Welcome to The Art of an Illustrator with Rachael Robertson!

We are excited to begin a new series on the blog featuring fantastic illustrators and author-illustrators in the children’s book world. It is a privilege to introduce our first up-and-coming superstar, now with several titles to her name including the awesome My Amazing Animal Alphabet Alliteration Book and the brilliantly vibrant What Is It?. Rachael is also our very own front cover winner of the Just Write For Kids Australia and Friends anthology, Our Australian HeART. Rachael’s piece, Poppies in Kings Park, is a stunningly vivid representation and tribute to one of our country’s most significant historical and commemorative time in war; depicted with painted and collaged poppies, daisies and other wildflowers. Thanks for sharing your beautiful work with us, Rachael! 🙂

About the Author / Illustrator

Rachael Robertson is an author, illustrator and primary school art teacher based in Perth/Boorlo.

Her first book, My Amazing Animal Alphabet Alliteration Book is a fun, bright way to learn the alphabet. What Is It? is Rachael’s first book as an illustrator. Rachael is also a contributor of two anthologies; Our Australian HeART and The Heart Will Find a Way.

Rachael predominately uses painted paper collage, but loves experimenting with any type of medium to create bright, textured works of art.

Find her books and visit Rachael Robertson at her website: rachaelrobertsoncreates.com.au and on Instagram.

Our Australian HeART can be purchased via the Just Write For Kids Australia website.

Rachael, thank you for joining me to chat about your amazing work!

It’s an absolute pleasure to speak to you, thank you for having me.

How did you come to be an artist?

I’ve always loved creating. I did art as an ATAR subject and then went into primary school teaching, which I think lends itself to being creative. After the birth of my second baby, Daisy, I really started to create as an artist. I had previously dabbled in painting but decided to sell my artwork instead of just gifting it to family. I found it was the one thing that I could do that was exclusively mine and it was a nice distraction from the nappies and naps and cleaning. I started to create while Daisy was sleeping and that is how it all began.

What does art and illustrating children’s books mean to you?

It means everything to me. As a primary school teacher, I always want to be able to educate and engage children in a positive way. My ultimate dream was to write and illustrate a children’s book, and I achieved that dream last year when I got my first book published. My Amazing Animal Alphabet Alliteration Book is a book from my heart. It combines everything I love and was such an incredible gateway for other opportunities. I am extremely grateful that I get to create as part of my life.

Creating a piece of art is beautiful and it’s really special (and mind blowing) that someone wants to hang a piece of your heart in their home, but there is nothing quite like creating illustrations for a book. It feels more permanent, and it allows you to reach a much larger group of people. I love being able to experiment with a range of different mediums, it is so much fun. I hope I am able to create more books as the years roll by as it is something I really love doing.

Tell us a bit about your published works.

My first book My Amazing Animal Alphabet Alliteration Book is published by Redback Publishing. It is a fun, engaging alphabet book and the illustrations were all created using painted paper collage. I wrote the text so that teachers could use it in the classroom as a teaching tool, that was quite important to me. I also wanted to introduce children to words they may not have heard before, consequently increasing their vocabulary. I initially thought that I would illustrate the pages using watercolour, but it wasn’t vibrant enough, so I tried a painted paper collage antelope, and the rest, as they say, is history.

My second publication is titled, What Is It? published by Loose Parts Press. This is such a fun, vibrant book and the author Sharon Baldwin has written such a beautiful text about art and creating. As an art teacher (and someone that is extremely passionate about The Arts) this project was so special to me. Sharon saw some of my abstract artwork on Instagram and asked me if I would be interested in illustrating her text. Once I read the story, I couldn’t say no. It is such a sweet text that resonates with me as an artist. I have had people ask me, “What is it?” to my artwork, which now makes me laugh as I was able to create a book with Sharon about this exact question. Sometimes you don’t need to create something, you need to just create.

What does your illustration process look like?

It’s messy. Collage is fun but it’s certainly messy. There are lots of little cuttings and I never want to throw away any little piece of paper in case I can use it as the middle of a flower or as part of an insect. I am a painted paper hoarder. I have all my paper arranged in drawers according to colour, so when I need green for example, I just pull out the green drawer and all the different shades and textures are there. My husband set up a little space for me to create which has helped make my creative work more focused, rather than doing it on the kitchen table, which is how it all began.

I can always visualise how I want something to look and do very little planning. Because I use mixed media, I usually do the first layer in acrylic and/or watercolour paint and then use painted paper collage on top. Once this is complete, then I can work back into it with paint pens or pencil to finish the artwork off. I really like it when you can see a visible brushstroke, so I try and make most of my painted paper textured.

What drew you to enter the Just Write For Kids’ Picture It! Anthology Competition?

Any excuse to be creative. I have really tried to put myself and my art out into the world and although this is quite often met with rejections, I persevere and keep on going. This is such an important message for my two girls, and other creatives. The rejections far outweigh the acceptances, but I think it just motivates me to refine my skills and keep going. I believe in myself and I believe that I am going to make this happen. It doesn’t happen easily though, a lot of hard work goes into it.

I also really liked the fact that a portion of proceeds goes to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. I am passionate about engaging all children in literacy and this is a wonderful initiative.

Your entry, Poppies in Kings Park, was selected to grace the front cover of the anthology (published by Daisy Lane Publishing). Congratulations, again! We love it! What does this mean to you?

I cannot even begin to tell you just how much it means to me. I got tears in my eyes when I found out that it would not only be included but would grace the cover. My two daughter’s names are Poppy and Daisy so having those flowers included is very special. My girls are my muses, and I am forever drawn to poppies and daisies.

Why were you inspired to create this piece?

Kings Park is a very special place in Perth. It has the State War Memorial and every year, thousands of people flock to Kings Park on ANZAC Day to pay their respects to the soldiers that served. Both my Nana and Pa served in World War 2 (My beloved Nana in the Australian Navy and my Pa in the New Zealand Army) so this is particularly special to me.

There is something so special about sitting at the picturesque Kings Park amongst the beautiful flowers and greenery and looking down on Perth City with the skyscrapers and buildings such a stark contrast.

In what other ways do you spread the joy of art to children?

I am a primary school art teacher, so I hope that I spread the joy of art to children every day. My second book that I illustrated What Is It? is a celebration of the joy of creating.

I have started running painting workshops at a small studio in Perth called Quirky Cactus. I teach my lessons using my own artwork as inspiration which is pretty special. Seeing the children recreate something that began as an original idea in my head is amazing.

My own children are little creative geniuses and have free range of my art studio. They are constantly painting and drawing and creating. I think that parents need to allow children to freely create without worrying about getting messy. Mess is part of the fun!

Thanks so much, Rachael! It’s been an honour! 😊

#authorillustratorinterview #ouraustralianheart #whatisit #myamazinganimalalphabetalliterationbook #picturebooks #justkidslit

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