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.


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

Premier’s Book Awards

The State Library would like to congratulate the winners of the 2008 and 2009 Premier’s Book Awards.  For a full listing of winners please visit our website.  The winning titles are available for purchase from the State Library Shop.

WA author Vincent Serventy dies

Vincent Serventy, Western Australian born writer and conservationist, has died aged 91.  He was the author of over 70 books, all of which can be found at the State Library of Western Australia. During his long life, as well as writing books, he fought many environmental campaigns and hosted a television show called Nature Walkabout.

According to the long obituary in today’s Sydney Morning Herald,

Serventy, who died on Saturday aged 91, was born to Victor and Antica Serventy, who had come from Croatia early last century, met on the Kalgoorlie goldfields and moved to an orchard and vineyard at Armadale, outside Perth, where Vincent was the youngest of eight children. He attended Perth Modern School, graduated in geology and psychology from the University of Western Australia, researched zoology for the CSIRO and taught. One student at Northam High School was Shirley Strickland, the gold medal Olympic athlete who became a committed environmentalist.

Interestingly Serventy was friends with Spike Milligan. In later years, Serventy lived in Sydney. One of his last books, published by Fremantle Press, was 1999’s An Australian Life – Memoirs of a naturalist, conservationist, traveller and writer.

Below is a photograph of magpies taken by Serventy and available in the State Library’s pictorial collection. Its number is 274104PD.


– Nathan Hobby

Deborah Robertson’s Careless

Western Australian Deborah Robertson has had her first novel, Careless, longlisted for Australia’s most prestigious literary prize – the Miles Franklin Award.

Deborah was born in Bridgetown in 1959. She now teaches creative writing at Murdoch University. Her first book was a collection of short stories called Proudflesh, published in 1997 by Fremantle Arts Centre Press. Both her books are available from your public library. (If they haven’t got them in stock, they can order them in.)

Careless tells of the aftermath of a massacre of children. The Matilda blog has collated different reviews of the novel and is well worth checking out:

WA Writer Profile : Bruce Russell

Born in 1943, Bruce Russell writes novels and short stories. His first novel, Jacob’s Air, which won the 1995 TAG Hungerford Award. His second novel was The Chelsea Manifesto in 1999. In 2003, he publishes Channelling Henry, a crime novel. All three novels are published by Fremantle Press.

You can borrow his novels from your local public library. If they don’t have it, they can make an interlibrary loan request from another library. And it’s free!

2007 National Biography Award Shortlist

The Matilda blog reports the 2007 National Biography Award Shortlist. The award is administered and presented by the State Library of New South Wales. The shortlisted works are:

Mr Stuart’s Track by John Bailey No Time for Dances by Gillian Bouras
The Beginner’s Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize: A Life in Science by Paul Doherty
Arthur Tange by Peter Edwards
East of Time by Jacob B Rosenberg
Margaret Olley: Far from a Still Life by Meg Stewart

The winner of the $20,000 award will be announced on Tuesday 27th March.

UPDATE: The winner is Rosenburg’s East of Time.

Info for writers

Writers who want to know about competitions and events in Western Australia should keep an eye on the Writing WA website. It is regularly updated and includes news on literary events in Western Australia.

Last month, the winner of the T.A.G. Hungerford was announced. It is 26 year old Alice Nelson of Nedlands. She is pictured on the Writing WA website with Tom Hungerford himself, who is doing remarkably well at 92! (Last year he even released a book.)

The competition is for the best unpublished manuscript by a previously unpublished Western Australian writer. Past winners include Gail Jones and Simone Lazaroo. The prize money has gone up to $6000, as well as a publishing contract with Fremantle Press.