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Friday, July 8, 2011

Illustrator Spotlight: Shaun Tan

Posted by Dani G.

Shaun Tan is next on our list of featured illustrators.  Raised by an architect in Western Austrailia, Shaun always had an attention to detail.  "I was always head down, looking at objects on the beach, almost fixated on collecting seashells and bumping into something that's unexpected" 

Images from The Arrival

Drawing went hand in hand with this, and he had his first publication in SF magazine at the age of 16. Although becoming a professional artist was never his intention, he couldn't help feeling the thrill of seeing his work in print.  "One of the attractions of working on the books is the idea of people you don't know seeing your work and forming an opinion about it. Seeing your work in print is exciting, especially when you're young. It's that feeling that you have some effect on the world outside of your immediate neighborhood." 

Image from The Rabbits

"One bookseller in Australia took the children's book award sticker off The Red Tree as he felt he could sell more that way, and sold an extra 30-40 copies a month. It's about simple things like font size – people think they can judge the age a book is for by the font size and assume that it's for little kids if it has a big font, but that's silly. I don't worry too much about those things as the creator because I figure that the books will find their own audience and sometimes I like the idea that they can give adults a surprise pleasure."

Image from The Red Tree
"The detail adds an element of unexpected something," Tan explains. "All fiction is false; what makes it convincing is that it runs alongside the truth. The real world has lots of incidental details, so a painting also has to have that element of imperfection and irregularity, those incidental details. I'm constantly testing with the details. I go on a hunch and try it out. I might have a character and have a feeling that he needs to have a hat and so I put it in and it feels right and then I realize that he needs to have a hat because he's trying to hide something."
Image from Tales From Outer Suburbia

You can read more about Shaun and his work at
Request his books by clicking here.

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