authors, illustrator, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the book baton: Kelly Canby


It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Kelly Canby

Today the book baton is passed to Kelly Canby. Kelly is an internationally published illustrator and author of picture books, early reader books, chapter books, and colouring books. She lives in Western Australia — you can see her above, busy drawing and painting.

You might recognise some of these books:

Last week Lorraine Marwood asked:
Hello Kelly, I see you do illustrations for a range of children’s genres, as well as colouring books!  Can you tell us a bit about your illustrative journey and what you’d passionately love to draw in the future?

Kelly Canby answers:
Thanks for the question, Lorraine! My illustrative journey begins many years ago at university. I studied design at Curtin where I majored in Illustration and minored in Graphic Design and Advertising. When I graduated I freelanced for while as an illustrator for advertising agencies and eventually landed a full time graphic design job with the design studio of my dreams. From there I moved between working in design studios and advertising agencies until I became senior designer at a very wonderful, very creative and fun (really fun) design studio.

Then I needed to do something completely different so I bought a florist. And I made flower arrangements.

And once that was out of my system, I started to think about design and illustration again. Also, around this time, I was buying a lot of picture books for my son and I fell completely in love with them knew that’s what I had to do. I had to make children’s books for the rest of my life! So I hopped online and discovered SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators), I made myself a portfolio of work, got an agent and began. That was about 4 and half years ago and since then I have illustrated around 14 books, written and illustrated one picture book, with another picture book that I’ve written in the works with Fremantle Press as I type, and I’m having so much fun doing it all.

As for what I’d passionately love to draw in the future … Well, on the very top of my wish list for a long time was to illustrate a middle grade novel with lots and lots of detailed, full page, black and white drawings, which I happen to be doing right now with Allen & Unwin so I am one very happy illustrator, indeed!

Visit Kelly Canby’s website to find out more about her and her books:

PlatypusAnd now Kelly Canby passes the baton to the next visitor — Sue Whiting.

Sue writes picture books, chapter books and novels for teens.

Kelly asks:
Hi Sue, my question for you is, when you’re in the planning stage of a new book, do you prefer to work in a quiet space where it’s just you and your thoughts or do you head out to cafes and parks where you’re surrounded by outside sources of inspiration – people/colour/activity – to help develop your ideas?
Pass the book baton is taking a break for the school holidays. The series will resume at the end of April.
See you then!






authors, illustrator, National Year of Reading

Meet the author-illustrator: Mark Wilson

Mark WilsonIn every issue of Alphabet Soup magazine, you’ll meet an Australian writer or illustrator. In the summer issue we talk to Mark Wilson who is an author AND an illustrator. It’s hard to fit the whole conversation in the magazine, so we’ve posted the whole interview here on the blog. Read on!

Where do you live?

I live in Frankston with Ros, my wife and our two dogs—Toby and Couta. (Silky terrier and a Shitsu Cross.) We have 7 fish in our pond, and lots of native birds visit as well. We live near the beach where I go for long walks when I get the chance.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I have so many stories in my head! At the moment, I am obsessed with trying to save sea turtles and whales, and will be doing that forever. All are endangered thanks to plastic bags and coastal developments, amongst many other things. Also anything about Australian history inspires me. The explorers and pioneers were so brave and determined to do what they did!

An idea can come from a photograph, an article in a newspaper, or something someone said. I write everything down and then it might pop up as a part of a story

Stranded (cover)

How did you come to be a writer and illustrator?

All I ever wanted to be was an artist, or a fighter pilot or an architect. I was terrible at maths, so the last two were out! I loved telling stories in pictures when I was little, and still do. Always loved just drawing things!

Was it easy to get your first book published?

It was very good luck! I had a weird collection of surrealistic black and white drawings and applied for an illustrator’s job on Pursuit Magazine in Melbourne. I got it—my first illustrations were pretty strange too!

Does the story influence your choice of materials?

Never. I use everything from a pencil to house paint, including derwents, ink sand, dirt, feathers etc. Lots of pencil drawing go straight into my books.

When you are creating your own books, which comes first—the artwork or the story text?

Usually the pictures, then I make up a story around them. Lately I have been writing stories first, which is strange for me. An idea can also come from a photograph, an article in a newspaper, or something someone said. I write everything down and then it might pop up as a part of a story.

A Day to Remember (cover)When you are illustrating a book written by someone else, do you discuss the story and illustrations with them?

Always. I love to hear an author’s ideas and they often see things that I wouldn’t see. Gary Crew was great for illustration ideas, and Jackie French had some wonderful ideas for A Day to Remember, and I used them in the illustrations too!

Are you working on a book at the moment? 

Angel of Kokoda (cover)I am working on a book about the Vietnam War that is the 3rd book in the Children in War Trilogy. (The other books in the series are My Mother’s Eyes and Angel of Kokoda). It will be out early next year. There is also a new Ben and Gracie’s Art Adventure book underway!

Do you have any advice for young writers and artists?

Write everything down. Keep a journal and make notes for your stories in it.

Observations, quotes, discussions, interesting things—write them all down.

Writing takes practise, so keep writing; stories, poems, song lyrics, anything and everything. Talk to your grandma and grandpa—discover the stories in your own family, there are so many!

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I love singing in my blues band, playing drums and reading books about the Romans, Vikings and history in general.

Is your writing influenced by any writers in particular?

The Australian Impressionist painters Frederick McCubbin and Arthur Streeton are my favoutites. I am also inspired by the French Impressionist Monet, and Australian Illustrators Robert Ingpen and Shaun Tan. You can tell I’m a bit of a melting pot, but the Australian Impressionists painters mainly. I particularly love children’s paintings. They use really fresh colours and simple shapes. I am trying to get back to doing that myself!

Ben and Gracie's Art Adventure (cover)

Check out Mark Wilson’s website to learn more about him and his books.

© November 2012 “Interview with Mark Wilson” by Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)

VIC event: Ann James exhibition

Audrey Goes to Town by Christine Harris, ill. Ann James (cover)If you live in Victoria, don’t miss the exhibition of Ann James’s original illustrations.

31 Mar to 15 Apr 2012 (Go on Thursday 12 April and you can meet Ann James and have your books signed!)
Time:   Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm
Where: Foyer Gallery, Gasworks
Suitable for all ages.

For more information, visit the Gasworks website.

competitions, illustrator, teachers' resources

Exhibition of picture book artwork (VIC)

Free exhibition: Look! The art of Australian picture books today
If you’re in Victoria, take your family to the Keith Murdoch Gallery to see illustrations from many of our favourite illustrators (and probably yours, too!). It’s free, and there are free events and activities for adults and kids, tours and a kids’ drawing competition.
The exhibition runs until Sunday 29 May 2011. For all the details, visit the State Library of Victoria website.
We’d love to go, but we’re in Perth. If you’ve been, tell us what you thought of it!