Today we welcome Frané Lessac to Alphabet Soup. Frané is an illustrator and author — she’s the illustrator behind Ned Kelly and the Green Sash, Midnight, and The Greatest Liar on Earth (and many, many more books!).
We asked Frané if we could talk to her about A is for Australia: A factastic tour — her latest book. Here it is in all its glory:
Can you tell us a bit about where you live?
I live in the port city of Fremantle in West Australia. From my front porch, I can see a sliver of the Indian Ocean and Rottnest Island. Our house is over 120 years old and we’ve built an art studio in the back garden where I paint.
When you were working on A is for Australia, what came first — the artwork or the text?
Location came first. We had to decide what locations would be depicted for each letter of the alphabet. There were incredible alternatives and that made it hard to choose, but what made it easier was the need to represent all states narrowing down the locations. Next came the text, then art.
How long did it take you to create the book?
I first approached Walker Books with the idea over seven years ago! They were familiar with my other alphabet books based on New York, Washington D.C., Texas and the Caribbean. They knew the format and the market. I wasn’t sure if I was going to write the book myself initially, but with a twist of the arm, I did it!
What do you like to do when you are not illustrating (or writing-after-your-arm-has-been-twisted)?
Over the years I’ve lived in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, London and the Caribbean before settling in Australia twenty-five years ago. My closest friends and my family are spread right across the globe and l love to visit them as much as I can. When I’m home in Fremantle, I like to walk along Dog Beach.
What sort of books did you like to read when you were growing up?
My mother was an avid reader and placed an importance on reading and books. She took me to the library at an early age to pick out my own books. I started with Beatrix Potter and moved onto The Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew mysteries.
What led you to create A is for Australia?
A is for Australia is a celebration of Australian people, places and culture. I wanted to create a book for children so they could discover why Australia is one of the most amazing countries in the world. I hope that visitors from overseas also grab a copy and share it back home.
Do you have a preferred medium?
I use gouache paint on watercolour paper. There’s an enormous range of colours and they are also easy to mix. The paint dries fast and I can paint in layers, which allow me to make any changes easily.
Do you have any advice for young artists?
Believe in your art and don’t compare what you create to anyone else’s. Everyone draws differently. Be confident. If I worried about what other people created, I never would have created one single book. I never went to art school and I was never the best artist in the class, but I always loved to draw and paint.
Are you working on any new projects at the moment?
I recently received a folktale from my UK publisher that’s set in India. It’s called Pattan’s Pumpkins and it’s right up my alley. Jungles and animals and bright pumpkins! Exciting to work with this publisher again — I met the editor over thirty years ago and we created three folktales together set in West Africa, Papua New Guinea and Polynesia.
For a peek inside the pages of A is for Australia, visit Frané’s blog. And you can hear Frané talking about making the book on the book trailer:
You can find out even more about Frané Lessac and her books by visiting her website: www.franelessac.com.
(And teachers will be interested in these A is For Australia Classroom Ideas.)