Welcome to The Art of an Illustrator with Suzanne Barton!

It’s a pleasure to have talented author and up-and-coming illustrator, Suzanne Barton here to talk about her journey as an artist and her gorgeous piece in Our Australian HeART – ‘Wonderland’. Created with digital brushes and collage, Suzanne’s underwater scenery shimmers with tranquillity, glistening over divine corals and marine life as an idyllic example of a beautifully clean ocean we strive to sustain. Accompanied by her lyrical, lilting text that vividly captures the magical possibilities under the sea, diving into this scene is simply irresistible!

Thank you for this stunning piece, Suzanne! 🙂

About the Author/Illustrator

Suzanne Barton is a children’s book author and editor, emerging mixed-media illustrator, communications specialist and singer. She lives with her voice-over actor husband in Melbourne, where they enjoy art and nature, and create comic cabaret shows inspired by 1940s radio drama. Suzanne’s published picture books include My Unicorn Farts Glitter (Hachette Australia), Meeka (Bluebell Books) and My Dad’s Weird Beard (Bluebell Books). Suzanne’s upcoming publications include four chapter books for middle and upper primary about urban farming, a mysterious mansion, cultural dancing and a tech-whiz guinea pig.

Please visit Suzanne Barton at her website: www.suzannebarton.org and on Instagram and Facebook.

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

Donations can be made directly to our fundraising page at The Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

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

How did you come to be an artist?

My father was an art teacher and my grandmother was a painter and potter in a studio at the foot of a mountain in Northern Ireland. Her parents were notable artists too. I was surprised and delighted to come across some of my great grandmother’s floral designs on set of cards in a Melbourne bookshop once. So perhaps my interest in art is inherited.

For most of my life art has been a hobby – taking classes and experimenting with different mediums at home. Only lately have I been lucky enough to combine art with the main focus of my creative career – writing and editing.

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

It’s a very fortunate and special thing to be able to illustrate a story you’ve written. It can be frustrating, too, trying to get what you see in your head onto the page in a way that does the story justice.

Most of my children’s books have been illustrated by other, very talented illustrators like Anil Tortop, Shannon Horsfall and Tanya Maneki, and this is also a joy. An illustrator can bring a whole other perspective and energy to a story that makes it even better than you’d imagined.

When I give aspiring authors feedback on children’s book manuscripts I often remind them to ensure their words ‘leave space’ for the illustrator’s creativity – that is where the magic happens.

Tell us a bit about your published works.

My picture books include Meeka, My Dad’s Weird Beard and My Unicorn Farts Glitter, which has also been translated into French and Spanish.

I have six chapter books (short novels for primary schoolers) coming out soon, which I’m really excited about. I’m reviewing the proofs for them at the moment and the books feature even more wonderful illustrators that I look forward to celebrating when it’s time to share more.

But none of these books I’ve mentioned feature my illustrations!

My first work as an author-illustrator was in Our Australian Heart, and I’m very grateful to Just Write for Kids and Daisy Lane Publishing for the opportunity.

Looking to the future, I’ve begun entering some other illustration competitions, and I have a few projects brewing that I hope to pitch to publishers as an author-illustrator. But I’m taking my time. I’m keen to work on projects that I feel passionate about, and ones that can hopefully make a difference to the reader.

What does your illustration process look like?

I start off with sketches – working either on paper or digitally, using Procreate. I then enjoy experimenting with different colour schemes, textures and brush strokes to find what feels right for the piece. I’ve also been experimenting with some digital collage.

Working digitally is a great way to try (and undo) a huge range of options, though this can also result in overwhelm and perfectionism. When I’m stuck, working on paper in traditional mixed media can help me get back in the groove – working more freely and accepting the imperfections on the page.

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

I loved the concept of the competition, and the people involved are so kind and supportive. I felt that the competition would give me the incentive of a clear brief and deadline to finish an artwork to a polished standard. That was indeed the experience for me, and being accepted into the book was amazing ‘icing on the cake’.

Your entry, Wonderland, was selected as one of our pieces for the anthology. We love it! What does it mean to you to be included?

I’m delighted to be included in Our Australian Heart alongside such wonderful illustrators from across the country. It’s given me confidence to continue pursuing children’s book illustration.

Why were you inspired to create this piece?

I spent much of my childhood in Western Australia and the ocean there is so beautiful. From the rugged coastline of the Margaret River region to the sheltered coves at Rottnest Island, I have great memories of these places. In my day job as a writer, I once interviewed a jeweller who designed an astounding ring that was inspired by a Rottnest rockpool. That stuck with me. I wanted to illustrate an underwater scene that felt like a magical wonderland, to remind us that the ocean needs our protection.

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

#authorillustratorinterview #ouraustralianheart #wonderland #saveouroceans #environment #picturebooks #justkidslit

Our Australian HeART by Just Write For Kids Australia and Friends is published by Daisy Lane Publishing.

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