development of Dodd’s unique artistic style and her skillful marriage of words and illustration.

The first drawing of Hairy Maclary has been described as an “animated bottlebrush”. Loose lines give the appearance of movement as he bounces across the page. Hairy Maclary’s scruffy look is made up exclusively of directional lines. He is as much about the spaces between the lines as the lines themselves. The drawing is an unassuming work on a creased piece of scrap paper that captures in entirety Hairy Maclary’s appeal.

Hairy Maclary's Bone, (c) Lynley Dodd, 1984. Reproduced courtesy of Penguin Random House and the artist.

Hairy Maclary’s Bone (c) Lynley Dodd, 1984. Reproduced courtesy of Penguin Random House and the artist.

Lynley Dodd’s characters emerge in her illustrations like on stage performers. The backgrounds function as props for the action about to take place in the scene. Dodd’s use of truncation adds playfulness and encourages readers to turn the page.  Often part of Hairy Maclary disappears at the page edge, building anticipation as he moves off stage.

Dodd’s compositions are meticulously planned in a process which she describes as “Writing the pictures and painting the words”.

Much of her inspiration is drawn from real life. Many of Dodd’s characters are based on childhood pets, and plots are often inspired by almost unbelievable occurrences. The 1984 title Hairy Maclary’s Bone, was inspired by a routine trip to the butcher, where Dodd saw a large dog walking away from the butcher shop with a load of meat and bones hanging from his mouth. How that dog would get home without other dogs looting the lot unfolds in the story.

Each illustration is carefully composed with gouache and pen, Dodd’s medium of choice. Her technical skill is shown by her layering of gouache to create the  iridescent quality of the tiles on the meat shop front as seen in Hairy Maclary’s Bone. This technical skill has a sound foundation in her Fine Art training in sculpture.

A Dragon in a Wagon (c) Lynley Dodd, 1988, Reproduced courtesy of Penguin Random House and the artist.

A Dragon in a Wagon (c) Lynley Dodd, 1988, Reproduced courtesy of Penguin Random House and the artist.

The Lynley Dodd Story includes illustrations from many works set outside the Hairy Maclary series. A Dragon in a Wagon of 1988 showcases Dodd’s skillful painting and refining of words to create uncluttered verse.

The colour palette of A Dragon in a Wagon marks a departure from the shades of suburbia present in the Hairy Maclary series. The deep blues and cool yellows featured in the illustration ‘A Shark in the Dark’ exemplify this difference.  In the story imaginative scenes are tied to the bouncy rhyme and rhythm Dodd is well known for.

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The Other Ark (c) Lynley Dodd, 2004, Reproduced courtesy of Penguin Random House and the Artist.

Illustrations from Find Me A Tiger (1991), The Dudgeon is Coming (2008) and The Other Ark (2004), highlight the breadth of Dodd’s practice as an illustrator.

Her clever use of scale reinforces meaning and adds humour to her stories.  Think about how big Hercules Morse is in comparison to Schnitzel von Krumm! In The Other Ark  Sam Jam Balu’s tiny size compared with the enormity of the ark, emphasises the large task ahead of him.

The Lynley Dodd Story is on display at the State Library of Western Australia until 27 January 2016. Presented with AWESOME Festival. For more information visit. www.slwa.wa.gov.au 

  • Guided Tour: The Art of Lynley Dodd (40 mins): Tuesday 3 November 3.30pm, free – bookings required 
  • Lynley Dodd books are available to purchase from The State Library Shop.
  • Families can pick up a free self guided tour booklet at the exhibition

Five minutes with Sally Watts

Western Australian artist Sally Watts’ paper mache dog sculptures and 2D collages feature in our current exhibition Reigning Cats & Dogs.  

We spent five minutes with Sally and discovered the passion and process behind her work as as an artist and illustrator. Here’s what she had to say…

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Puppies under construction produced as part of Sally Watts workshop held at State Library of Western Australia, 2015.

Pets, particularly dogs are the subject of your paper mache sculptures. What inspired you to create the Paper Puppies series?  

