Please describe your chosen illustration
I used acrylic paints for this illustration. I love acrylics for so many reasons. They dry fast, the colours are vibrant and what you see is what you get, generally. Once an illustration is printed, you don’t want any surprises ie. Too light, too dark, streaks that you hadn’t noticed in your artwork. With acrylics, I find that the finished print is very close to the actual artwork. Most of the time.
This illustration is for a book that I’m working on about a little girl, Rose and her toy rabbit, Poppy. In many ways the relationship between them is akin to a mother and her child. Poppy is like a typical toddler.
When did you know you had a talent for illustration?
I’ve loved drawing for as long as I can remember. When I was little, there were Disney cards in the bread packets. I would collect them and copy the characters. I used to make books out of stiff paper and glue in the cards and my drawings. I would spend hours working on these books. I also made posters of the characters and they were hanging all over our house. I still have some of my old drawings but sadly the books, to my mother’s chagrin, (and mine), got thrown out with the newspapers one week, many, many years ago.
I don’t actually know if I have a talent for drawing although my grade 3 teacher told my parents that I was artistic at a parent/teacher interview after I did a collage of a rubbish tip. Honestly, it was just rubbish. Little bits of paper and polystyrene shapes. I remember I had great fun doing it and didn’t think that much of it. If only it could always be that easy.
Have you ever studied your craft at an institution of any sort?
I was determined to have a career in art. When it came to studying, I wanted to do something that I could hopefully earn a living from. “Commercial Art” sounded so exciting to me. By the time I got to study it, it had become, “Graphic Design” and later, “Communication Design.” It was great in that I developed some skills and met some fantastic people, who to this day, 28 years later, are still my dearest friends, but it really didn’t satisfy my illustration needs. After I finished the diploma, I went overseas and worked as a freelance illustrator in Holland for 8 years. That was a great time of my life. I was doing what I really loved and getting paid for it.
Have you illustrated any books?
By the time I returned to Australia in 1996, I had 2 young children and it was then that my love of children’s books really took off. In 1999 my first book, Baby Bear goes to the Zoo was published. After 14 books, this one is still my favourite. It turned out exactly the way I wanted it to. I wrote it for my then 2 year old daughter.
I have written and illustrated 8 books and illustrated a further 6. Of course I prefer to do both, but illustrating someone else’s work also has its pros. It has a certain detachment, perhaps making it easier to be freer creatively. Generally there is no contact with the author but recently I had the pleasure of illustrating Tania Cox’s stories, What makes my Mum Happy and My Dad and Me. I had met Tania many years ago at a writer’s retreat when we had both just finished our first book. For a while we kept in contact. As happens when you have children and just life in general, we lost touch so it was great to reconnect through her books and we did correspond during the process.
Deadlines are a necessary evil. I don’t know if, for me that they are the major factor in interfering with my creativity. I think as an illustrator, you are constantly wondering if what you are doing is going to please the people it's intended for.
I have been teaching short courses in Children’s Book Illustration at CAE (Council of Adult Education) since 2001 and short courses in Writing and Illustrating a Children’s Picture Book and Illustration Styles and Techniques at RMIT since 2003. I also teach Drawing at RMIT in Foundation Studies, Art Design and Architecture.
Who is your favourite Australian children’s book illustrator and why?
Bob Graham would have to be my favourite illustrator. His illustrations tell you so much about his characters and there is such an understatement to his words.
What’s your website or blog address (if you have one)?
My website address is www.lorettebroekstra.com