Thursday 14 December 2017

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Saturday 25 November 2017

Thursday 23 November 2017

People waiting at a tram stop, oil on board 20 x 15cm

Last weekend to see RADIUS at Tinning Street Presents before the works come down. Many thanks to all those who have visited and for the terrific feedback, it's been a pleasure to share this long study of the local neighbourhood with you.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Tales from the Inner City

Moonfish (detail) oil on canvas, 150 x 100cm

A new collection of illustrated short stories will be published by Allen & Unwin in October 2018, similar in style to Tales from Outer Suburbia (2008), about the fraught relationship between humans and animals. I've been working on this project over the past five years and it's great to see it finally come together. I'll post more about it in the lead-up to its release.

Sunday 19 November 2017

First Editions Re-covered: Sotheby's, London

Some animals are more equal than others, Oil-painted resin sculpture with a re-jacketed first edition copy of Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945). 2017, approx. 40cm high.

Detail: piggy bank
Detail: Animal Farm dust-cover, acyrlic, pencil and ink on paper

First Editions Re-covered is a collection of unique first editions with original dust-jackets created by leading artists and designers. Artists chose a book they felt a strong connection to and then created a new jacket or artwork in response to it. The end result is 33 wonderful lots which will be auctioned to benefit House of Illustration.

House of Illustration is the world’s only public gallery solely dedicated to illustration and graphic arts. It is the only UK gallery commissioning new illustration work for public display and runs the only residency for illustrators and graphic artists. House of Illustration is a registered charity receiving no public funding and rely on fundraising to raise over 40% of our income each year. 

The books and their beautiful new covers will be on public display at Sotheby’s in London from Friday 8 December until the auction on Monday 11 December. They will be displayed on Sotheby’s website ( and our website ( from 10 November, and the printed auction catalogue will be available soon afterwards.

To see the works:

Some animals are more equal than others

My own choice was Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945), a book that has had an immense influence on my imagination as a writer and illustrator.  To refresh, it tells the story of Manor farm, where the animals revolt and take over, only to come undone by their own internal politics. One pig in particular, the cunning Napoleon, proves wonderfully adept and dividing the group, fermenting fear, blaming foreigners and revising historical facts. Sound familiar?

When House of Illustration located a rare first edition and sent to to me, I was amazed at how small and unassuming it was, a tiny book bound in green cloth. Small enough, I thought, to not only fit inside a dust-jacket, but a sculptural shrine of some sort. The idea of a piggy-bank for a valuable book came almost immediately, and then raised the question: what makes a book – essentially worthless printed paper – so valuable? Of course, it's the quiet truth it radiates, the very ability to undermine questions of value. Here is the statement written on the inner jacket about why this book is important to me (transcript below):

I first came across Animal Farm by accident: our mother read it to my brother and I, then about 7 and 8(!), thinking it was just another children’s book. She wanted to stop, but we begged her to continue, all the way to the bleak and strange ending. What was it about? As kids, the answer was clear: schoolyard politics in suburban West Australian. Animal Farm remains the book with the deepest subconscious influence on my own work as a storyteller, the absurd fantasy that tells us basic truths about human nature, regardless of time, place or political colour.

Blue milk carton, oil 20 x 15cm

Saturday 18 November 2017

Wednesday 15 November 2017

CICADA - an office story

Cover illustration for Cicada, work in progress, 2017. Oil and acrylic on paper, approx 50 x 70cm.

Yes, a new picture book in the works: Cicada, the story of a hard-working corporate bug. Coming 2018; keep your compound eyes alert! I'll post more developmental work in coming months.

Sunday 12 November 2017

Thursday 9 November 2017

RADIUS online catalogue live

From today you can now view all the works in Radius online, especially if you can't make it to Tinning Street Presents in Brunswick. Thanks to Emma Michaelis for the toil; to Zoe, Briana and Alex for installation assistance this week, and Matt Stanton for photography; enjoy the catalogue.

