Posts Tagged ‘Shaun Tan’

Shaun Tan’s The Rabbits – now as opera for children and adults

February 16, 2015
The Rabbits is based on original illustrations by Shaun Tan. Picture: Georges Antoni

The Rabbits is based on original illustrations by Shaun Tan. Picture: Georges Antoni

The world premiere of the production was held at the Heath Ledger Theatre on Friday night as part of Perth International Arts Festival.The Rabbits, composed by popular and classically trained songstress Kate Miller-Heidke with Libretto by Lally Katz, and adapted and directed by Barking Gecko Theatre Company’s John Sheedy, is the short, sweet and straight-to-the-point story of the Marsupials, whose world is one day invaded by the Rabbits.

The Rabbits (1998) is a symbolic portrayal of Australia’s colonial past or, more generally, of what happens when a technologically advanced culture meets one rooted in nature.  It was originally written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan, who has described the book as a major step forward for him on a personal level. After initially not succeeding to get a proper feel for John Marsden’s text, he eventually found a solution. He presented, as he puts it, “… more unexpected ideas to build a parallel story of my own. Not an illustration of the text, but something to react with it symbiotically.” Shaun Tan describes The Rabbits as a story about power, ignorance and environmental destruction, but also as a dark, serious animal fable, a narrative form he believes is understood by everyone.

Guardian celebrates cultural and ethnic diversity in children’s books

October 14, 2014
Cover from The Arrival.

Cover from The Arrival.

Yesterday, Guardian Children’s Books released a list of the 50 best children’s books published from 1950 to the present day that celebrate cultural and ethnic diversity. Behind the list is Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books for sharing the list with us today – and to the experts they called on to pull it together: Julia Eccleshare (the Guardian children’s books editor), Jake Hope (from Youth Libraries Group),  Library specialist Sarah Smith and Katherine Woodfine from the Book Trust.

One of the books is 2011 ALMA Laureate Shaun Tan’s graphic novel The arrival, which follows a man who leaves his home and his family and emigrates to a foreign land, where he struggles to settle in, while always dreaming of being reunited with his family.

The Guardian children’s Books web has in fact dedicated the whole week to exploring diversity of all kinds in children’s books. Why? Here´s their own words:

First things first. What makes a diverse book? This means books by and about all kinds of people, as the UK and the world are full of all kinds of people. So that means boys, girls, all different colours, all different races and religions, all different sexualities and all different disabilities and anything else you can think of – so our books don’t leave anyone out.

Now here are some shocking stats: of the 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, only 93 were about black people, 34 about Native Americans, 69 about Asians and 57 about Latinos (people from South America). Not too good!

Our amazing children’s laureate Malorie Blackman told site member Megan TheBookAddictedGirl: “Growing up I wanted to read books that featured people of colour but having adventures and having stories; that’s a major part of the reason that I thought ‘there seem to be none, I’m going to write them myself.’”

Link to the entire text and this week’s programme.

Here´s a clip were children’s laureate Malorie Blackman introduces her book, Boys Don’t Cry and talks about the importance of cultural diversity in books & writing.

In this clip, produced by the Guardian, she´s interviewed by teenager Megan Quibell at the very first Young Adult Lit Convention (YALC) held at Comic Con in July.


From The Arrival

From The Arrival


The Arrival at bilingual theatre Uusi Theatre

September 22, 2014

Last Saturday was the premiere of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival at the Swedish Finnish Uusi Theatre in Stockholm. The Director Emil Sandberg says that the themes, language, identity and alienation in the book felt anxious for the bilingual theatre.

– The new country, which Shaun Tan’s story is set in, is as foreign to all beholders of different cultures and languages, but thus equally available, says Sandberg.

Back row: Stage Designer Karl Anders, Composer Yves Diop, Director Emil Sandberg. Front row: actors Jaakko Kulmala, Sannah Nedergård and Sanna Sandberg.

Back row: Stage Designer Anders Karls, Composer Yves Diop, Director Emil Sandberg. Front row: actors Jaakko Kulmala, Sannah Nedergård and Sanna Sandberg.

