What is your most recent creative project?
My brand-new book is, A Is for Australian Reefs, published by Walker Books Australia. It’s a deep dive into the biodiversity of Australia’s remarkable coastline. From sharks to octopuses, dolphins, manta rays and seahorses – the book is full of fascinating facts about our underwater reefs that are bustling with the most amazing sea creatures.
What new projects are on your current horizon?
I recently completed the artwork for Our Country – Where History Happened, written by, Mark Greenwood. It’s a non-fiction picture book featuring little known and well-known historical sites scattered across all states. As that goes to the printer, I’m having lots of fun painting the Big Book of Australian Nursey Rhymes – a collection of well-known nursery rhymes that I’ve reworked to incorporate an Aussie twist.
Why do you love what you do and what inspired you to begin?
I love encouraging children to develop their curiosity and to celebrate their diversity and unique heritage. When I lived on the Caribbean Island of Montserrat, I noticed that the children on the island had little in the way of books where they could identify themselves and their place in the world. Those children and the island became the inspiration for my first book, My Little Island, published in 1983.
If you could collaborate with any other creative in the world, who would it be and what would you make together?
I’ll aim big – the Dalai Lama, Barack Obama, or Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones. Hopefully, they have a picture book just waiting for me. When I get their call, my brush is ready!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given that you try to incorporate in your approach to work and creativity?
When I began my career, I didn’t realise that my primitive style of painting was a legitimate art form known as naive art. The best advice that still resonates with me is from the title of a book written by Henry Miller – Paint as You Like and Die Happy. It removes doubt and instills confidence.
When and where do you feel most creative?
Travelling is a major source of inspiration for my creativity. What enthuses me most is the vibrant scenery, the delicacy of the unique flora, fauna, local light and colour. Visiting the sites where my stories take place ensures my artwork represents a broad spectrum of experiences and an authentic expression of the diversity that can be found in every country and community. To tell stories requires respect, imagination, passion, and enthusiasm. I hope readers get this sense of atmosphere and insight from my books. Touring schools also gives me a chance to meet hundreds of eager-to-learn young people whose questions inspire me to keep creating books.
When you’re not working on projects, how do you relax?
Walking along the beach with my dog, Banjo, taking a walk in a forest and catching-up with friends. I’ve also taken up pottery and love creating whimsical fun objects.
If you could travel to any destination tomorrow, where would it be and why?
Can I say the entire planet? One of my greatest passions is travelling. If I could travel anywhere, I would buy a round-the-world ticket and visit my dearest friends, who are scattered around the globe.