Liz Anelli Brings Life to Desert Lake

imageLiz Anelli is the author and award-winning illustrator of many, many colourful projects including children’s books, magazines, advertisements and educational websites. Her stunning artwork extends to printmaking, graphic design, watercolours, gouache and collage. Howzat!, View From the 32nd Floor and One Photo are a few of the picture books she has illustrated. Today I am thrilled to welcome Liz to Boomerang Books to tell us more about her art work, research and the illustrative creation of her latest gorgeous book, Desert Lake.

The Review:

Desert Lake is a fascinating story of survival and prosperity amongst the flora and fauna inhabiting the seemingly barren land of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre.

imagePresented with two narratives, Pamela Freeman‘s text poses as both a lyrical and animated format and opposite, a smaller font with interesting facts. She tells the story of the rains as they arrive from the north to awaken life beneath the salty surface and enable a propagating community of birds and other wildlife to the area. Liz Anelli‘s brilliant illustrations beautifully depict this contrast, intensity, warmth and spirit with her multi-textured and layered paint, lines, pattern and complementary earthy colours. Even as the birds migrate to more plentiful waters when the lake dries, Anelli’s images carry forth the promise and richness of this outwardly desolate world.

Desert Lake literally thrives on its magical presence. It is captivating, rewarding and exquisite on so many levels. This is one information book that all primary classrooms would benefit from in their studies of Australian topography, climate change and the arts, and for the simple pleasure.

The Interview:

Welcome Liz! You have a style of art that has a distinctive flair yet is diverse in its themes and technique. Did you always paint this way or has your art changed over the years?

My style has certainly evolved over the years. I started out as a line and watercolour wash girl, then discovered how beautifully gouache paint sits on grey paper and gravitated towards dabs of bright colour within a black ink line (which I still do now for some illustrations). About 15 years ago I started incorporating collage and printmaking and learnt Photoshop so that I could choose which elements to cut and stick manually and which to add using my computer. Now I dip into materials and techniques depending on the age audience, subject and purpose of the illustration.

Do you have a favourite piece or project that you have worked on? Why is it special to you?

imageSO hard to choose! I think I love my illustrated maps above anything else, especially the first one I made of Newcastle, NSW because it was my way of befriending my new city (and country). I cycled around the Port-side suburbs for weeks with my camera and sketchbook, stopping to record every interesting building and industry and asking millions of questions. I found myself helping a prawner boat unload its catch, scampering up the side of a grain ship, in awe under the massive stacker-reclaimer wheel at a coal terminal and whizzing round the docks with a minibus full of excited school children who all wanted to show me their ‘best place to play’.

How did you come to illustrating books for children? What do you love most about this industry?

I illustrated (and wrote) my first picture book whilst still an art student way, way back. But as a child I was much more into reading and writing stories than drawing. My sisters, brother and I indulged in hours of imaginative play. My favourite was the one where we acted out snippets of radio programmes, pretending the stations were tuning in and out as we drove on long car journeys… must have been VERY irritating for our parents (but they never did replace us with a real car radio). I got hooked on drawing at Art School. You walk along the street and see stories being played out all around you. I draw what’s going on and voila… a picture book emerges.

The texture, depth, symmetry and combination of colours and media in Desert Lake are simply divine. How did you plan your process? What were the most challenging aspects in creating this book?

imageThe hardest thing is knowing when to stop. I try out colours and textures on separate bits of paper (and sometimes scan them in when they work better than the ’real thing’). I do a lot of research drawing at the ‘roughs’ stage but then clear my references away to make the artwork more intuitively. There are so many choices to make but in the end each spread has to work as a whole picture in relation to its neighboring pages.

What was it like to collaborate with author Pamela Freeman? How much creative licence did you have working on Desert Lake?

imageWalker’s ‘Nature Story Series’ allow author and illustrator a more poetic approach than other picture books and I had the sense of a huge amount of freedom. The manuscript changed a lot along the way and although this entailed more work for both of us I think it made the book even better in the end. Our editor played an expert role as catalyst. My compositions come from a lot of real life observation (I had an ASA Research Award to visit the Outback) mixed up with a good shake of imagination. It was cold and dry when I went to the Lake so I also spent hours drawing and watching the colours on the water here in Newcastle Harbour.

What little secrets can you share about the making of Desert Lake? Any minute details that your audience should particularly be aware of?

An insect (that triangular shaped back and white one who appears on several pages) crawled into the seat of my jeans while I was drawing at the lake, I swallowed more than one bush fly and I went to sleep at night with all my clothes on… it was very, very cold. Can you see the little bug hiding on the night-time scene near the end of the book? Tracing paper collage makes very good frogspawn – just the right translucency.

Fun Question! If you lived in the desert which animal would you choose to be and why?

Hopping mouse – so sweet! NOT a bush fly.

You have recently launched a marvellous exhibition of your artwork at the Lovett Gallery in Newcastle. Congratulations! Please tell us a bit more about it. What have been the highlights so far?