The performances are played on either Finnish or Swedish entirely dependent on the audience, but also dominated by a ringing nonsense language spoken by the inhabitants of the foreign city, completely incomprehensible to both the protagonist as well as the audience. Sandberg says that the entirely wordless graphic novel invites you to a dramatic performance, just as the movement and sounds from actors and stage design opens up a possibility to give the story new interpretations. The performance is played by three actors: Sanna Sandberg, Jaakko Kulmala and Sannah Nedergård, and is set at Uusi Theatre’s home stage at Hälsingegatan 3 in Stockholm. The music has been composed by Yyves Diop.

/Elina Druker, member of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award jury

Illustration: Anders Karls, Uusi Teattri

Illustration: Anders Karls, Uusi Teatteri

Learn more about the works of the laureates

August 22, 2014
The Arrival (2006) by Shaun Tan.

The Arrival (2006) by Shaun Tan.

The Book of Everything (2006) by Guus Kuijer.

The Book of Everything (2006) by Guus Kuijer.

Summer is almost over and a new term has started for most students. Now is perfect timing to read a new book, so why not let our reading guides inspire you? The guides contain an introduction of the author or illustrator, description of the contents, a suggested interpretation and topics for discussions. They are meant to be used in book circles, in schools or just as inspiration for further reading. Twelve books by ten laureates are available and easy to download for free, from Kitty Crowther’s Alors? for younger children, to Sonya Hartnett’s psychological novels for young adults and Shaun Tan’s completely wordless work The Arrival.

Petit, the Monster by Isol

It´s Useful to Have a Duck and Nocturne – Dream Recipes by Isol

The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Alors? by Kitty Crowther

Lénfant Racine by Kitty Crowther

The Devil Latch by Sonya Hartnett

The Ghost’s Child by Sonya Hartnett

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

Basu ni Notte by Ryôji Arai

Northen Lights by Philip Pullman

My Friend the Painter by Lygia Bojunga

Fly Away Home by Christine Nöstlinger

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Alors? (2006) by Kitty Crowther.

Alors? (2006) by Kitty Crowther.

For more tutorials, have a look at Sonya Hartnett’s web, link here. A tutorial for Shaun Tan’s latest book Rules of Summer can be found here.

Snapshot 2014: Shaun Tan

July 28, 2014
Shaun Tan receiving the 2011 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award from Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. Photo: Stefan Tell

Shaun Tan receiving the 2011 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award from Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. Photo: Stefan Tell

2011 ALMA laureate Shaun Tan interviewed by blogger Helen Stubbs, a story published today on

  1. Congratulations on your Ditmar Award for Best Artwork for The Rules of Summer. Can you tell us a bit about the book? If he eats the last olive at the watchful-bird party, will the birds eat him? (Asking for my daughter.)

To answer your daughter’s question: probably. What I like about narrative painting, which is probably a more precise description of what I do that ‘illustration’, is that there is a little mystery in a picture’s past and also its future. All we can see as an audience is a particular moment, and I suppose I’m trying to make that moment as charged as possible, exploiting the stillness and silence of painting, which I love. Rules of Summer is basically a series of such charged moments that collectively describe, in a weird and fractured kind of way, the relationship between two boys who are probably brothers (it’s never clear, and I usually don’t ascribe any particular identity to my story characters). There is no traditional narrative, although there is a kind of building conflict and resolution told through several oil paintings, each accompanied by an obscure rule that appears to have been broken by the youngest boy: Never step on a snail, Never leave a red sock on a clothesline, Never give your keys to a stranger, and so on. It’s both frivolous and serious at the same time.

  1. What were the highlights of working as a concept artist and animator on the various films you’ve worked on, including The Lost Thing? How does it compare to working on artwork and narrative for a book?

The main difference is collaboration. Books are very solitary projects for me, even in the past when I’ve collaborated with other writers I’m still very much working on my own. The Rabbits, for instance, with John Marsden involved no real discussion between author and illustrator during production, and that’s not uncommon with picture books, that can work fine. Film, however, is fundamentally about collective creativity, simply because it’s impossible for one individual to do everything (with rare exceptions). How is that different? It can actually make the process a lot more fun, a lot more fluid, because there’s a conversation between diverse imaginations, and those moments of collaboration would be the highlights. The possible down side is that certain compromises are required, but that’s nothing unusual, and not necessarily a negative thing. The main thing is that everyone is working towards the same objective, the realisation of which can take many different forms. You learn not to get hung up on any singular vision necessarily, because it just might not be able to be realised in practical terms: instead you take a core feeling and adapt it as best you can.