Dogs in particular have always been dear to me but because of a life of postings, first though my father and then my husband, it was quite impossible to have a pet. When we were finally able to stay in Australia we welcomed a tiny, energetic bundle of fur into our family of three: a long-legged Jack Russell named Myrmidon Jack Irish Beau.  Beau for short and that was the only thing small about him. He was larger than life and gave us all much affection and amusement with his antics as well as a few heart stopping moments when he climbed a tree and escaped over the garden fence as a young pup.  Jackies are notorious for wanting to know what is around the corner…and the next one too.  I spent a couple of frantic hours calling his name and waving a chicken wing about until he spotted it across the park and claimed his prize (in his eyes anyway).  He was quick to learn “party tricks” and loved to perform to an adoring audience.  As a youngster he would enjoy basking in the sun and keeping a sharp eye out on proceedings in his garden.  This was done sitting on the roof of his kennel-just like Snoopy the cartoon dog . Walks were high on his To-Do-List and socialising with the neighbourhood dogs in the park was a morning occurrence.  He was a patient model when I wanted to draw him and he even found his way into some of my book illustrations. We were fortunate to share such a long time-17 years-with our little doggie dynamo.  We love him still.

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Sally Watts, puppy preliminary drawing, pen on paper,2015

Many of us have attempted some form of paper mache sculpture, often with mixed results.Your Paper Puppies are smooth sculptures, they almost look like they are made out of clay. How do you achieve this affect?  

The construction of the paper and plaster dogs is unusual in that an internal wire armature is not used. at all. The strength comes from binding tape and the many layers of paper and gesso (containing a high percentage of plaster).  The whole process of producing a dog can take  up to two weeks depending on drying time and the number of layers of paper and plaster.
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Recycling and sustainability are key themes in your works.  Why do you feel this is important?

My dog series has grown from a strong desire to contribute to sustainability but in a quirky way.  A way that others may adopt and utilize in their art practice. Using re-purposed materials (newspaper, cardboard, envelopes, scrap paper and junk mail) to form a lively characterisation of man’s best friend, shares the important message of the versatility and re-usability of materials which are normally discarded.  My eco-friendly sculptures start as disregarded rubbish-household paper waste and then take on a new life.

I like to think by encouraging others to make their own “Man’s Best Friend” I am, in a small way, helping to spotlight the great need to reuse and recycle one of our world’s precious commodities.

Your life of travel has influenced your ‘Letter From Home’ series.  How do you determine which items are included in the collages?  What meaning do these works hold for you?

For my collages I have been collecting text, tickets, maps, illustrations and more from my many homes over many years in many countries. I have always been fascinated and inspired by the mundane printed materials of everyday life in our throw-away society.  Each collage in the series Letters from Home begins with long accumulated found items from “home”, wherever that was, and become a part of a personal jig-saw and a journey down Memory Lane.  I take these pieces of memory and layer them.  This layering and patching of words, letters and colours create their own tensions and harmonies within abstract compositions.  From this manipulation emerges a pattern of recalled personal memory. Some text can be read easily, some is intentionally obscured.  Just as a memory is sometimes sharp and intense and at other times only a fragment will surface to tease.  The items themselves are commonplace and trigger a particular thought for me but the same piece, because of it familiarity, will most certainly evoke a completely different, yet no less powerful, memory for others. I use this imagery to evoke memory, both for myself, of a time and place left behind, and for the viewer.  At the same time these words, pictures and patterns are also an integral part of the overall visual design.  My collages are made with original source material.

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Reigning Cats and Dogs is on in The Place at the State Library until 20 July.
Explore artwork of pets from the Peter Williams Collection of Illustrations, including artworks by Julie Vivas, Leigh Hobbs, Shaun Tan, Jane Tanner, Ron Brooks and more. 
For more information visit: State Library Website

Photo booth: picture yourself in history

Put yourself in the picture! Visit our green screen photo booth to have your photo taken in an iconic Western Australian scene.

