Thursday, January 15, 2009

Shaun Tan

1. What's this illustration for?

This is an illustration for a very short story (less than a page long), featured in the book 'Tales from Outer Suburbia', one of fifteen such illustrated stories. This one is about a strange rite performed by neighbourhood dogs after the death of an unknown pet, although the illustration actually inspired the story rather than the other way around.

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

It can be either, but usually I can't afford to wait around, I will start researching a subject of interest. I am also in the habit of recording interesting ideas in a sketchbook, when they occur, so I can use them later, when they don't!

3. How did you get your start as an illustrator?

Fairly gradually, working on small, largely non-paying projects. My first illustrations were for small-press semi-professional science fiction magazines with modest circulations. Not many people may have seen the work, but those who did were very interested in it, and many went on to recommend me to larger publishers.

4. Who or what has influenced your work?

That's such an enormous question, it's almost impossible to answer. But in summary, I think growing up in Perth had a big influence - the landscape and solitude of that city; the encouragement of family and friends, and an interest in science fiction and fantasy, mixed with an equal interest in 'fine arts', so I more or less studied at uni to be an art historian or critic. I have an equal interest in 'high art' and 'popular culture', which are more intermixed these days, which is a good thing.

5. What's your favourite media for creating pictures?

Either simple pencil, as in the above image, or oils. Oil painting is slow enough for me, and is quite a forgiving medium, as I tend to change my mind a lot.

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

Yes, frequently: I just go and do some other kind of activity. Either that, or research, and look at how other artists might have solved similar problems.

7. What's the worst thing about being a freelancer?

Mostly dealing with clients who are difficult, or change their mind, or are part of a committee that does not have great acumen when it comes to visual art. I feel much of my success has been due to careful negotiation, and good communication, when it comes to working with new people. More and more I've worked towards focusing on my own projects so that I can have greater creative control, and be less answerable to others.

8. And the best?

The freedom to do the above, and to work at a level I am happy with, and manage my time effectively. Being a freelancer has also taught me to be more entrepreneurial, to work in many different areas too, not just book illustration or painting.

9. What are you working on at the moment?

A short animated film, an adaptation of my picture book 'The Lost Thing', which is a fascinating process. My role is as a lead designer and director, working with experienced animators.

10. Where can we see more of your work?

On my website, , which has plenty of examples of all kinds of painting and illustration projects. I'd also look out for the Pixar film 'WALL.E' which I produced a small amount of design work for.


Shaun tan

1 comment:

Cecilia said...

I love Shaun Tan's illustrations. I consider them the thinking person's art. Well they always get me thinking anyway.