who is Stephen?
I grew up like most children, apart from the fact that I had hearing loss. It made school a little difficult, but hearing loss opened my eyes to observing the world. I loved to draw and make things: scissors, sticky tape, glue, paper and pens were my preferred tools of communication; and story books were my window into language.
I knew deep within myself there was nothing else for me to be.
I loved art.
I loved books.
When I became an adult not much changed and my childish ways and curious meanderings led me to work for Walt Disney, design puppets for TV, have touring theatre companies create shows based on my stories, and in just over twenty years has led me to create more than eighty illustrated books.
My books are sold throughout the world. One day soon I’d love to visit all the countries where my books are published, but for now I happily live on the east coast of Australia, on an island, in a mud brick house. My studio sits on a windy hill surrounded by bush and pasture land, and I like nothing better than walking barefoot to and from work each day.
I share my life with my wife, two children and our three rescue dogs. Everyday is spent meandering between house and studio, painting pictures, writing stories and designing books. Inbetween creative moments, I love to build wiggly stone walls, walk on the beach, nap on the couch and enjoy the company of family and friends. The time I spend in my studio is where any hint of adult logic stops and my trusted intuition takes over.
I like nothing better than watching a small idea grow into its own place – a place beyond my original imaginings.
my island home
We acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional owners of the land on which we live – the Biripi and Worimi people.
I live on a tiny piece of the east coast of N.S.W. Australia, on an island. It’s where a mighty river splits, forming a delta that creates two entrances to the ocean. The island floats in the middle of the river and is embraced by the giant Pacific Ocean. It’s mostly flat, sometimes flooded and has one hilly area. That’s where we live, up near the top, on 10 acres.
The island has a small population of people and a large population of cows. There are a few wallabies, even more echidnas and a bunch of other native wildlife like koalas, frogs, owls, flying foxes and goannas. Our house is surrounded by forest and farmland. The structure is built from big, beautiful tallowwood poles. Its walls are made from mudbrick, stone and poured earth. The first bits of it were made by a talented local craftsman and his family and their house was on an enviromental homes tour for many years.
A decade and a bit more ago our little family bought the property and enjoyed adding our own ideas, including a few “Henry and Amy” wiggles and a bunch of squiggly “Milli” somethings. The old timber workshop was converted into a sunny studio and it’s a short walk down the hill, through an orchard, to a wonderful creative space. It’s nice to grab an orange on my way to work.
Here is a little taste of some of the questions I am asked. Click Questioning Stephen for many more answers to many more questions.
What has been your favourite book to illustrate?
“Leaf.” Small, quiet and perfect.
What is your favourite colour?
It used to be blue, then it was all colours. Once upon a time I didn’t like red, but now I often paint a little red bird. The colours I use reflect nature: blue and green are prominent, then I splash all the other colours around in small drabs, like flowers blooming or the sun setting . . . little sprinkles of life.
My favourite and most important colour is brown. If I don’t use shades of brown then my illustrations looks plastic. Earth colours ground my landscapes and characters, transforming them and making everything real.
What is your favourite thing to draw?
Anything, but my preference is for nature and people/animals responding or sharing their emotions with it. I love wind and billowing clouds, trees bending in the breeze, and hills that you want to climb and run down at the same time.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
Magic like the kind of magic Harry Potter has. I love learning, so finding new spells and growing my skills would appeal. I’m sure magic would include flying, teleporting and duplicating oneself . . . it covers everything. I guess I’m greedy, I’d want more than one power.
I love finding awards in my letterbox, often appearing when I least expect them . . . There is me, receiving an award . . .
What can I say except ‘thank you’. The icing on the cake of creativity! I daydream, draw and write most days. That’s my life. I never thought I’d make a living from my art, let alone receive awards for what I do.
If you are interested – attached is a pdf of most of my awards from 1996 to 2016.
The following photograph of the gorgeous girl in the armchair is an award I received from Brazil. It is the Crescer Magazine 30 Best Children’s Book Award, which was awarded for “Pocket Dogs Go On Holidays” in 2010.