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Picture books are not just kids' stuff, say artists-in-residence


11 May 2012

'My Place' and 'Playground', two of Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle's works.
'My Place' and 'Playground', two of Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle's works.

Children's picture books are a specialised art form, and a public lecture on 15 May by writer Nadia Wheatley and illustrator Ken Searle aims to encourage deeper appreciation of the genre among parents and educators, and also to dispel myths about its deceptive simplicity.

"We would like to show mothers and fathers, grandparents and teachers, exactly what is going on in these kinds of books," Nadia said. "There is a high level of visual and verbal communication to be found in this genre - we shouldn't dismiss them as simple playthings."

Nadia and Ken are artists-in-residence in the Faculty of Education and Social Work until September this year and in this talk they will be discussing and showing artwork from some of the books they have written, illustrated and designed together, including Playground (shortlisted for the 2012 Children's Book Council of Australia Awards) and the Papunya School Book of Country and History (winner of the NSW Premier's History for Young People Award, 2002).

As well, Nadia will be showcasing some of the award-winning books she has done with other illustrators, including My Place (illustrated by Donna Rawlins), Highway (illustrated by Andrew McLean) and Luke's Way of Looking (illustrated by Matt Ottley).

Since their first collaboration nearly 20 years ago - which resulted in the Children's Book Council of Australia Honour Book Lucy in the Leap Year- the pair have become one of the most awarded partnerships in Australian publishing history.

Nadia's most well-known book, My Place, which traces the history of one particular piece of land in Sydney from 1788 to 1988 through the stories of the various children who have lived there, was first published 20 years ago and was recently transformed into an ABC TV series, which won a Logie award for best Children's Television Series in April this year.

During their residency Nadia and Ken will participate in a variety of talks and workshops designed to provide insights into their working practices and books.


More artist-in-residence events

A second evening event on 9 August called, "Into the Landscape: A conversation" will provide insight into the creative process used by both artists: Searle says he "walks into" the places he paints; Wheatley is similarly inspired by a sense of the landscape for her works. Both use their explorations of the real world as a doorway to their imaginations.

Pictures and stories will provide context for this unique conversation with Robyn Ewing, the Faculty of Education and Social Work's Professor of Education and the Arts.

The following month, September, Wheatley and Searle, who are both honorary associates with the Faculty of Education and Social Work will be available to staff, students and alumni for one-on-one consultations about writing (non-fiction, fiction for adults and children, picture books) and visual arts (painting, picture-book illustration, book design) respectively. These rare opportunities will be made available through a selection process based on submitted samples of work.


Event details

What: "What is a picture book?" A public talk by artists-in-residence Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle 

When: 6 to 7pm, Tuesday 15 May

Where: Assembly Hall, Old Teachers' College, Camperdown Campus

Registration essential


What: "Into the Landscape: a conversation" with Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle, and Robyn Ewing

When: 6 to 7pm, Thursday 9 August

Where: Assembly Hall, Old Teachers' College, Camperdown Campus


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