Wednesday 8 November 2017

If you happen to be in Sweden

Poster for an exhibition of original illustrations in Sigtuna, the oldest town in Sweden, at Konsthall Märsta, November 25 to February 17. It includes work from The Lost Thing, Rules of Summer and The Arrival and other books, as well as some unseen and unpublished works. More about this exhibition here:

Tuesday 7 November 2017

Monday 6 November 2017

Red and blue crates on a white shipping container, oil 20 x 15cm

Monday 30 October 2017

Friday 27 October 2017

Thursday 26 October 2017

Apartment lights at the end of a street, oil 20 x 15cm

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Thursday 19 October 2017

Wednesday 18 October 2017

RADIUS: Tinning Street Presents, November 6-26

Blue duct, oil on board, 15 x 20cm

Radius presents over 100 small oil paintings of objects and scenes found within a short walking distance of the gallery in which they are exhibited, radiating out from a small laneway in Brunswick, Melbourne: dumpsters, tram passengers, kitchen sinks, boom gates and so on. The most ordinary things and the weather and light that describe them are beautiful and mysterious, but it is hard to realise this unless we are compelled to stop and study them beyond a passing glance. Visitors are invited to look at the paintings, then take a short walk to consider again the fascinating shapes, forms and colours of their immediate radius.  

An online catalogue will be available soon, and I'll continue regularly posting paintings from this show here. Fore more info:

Monday 16 October 2017

Thursday 12 October 2017

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Rummaging though some old stuff I came across this drawing from about 15 years ago, one of the first test pieces for The Arrival which I'd forgotten about. At this time, long before the book was published or even fully sketched out, the drawing style was reminiscent of Raymond Briggs (The Snowman, When the Wind Blows), who has always had a big influence on my picture book work. The 'reptiles' I later felt were too defined here - better that we don't see their heads or too much other detail, lest they become overly literal in the imagination. So the style and realisation here is not right, but the basic image of the family walking down a street with something dark migrating across the sky was one of two or three key images that seeded the rest of the story.

Wednesday 4 October 2017

Spare Parts Theatre Rules of Summer. Puppeteers Allan Girod and Nick Pages-Oliver. Picture: Simon Santi The West Australian

Congrats to the cast and crew of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre's adaptation of Rules of Summer, which is currently playing at the Dolphin Theatre, UWA (Perth). The show is a wonderful mix of characters, objects and dreamlike situations extrapolated in a very innovative way from the book, actually less an adaptation than a reinvention of parts. And many of those parts bursting from the stage into the audience and occupying the entire threatre space: bubbles, snails, wind, recalcitrant socks. I always imagined this would be a terrific book to recreate theatrically simply because it is so open-ended and 'unwritten', and SPPT have picked up those threads with their trademark originality and insight. Excellent performances full of humour and pathos, and wonderful to see kids totally buying into this universe and raising a ruckus! Rules of Summer  runs until October 8.

Wednesday 6 September 2017

Desert Storyteller, pastel on paper

Today (or rather yesterday, I'm a bit late with this post) is Indigenous Literacy Day, a celebraton that aims to raise money for excellent programs to promote reading and distribute quality books to Indigenous communities across Australia. Please join me in making a donation to @TheIndigenousLiteracyFoundation today to support young and keen readers in remote Australia. #ILD2017”

Monday 21 August 2017


Ghibli! pastel and pencil, 50 x 70cm

As part of the month-long Celebrate Studio Ghibli, I've been invited to create a special poster for the event by both Madman Entertainment (the Australian distributor with whom I worked on The Lost Thing) and Studio Ghibli in Japan. The brief: create anything you like in the spirit of the studio's films, but in your own style. Too much inspiration to choose from! Well, if I have to choose, I've always been fascinated by character Kamaji, who stokes the bath house boiler in Spirited Away: I imagined he would be the ideal multi-tasking projector operator in a Ghibli universe, assisted of course by a young girl – a favoured protagonist of so many Ghibli films – and a few hundred archivist soots. 

I also love the working drawings of Ghibli studio artists, from concept art to loose storyboards, and how the liveliness of hand-rendering lies at the heart of so much Ghibli animation, and so wished to pay tribute to this craft in my own way, keeping the image fresh and sketchy.

CELEBRATE STUDIO GHIBLI is a month-long event that will show screenings across cinemas in Australia and New Zealand, from August 24th to September 20th, 2017, and I will be briefly introducing one of my all-time favourites Totoro at the opening night in Melbourne. A rare opportunity to see all the studio's work on the big screen.

