We love amazingly talented artist and author Kylie Dunstan! Her stunning picture book Collecting Colour is nominated for the 2009 CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award and the 2009 Crichton Award. We asked Kylie if she would answer a few of of our questions and she kindly agreed….
we ♥ books – Collecting Colour traces the story of the interaction between a young white Australian and a young Indigenous Australian? What inspired this story?
Collecting Colour was inspired during a year I spent working as an arts officer for Injalak Art Centre in Gunbalanya (Oenpelli), Arnhem Land in 2007/08. Injalak is a community owned and operated association, forming an important creative and social centre for the Gunbalanya community.
The artists from this area are known for their ‘x-ray’ paintings, done using natural ochres and fine ‘rarrk’ lines and their stunning woven pandanus baskets mats and bags.
Part of my job was to take the ladies who made the fibre art ‘out bush’ to collect the pandanus leaves and ‘colour’ – natural dyes used to make the baskets. The term ‘collecting colour’ was used by the weavers and it was from this phrase that the idea for the book grew.
For me, Collecting Colour is as much about friendship as it is about learning an Indigenous Australian cultural activity. Of course, the skeleton of the story is built around the process of making the fibre art but at the core of the book is a contemporary cross-cultural friendship between two little girls.
we ♥ books – Tell us about the work space where you wrote and illustrated Collecting Colour
After leaving Arnhem Land my partner and I traveled overseas. It was during this period that I wrote ‘Collecting Colour’.
After writing the first draft it was put aside for many years – and almost forgotten -until in 2004 (when living in Melbourne) I decided to apply for the ASA (Australian Society of Authors) mentorship program and needed a second manuscript to submit. After some reworking Collecting Colourwas submitted and I was offered a mentorship to work with Sally Rippin on its development.
The illustrations were completed in Adelaide, where for the first time I had a house that would fit my enormous drawing desk (salvaged many years ago from the drafting department of a Broken Hill mine). It would only fit in the living area but the light was great so I would illustrate the book while my youngest daughter, who was a baby at the time, slept or was with her Nana.
we ♥ books – What is the significance of the CBCA nomination for you? Where to from here for Collecting Colour?
The CBCA shortlist was such a high! As your typical insecure artistic type, getting a pat on the back from my peers was invaluable. It assured me that this career path was indeed the right choice for me. Hopefully for Collecting Colourit will mean increased exposure and more readers.
we ♥ books – Can you tell us about your work as an illustrator? When did you start illustrating and when did you know it would become your career? What formal or informal training did you have in collage techniques?
I have always wanted to write and illustrate picture books (yes, I am one of those people). However, somehow I ended up studying Visual Arts at University. After my degree I worked in Art Galleries and Museums until 2004 when I started to concentrate on my illustrations.
I don’t have any formal training in collage techniques, it’s just a style that has developed over the years. I like to use different techniques for different books and find I exhaust myself of one technique and develop a new one while working on a book.
we ♥ books – What’s your favourite colour?
My kids would probably say green as I seem to be quite drawn to it, but I like most colours – it’s the shades and tones of them that are important to me.
we ♥ books – Are there any particular websites or blogs that you visit regularly? Can you share with us some of your favourites?
I discovered ‘blogland’ when we moved to Vietnam last year and it has become quite a lifeline for me. My favorites list is endless but I really like Jacky Winter for some very talented illustrators, Book By It’s Cover and too many illustrators websites to mention.
we ♥ books – What were your favourite books when you were little?
The one that I still remember the words for is The Best Nest.
I think even at the age of five I related to Mrs Bird but probably even more so now (my partner will attest to this) – we move houses a lot!.
we ♥ books - We understand you have just finished your second picture book for Lothian. What can you tell us about it? Any chance of a sneak-peak?
Because You Are With Me, is in production now and due for release in early 2010. It’s quite different from Collecting Colouralthough I have used the lokta paper and a collage technique. The story revolves around a little girl, her dad and all she can achieve when they are together.
Some illustrations from the upcoming Because You Are With Me…