When: Tuesday 5 May – Thursday 7 May & Saturday 9 May  I   1.30pm – 3.30pm,
Where:  State Library ground floor

20150430_111923_474_IMG_9550_keyedPicture yourself in history is presented as part of the National Trust Heritage Festival: Conflict and Compassion

Tuesday 5 May 1.30 – 3.30pm 
“Love not war brings peace”
Travel back in time to attend an Anti Vietnam war protest in 1972.

May Day Anti-Vietnam War protest march from Stirling Street to Perth Foreshore, March 1972. 380344PD, State Library of Western Australia pictorial collection

May Day Anti-Vietnam War protest march from Stirling Street to Perth Foreshore, March 1972. 380344PD, State Library of Western Australia pictorial collection

Wednesday 6 May 1.30 – 3.30pm 
Strike a pose with the chorus girls of the Princess Picture Theatre at Cottesloe beach

Chorus girls of regular nightly stage show at Princess Picture Theatre, Fremantle, at Cottesloe Beach, 1929, 041367PD, State Library if Western Australia pictorial collection

Chorus girls of regular nightly stage show at Princess Picture Theatre, Fremantle, at Cottesloe Beach, 1929, 041367PD, State Library of Western Australia pictorial collection

Thursday 7 May 1.30 – 3.30pm
Be a part of the crowd of 20 000 people who watched legendary aviator Bert Hinkler fly above Loton Park, Perth Oval in 1928.

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Crowd of people watch the sky as Bert Hinkler arrives in Perth, 1 April 1928, 000614D, State Library of Western Australia pictorial collection

Saturday 9 May 1.30 – 3.30pm 
Be there when Perth streets lit up for Armistice Day 11 November 1918, to mark the end of fighting on the Western Front.

Peace Night illuminations in Perth, 19 July 1919, 112279PD, State Library of Western Australia pictorial collection

Peace Night illuminations in Perth, 19 July 1919, 112279PD, State Library of Western Australia pictorial collection

Saturday 9 May 1.30 – 3.30pm 
Train hard with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force of 1943.

WAAAF training, Fremantle, 2 October 1943, 047149PD , State Library of Western Australia pictorial collection

WAAAF training, Fremantle, 2 October 1943, 047149PD , State Library of Western Australia pictorial collection

  • Visit our website for more information
  • Free family friendly event
  • Photos from the photo booth will available for viewing on the State Library of Western Australia Flickr account. View some of the photographs from last year’s photo booth.
  • All venues at the State Library are wheel chair accessible.

Five minutes with Shaun Tan

Our recent exhibition showcased original artwork from Shaun Tan’s award winning picture book Rules of Summer.  The Perth born artist, writer, and illustrator reveals what he thought about your summer rules, and insights into the mysterious world depicted in the book.

“Never wash your cat” 

I like this one, because we kind of know it’s unnecessary or difficult to wash a cat, but it’s never spelt out, or the consequences discussed. It would be wonderful to see an image accompanying this, where a good and earnest gesture has gone terribly wrong: you were only trying to help the cat! Suddenly it owns you as a pet, has shrunk into a tiny demon, or grown fins and must be set free at the beach, turned to stone, melted, the possibilities are endless. How often has something more or less like this happened in real life? It reminds me of my wife’s story of collecting snow as a child, to make a snowman, from the bonnet of a neighbour’s car: innocent enough, until you realise she was using a snow shovel! Often it’s impossible to know you are making a mistake until you’ve already made it, and not just as a child. It all carries on into adulthood, common sense doesn’t always win.

Never Eat A Turtle

“Never eat a Turtle” 

This is a good one too, because it might draw attention to the arbitrary nature of the human diet. ie. It’s okay to eat tuna or octopus (both quite intelligent and beautiful animals), but we might bulk at dolphins or turtles. Historically, a lot of cultural taboos have revolved around certain foods, without the consequences explained fully. Perhaps in this case, you will become a turtle yourself, or have to carry your own bedroom on your back forever, or simply be known as a turtle-eater and banished from society – and you might never know why. Of course, the real reason is probably that turtles are so vulnerable to exploitation, with many already extinct or heading that way. So any rule that stops people from eating turtles is probably a good one, no matter how absurd it is.