For more info, and also how to acquire a poster, visit Madman's site,

Sunday 23 July 2017

The unremembered past (dream of a black submarine) oil, 25 x 20cm

Another painting for the Small Works group show at Beinart Gallery, Brunswick, July-August. Artists have a size restriction but an open brief. The three works I've produced appear to have war themes, which must be a subconscious channeling of current events. It's also fascinating how war and amnesia seem to go hand in hand, as if one cannot exist without the other.

Thursday 13 July 2017

Angels, oil 25 x 20cm
Another work for the upcoming show Small Works at Beinart Gallery, Brunswick. The online catalogue is now live:

Tuesday 11 July 2017

Another postcard for the Migrations exhibition (see below), folded paper, acrylic, pencil. Pigeon origami design by Ligia Montoya (1920-1967)

Sunday 9 July 2017

Imagination = hope, pencil on postcard

A drawn postcard, currently in transit for an exhibition called Migrations in September in BIBIANA, the house of art for children in Bratislava, Slovakia. The exhibition will be an installation of 200 to 300 postcards of flying or perching birds, created and mailed by different artists from around the word, and runs parallel to the Bratislava Illustration Biennale.

I always imagined the creature from The Arrival is only a juvenile form of another animal, like a metaphor for the newly arrived migrant who has yet to grow and mature. Perhaps this is what it looks like in some intermediate form, when it's time to leave an immigrant's apartment and find a new place for itself.

Wednesday 5 July 2017

Edge of Tomorrow, year 2000 Book Week poster, acyrlic, oil and collage, 1999.

IMAGINE IF ... Illustration exhibition, Canberra

From Monday 10 July through Wednesday 30 August, you can explore the original artworks of many of Australia’s best known picture book illustrators, inlcuding preliminary artwork and manuscripts revealing aspects of creative process. There will also be sessions for children and professional development for teachers, librarians and budding writers and illustrators.

Clive Price Suite, Building 1, University of Canberra
Monday – Friday 10.00am – 2.00pm

Creators on exhibit are Kerry Argent, Graeme Base, Freya Blackwood, Ron Brooks, Neil Curtis, Kylie Dunstan, Vivienne Goodman, Peter Gouldthorpe, Bob Graham, Brian Harrison-Lever, Elizabeth Honey, Patricia Mullins, Narelle Oliver, Matt Ottley, Gregory Rogers, Jane Tanner and myself. 

It's a tradition that CBCA award winning illustrators are asked to create posters for following Book Week celebrations, and much of this artwork, such as my poster for the year 2000 (produced while I was working on 'The Lost Thing') will be shown for the first time. More info about IMAGINE IF here

Monday 3 July 2017

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre's The Arrival. Photograph by Rebecca Mansell.

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre's adaptation of The Arrival for young audiences continues it's acclaimed run at the Dolphin Theatre, University of Western Australia, Crawley, now until 15 July. A national tour of VIC, SA, NSW, ACT and QLD to follow, opening at the Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo (VIC) on 11 August. Visit for details. Congratulations to the SPPT team for bringing such energy, originality and heart once again to this production... I guess it's over ten years since the show first took to the stage! I recall it slightly preceded the book, given that I worked with director Philip Mitchell based on unpublished drafts, sketches and notes, so not so much an adaptation as a sister project.

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Weapon, oil 25 x 20cm

I'm very pleased to be included in the Small Works exhibition at beinArt Gallery in July and August, at Sparta Place in Brunswick (Melbourne). About 60 figurative artists will be represented, where the only brief constraint is that no dimension exceed 25cm. The show opens, free to the public, Saturday, July 29, 6 pm – 9 pm and runs until August 20. More info at beinArt, a gallery you ought to visit at other times too if you have any interest in very well-considered weirdness.

Monday 26 June 2017

Dark palms, Santa Monica, oil 20 x 15cm, 2012
Several of my small oil paintings can now be seen (and are available for sale) at two places in Fremantle, FOUND at the Fremantle Arts Centre and The Literature Centre (the latter only accessible to the general public on their open days or by appointment).