We wanted to allow viewers inside the process of creating a picture book so have included the story of our research trips and examples of my storyboards as well as all the original paper artworks. Visitors can spot the variations between these and the printed pages, working out for them selves what parts I ‘collaged’ on screen. We deliberately asked the framer to include all my rough notes and workings around the edges of each piece and I love it when children ask me if I know there is an apple sticker on one… yes, I eat a lot of apples when I’m working.

imageI’m also enjoying watching another piece of desert floor come to life. We created a 4 metre long panel of one of my sketchbook paintings of the sandy ground with cracks and a few scrubby plants on it and I’ve been helping children make creatures using collage, paint and print in workshops. I think there are over 100 creepy crawlies on there already.

What would be your greatest piece of advice for emerging artists wanting to succeed in illustrating children’s books?

Don’t give up! Network, work hard and make pictures about the things you love not just what you think publishers would like to see. Be yourself, that’s the thing they won’t find anywhere else.

Thank you so much for talking with us, Liz! It’s been a real pleasure! 🙂

To connect with Liz Anelli please visit her website, Facebook and Twitter pages.

Her Desert Lake exhibition displays original artwork, sketches and studies of Liz’s research in the outback. It is being held at the Lovett Gallery in the Newcastle Region Library until May 14. Click here for more details.

Desert Lake is written by Pamela Freeman, illustrated by Liz Anelli and published by Walker Books, 2016.

Pre-order your copy of Desert Lake.

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Review: One Boy Missing by Stephen Orr

9781922147271This is one of the best crime books I have read in a while. Totally absorbing, emotionally gripping it is one of those books that sinks its teeth into you and doesn’t let go. Set in the South Australian town of Guilderton the book not only explores life in a small rural town but the bonds between fathers and sons.

The book begins with a nine-year-old boy being taken. There is only one witness but other than that nothing else to go on. No child has been reported missing. Was this an abduction? Is there a crime?

Detective Bart Moy, recently returned to Guilderton to look after his father, begins his investigation that quickly leads nowhere. Moy’s search takes him through the heart and the outskirts of the small town and its inhabitants as well as his own inner turmoil. Moy is haunted by the loss of his own son and is determined not to let the this case go. But at the same time wonders if he can make any difference.

Stephen Orr plots this novel brilliantly. He has your doubting and questioning events in tandem with Moy who is struggling at being a decent cop (and he knows it) yet needs to solve this case. You get glimpses of the man he was before he returned to Guilderton but at the same time knows it is impossible for that part of him to return.

Harrowing yet hopeful this is a reflective a crime novel where finding the case is as important as solving it.

Buy the book here…

Review – Amy and the Wilpenea Flood An Australian Girl adventure

A sweeping yet generally accurate observation of girls aged up to 12 years or so, is that most love dolls, of some descript. In this age of zombie mutant, bloodsucking teenage wannabes, these aren’t necessarily the ubiquitous Barbie dolls or sleepy-eyed baby dolls either. Just about any recognisable, eye-catching, radically dressed, personality driven figurine will do the trick these days.

The crucial part is ensuring that the insane desire young girls develop for a particular doll or collection is born from an age appropriate and culturally enriching source. Not just as another clever marketing spinoff from the latest TV show.

Australian Girl dollsThis is where Australian Girl dolls, created by Helen Schofield, step in. Five doll characters, each with their own distinct personalities and backgrounds, aim to encourage imaginative, age relevant play. Chances are your daughter (or son) knows or is friendly with someone of a similar ethnic background as those of the dolls; such is the rich cultural diversity of our modern Australian society. Perhaps they can identify parts of themselves with their favourite doll. The exciting thing about the Australian Girl dolls is that now, thanks to Wombat Books, they have been brought to life through a new series of adventure based books.

Amy and the Wilpena Pound Amy and the Wilpena Flood, by Claudia Bouma, is the second in the series (there is a third soon to be released) which features all five heroines but lightly focuses on one particular girl as the catalyst or driving force of each story.

The premise is simple: five girls form a deep, do-or-die-for friendship and discover a powerful talisman in the shape of a rainbow necklace. With the aid of this magical charm they are able to time-slip throughout Australia’s past, which inevitability enables them to solve the dilemmas that they chance upon, like missing turtles for instance.

This time, it’s Amy’s turn. After she finds a mysterious map, she and her friends transport back in time to Wilpena Pound in South Australia. From the moment they arrive, it’s a race to save not only Jessie and her family, whom they encounter there, but also themselves from an unexpected catastrophic flood.

Amy Comic strip

Claudia BoumaClaudia Bouma manages to entertain us with an on-the-edge of your seat drama and catchy modern characters, in an upbeat introduction to our inimitable Aussie geography and history. The bold black and white illustrations of Emily, Amy, Matilda, Annabelle and Jasmine sprinkled throughout this chapter book by cartoonist, Jason Chatfield (aka the current Ginger Meggs), left me lingering over it long after the flood waters of Wilpena Pound had receded.

Jason Chatfield

Packed with true blue Aussie spirit and solid reference to the favourable merits of friendship, courage and perseverance, Amy and the Wilpena Flood is a treat to read. And one you don’t have to be a girl or lover of dolls to appreciate either.

Great for primary school aged children.

View and purchase this book here.

Wombat Books August 2013