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Left: Never drop your jar, Oil on canvas, 2013 Right, Cat person, Never give your keys to a stranger, Oil on canvas, 2013

You grew up in the northern suburbs of Perth. The illustrations ‘Never drop your jar’ and ‘Never step on a snail’ convey a sense of summer heat which could be likened to the scorching Western Australian sun. What do you remember most about growing up in Perth?

Well certainly the heat and light. The jar-dropping scene comes from memories of rock fishing, which was the main past-time of my family during summer holidays, usually either along the northern coast or down in Margaret River, and it was usually pretty hot with little shelter in sight either way. So not unlike fishing from rooftops (the water tanks in my picture come from New York, which can also be stifling in summer). I was not as good an angler as my brother, and prone to dropping things – fish, tackle, bait – among the rocks. He would then come and help me out, being nowhere near as mean or indifferent as the boy in the book. In any case, the overriding memory of my childhood in Perth is space, light and time. Everything seemed so much bigger and elemental, for better or worse. Summer holidays seemed epic back then, whereas everything these days seems more like diminishing little squares on a calendar!

The unnerving crow/ raven features in each of the paintings, often subtle, but always present. Can you explain a bit about why you chose the crow?

I used to paint crows (or Australian ravens, as they are actually are) quite a lot in my early twenties: large landscapes with quiet houses and trees, no people in sight, but lots of crows. In one respect, this is just what I saw when I went for long walks in the northern suburbs. I don’t see them as an evil or sinister presence, but more like something ancient and enduring, as if they are just watching us come and go in daily life as well as in history, and watching our mistakes too. In the Rules of Summer, they don’t actually do anything bad, but I feel that they might, if given a reason. By themselves, they are just crows. Perhaps they find humans to be the dark and sinister ones.

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Left: Rescue, Always bring bolt cutters, Oil on canvas, 2013 Right: Never loose a fight, Oil on canvas, 2013

There is something about the rescue scene ‘Always bring bolt cutters’ which reminded one of our visitors of the famous bicycle scene in the film ET.  In the process of illustrating do you think about your artistic and cultural influences deliberately or do they appear automatically?

The E.T. similarity never occured to me, but I guess it’s there, and definitely many films have fed my subconscious over the years – The Lost Thing actually has an E.T. resonance also. When I’m drawing or writing, I don’t think so much about influences or references though, I just work with whatever comes to mind, so if they do appear, it’s automatic rather than deliberate. Often I only consider possible origins later, usually when I’m editing a story or painting, which I think is the longest and most thoughtful part of the creative process, more so than the initial flurry of ideas.

A lot of your work deals with surreal imagery. Where does this inspiration come from?

It’s quite hard to say. I also like to paint ‘normal’ things, but then get to a point where it feels too much like an imitation of reality, and it needs to comment on something else, to come from a more unusual perspective. It’s trying to see familiar things as if for the first time. Imagine you’d never seen a fish before, or a tree, or a cloud. That kind of revelatory experience is what I’m looking for in pictures and stories. Painting is a bit like having a second childhood as an adult, seeing everything as new all over again.

In Rules of Summer  the text illustrates the pictures and the pictures the text. Which comes first for you Illustrations or words?

They both come in drips and drabs, and I change them a lot as the book evolves over a long period. I often think of it as a ping-pong relationship, a bit of writing might trigger an image, which triggers another written expression, which that suggests something else to draw. At some point I stop when things feel sufficiently meaningful (or not!) but before they become too explanatory. I also end up removing a lot of stuff from the final version, trying to keep it all a bit mysterious, not giving too much away.

  • View more of your summer words of wisdom on our Flickr
  • Teachers can book Rules of Summer school programs by contacting The Literature Centre Inc Fremantle.
  • Copies of Rules of Summer can be purchased from the State Library book shop.
  • Find out more about Shaun Tan.
  • Watch an interview with Shaun Tan on our YouTube