Sunday 18 June 2017

Sketchbook page, 'some religions only last a single afternoon', pencil & ballpoint pen

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Monday 22 May 2017

Exhibitions and events

NEVER BE LATE FOR A PARADE: An exhibition of book illustrations by Shaun Tan - on now

16 May - June 15, Parkes Library, Parkes (regional NSW).
This exhibition features a collection of limited edition prints from best-known picture books including The Arrival, The Red Tree, The Lost Thing and the Singing Bones. More about this here:


Currently the terrific exhibition put together by ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) about the development of the short film The Lost Thing, is on show at the Perc Tucker gallery in Townsville, the eleventh and final stop on its national tour. The exhibition will close there on the 2nd July. More about it here.


I’m appearing in the #mwfschools program this year on a panel, dicussing art and the perils of teenage-hood. It's at ACMI, Monday August 28, goes for about 45 minutes. You can view the general program here There is usually a book signing table with other authors after every event so you are welcome to meet me here if even you don't attend the event.

RADIUS - November

Later this year I will have another exhibition of small oil paintings in the artist-run Brunswick gallery Tinning Street Presents. Following on from previous shows 'Little Brunswick' and 'Every Place is the Same Place', this exhibition will feature 100 scenes restricted to landscapes found within a short walking radius of the gallery itself, observing all things which might normally escape notice: lanes, footpaths, clouds, chairs, kitchen sinks, train station pedestrians etc. 

The show runs from November 6 - 26. Tinning Street Presents is located in the middles of Ilhan Lane, close to Anstey Train station, and the intersection of Albion St and Sydney Rd in Brunswick. More info about the show, plus examples, as November approaches.

The Faery Handbag, pencil A4
An older illustration for the Kelly Link collection Pretty Monsters. You can read the story here.

Thursday 13 April 2017

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Monday 3 April 2017

Rocket Clock

Who (among Australian readers) remembers the Play School rocket clock? What a weird and glorious thing it was, first introduced in 1975 with the arrival of colour TV on the ABC's pre-eminent show for pre-schoolers. Ostensibly a way of teaching children to read the time, the highlight was always finding out what mysterious thing would be hidden below the fuselage – an animal? a toy? a household object? – all strangely revolving to a soundtrack worthy of Doctor Who. 

A TV screen shot of the original rocket clock

Recently I was asked to help redesign a new rocket clock, given it's been 50 years of Play School on air, with many various clocks in between: train, flower, hickory-dickory and more. A great privilege given that, born in 1974, the rocket clock became attached to my subconscious, no less so than a vinyl bean-bag to the seat of my tiny corduroy pants. Of course, while its impossible to surpass the iconic original, there's still a chance to hypnotise a new generation of toddlers more used to wide-screen aspect ratios and digital clocks (for which the original might now lack both proportion and currency). 

Initial sketch for a rocket clock with 'sky wheels' and wings

Mine is an homage to the original, retaining its simple cones, cylinders and carnivalesque abstraction – decidedly non-aerodynamic, not really a rocket. I also wanted it to seem like something a kid could easily build themselves out of cardboard and paint. Two new kinetic elements - wings that can open and close, and a turning milky-way behind the rocket, add interest and better fills the widescreen format of digital TV. This wing-and-dial design actually descends from the 'lift balloon' in The Arrival, which distributes new immigrants throughout a city: the wings indicate flight, the dial time.

detail from The Arrival, Lothian Books, 2006

 Paper model of the rocket clock (using foam-core board), about 50cm tall

Digitally coloured model, testing out a red and blue scheme (one of several)

The final clock, courtesy of Play School and the ABC workshop, wings in 'lift-off' half-turn

Where the original rocket clock turned around to reveal a small diorama behind its skirt, this one has sliding doors that open an close. In part, this is because as a kid I always longed for a sense of literal closure in the Play School rocket clock, that the little toys and other objects inside were actually being sent on an adventure in space. Maybe they will one day be found by alien anthropologists, who will marvel over toothbrushes, teddy bears and tea pots, these sacred miracles from the planet we call home.

Many thanks to the ABC and the Play School team for giving me this opportunity to work with them, and for the fine attention to detail in construction and shooting. It's very fulfulling to contribute something back to a program that was such a fixture of my own childhood, and which continues to fascinate my three-year-old daughter, who always wants to know what's under the clock. I hope other parents of my generation will enjoy this too. You can see the rocket clock from April 3 on ABC Kids (22)