Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Teresa Culkin-Lawrence

What's this illustration for?

This illustration was done for a book called The Other Side, written by Sally Morgan and published by the Australian National Museum, Canberra. Authors are invited to look at the museum’s collection and take their inspiration into a children’s story. In this picture, the two main characters, an aboriginal boy and his grandfather have met in the boy’s dream as animals. Alex, as a joey asks his grandfather, a goanna how to get home.

Do you have to wait for a flash of inspiration - how do you start?

I always find words inspiring – just reading the text will start to prompt pictures in my head. It’s the interpretation of those inspirations that can be difficult – as Marjory said last week, ‘getting the hand to do what the mind sees’ is a tricky business.

What's your favourite media for creating pictures?

For the above illustration, I loved using charcoal pencil as it gives me lovely blacks and greys which then contrast dramatically against a white background. When I use colour, I love watercolour and coloured pencil. And lately, I have gone back to etching which I hadn’t done for many years and can’t wait to use that medium in the future.

Do you experience illustrator's block - if so, what do you do about it?

Yes, sometimes all I want to do is go and have a sleep. But I heard a great tip from a writer once who said he sits down to write, telling himself this will be ‘just for an hour’. By the time that hour is finished he said, he is always absorbed in the project. I have tried this many times and it works. It’s a great little trick you can play on yourself!

How did you get your start as an illustrator?

I applied for a full time job as an art director's assistant at a publishing house. During the interview, I mentioned I had an 18 month old daughter and immediately knew I wouldn't get it. But, I did ask if I could be added to the list of freelancers on their files - the art director mentioned that sometimes they would do up to 30 titles and thus needed access to lots of talent. Some months later, I was offered my first book with that publisher. I was so thrilled and so terrified! After that I went to other publishers with my book and my folio. One that I walked into - Macmillan - said they were just wondering who to give their latest Maths Book to - turned out it was me! And then, I was off....

Who or what has influenced your work?

As a child, I loved Edward Ardizzone's illustrations and his work has influenced my thinking about art very much. I don't think I ever actually read his books, just got lost in the pictures. And I remember Angelo being read to me in prep - illustrated by Quentin Blake - and being enthralled by the story and pictures. Sarah Garland - loose and bright and funny, Julie Vivas - the gesture and weight of her figures, Narelle Oliver - her amazing skill as a printmaker and David Frazer - another stunning printmaker are just some of the other artists and illustrators whose work I love and admire.

What's the worst thing about being a freelancer?

Finding the discipline to do the above. And, feeling a bit isolated from others – which makes networking important, especially with things like negotiating for a project.

And the best?

Sometimes actually having a sleep instead of working… But really, creating a book – WOW! What a wonderful thing to be able to do.

Visit The Style File to see more of Teresa’s work


or her website at:


1 comment:

Jason said...

Can you please change Teresa's website to the following as it is now fully up and running.