  1. What projects are you developing at the moment?

Not much at present, partly on account of looking after our baby daughter at home a lot of the time (ie. she is the new project!). I recently illustrated a collection of Grimm fairy tales for a German publisher, and am trying to get that work together for an Australian edition. That was an interesting project as I put aside painting and drawing, and for the first time decided to illustrate each story using clay sculptures, which I then photographed. It forced me to simplify my work, and not think too hard about each one, modelling the forms quite spontaneously, which I found very refreshing.

  1. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Gosh, I feel I haven’t been paying much attention lately! I’ve been revisiting a lot of older work that left an impression on me when I was younger, particularly Tim Winton as a fellow West Australian whose stories are very landscape-inspired (as I would say mine are). In the SF vein, I very much like the work of Jeremy Geddes, amazing oil paintings with subtle narratives. Comics by Many Ord I find very amusing and honestly drawn. Both these artists make some use of the Melbourne urban landscape that I’m gradually tuning in to.

  1. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

It hasn’t changed the way I work very much, in fact that hasn’t changed significantly since I had my first illustrations published in Aurealis and Eidolon magazine in the early 1990s. I’m sitting at the same desk, literally, and using the same materials. I have made slight forays into new media, co-directing an app adaptation of Rules of Summer which was very interesting. Overall I’m quite lucky, as my early career was nurtured by small independent publishers who were happy to take certain risks with unconventional work, and my stories seem to have often appeared at the right time; for example, coinciding with a renewed interest in graphic novels and picture books for older readers. If I was starting over again, I’m not sure how I might go.

What will I be working on in five years? No idea, or else more of the same! I always have a bunch of ideas for books rattling around, but they rarely coalesce into something that is worth pursuing, it’s such a commitment of time and effort. I’m also interested in spending more time doing straight landscape painting (ie. not illustrative or fantastic). The Arrival is also being considered for feature film development, but any news on that front is likely to be some way off, and I’m not actively thinking about it too much just now. It could make a brilliant film, but only if the right people are at the helm, and finance is a whole other conundrum. Whatever happens, I’ll most likely continue working from the same desk as I’ve always done, a pencil in one hand and an eraser in the other.

Shaun Tan grew up in Perth, Western Australia and currently works as an artist, writer and film-maker in Melbourne. He began creating images for science fiction stories in small-press magazines as a teenager, and has since become best known for illustrated books that deal with social, political and historical subjects through dream-like imagery. The Rabbits, The Red Tree, The Lost Thing, Tales from Outer Suburbia and the graphic novel The Arrival have been widely translated throughout the world and enjoyed by readers of all ages. Shaun has also worked as a theatre designer, a concept artist for Pixar and Blue Sky Studios, and won an Academy Award for the short film adaptation of The Lost Thing. In 2011 he received the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in Sweden, in recognition of his services to literature for young people.


Original illustrations by Shaun Tan exhibited at museum Bror Hjorths Hus

April 22, 2014
Photo: Bror Hjorths hus

Photo: Bror Hjorths hus

Original illustrations by 2011 ALMA laureate Shaun Tan are now exhibited at artist’s museum Bror Hjorths Hus in Uppsala. The exhibition area is inspired by Shaun Tan’s pictorial worlds, with a combination of photo walls and original illustrations along with space for creative children and adults. Some 50 original illustrations are displayed, including three large oil paintings from Shaun Tan’s latest book Rules of Summer. The idea behind the selection of art pieces is that the audience can follow the story for a better context. Maria Malmberg-Wallin is museum curator and responsible for the exhibition:

How come you choose to exhibit works by Shaun Tan?

Bror Hjorths hus has a tradition of exhibiting children’s book illustrations each spring. Shaun Tan is an amazing artist making picture books for people of all ages, and it really is a dream to showcase his illustrations.

What’s so special about his work, do you think?

He is such a multilateral storyteller working in so many ways with so many different techniques. It is exciting to see how he uses the picture book as a medium for his art. The subjects of his books are universal.

Has Shaun Tan himself influenced the contents?

We´ve have had a very good dialogue concerning the selection of illustrations. He’s an amazingly friendly person and has helped in the best way. We came with suggestions on which illustrations would be displayed, and then we talked further about the matter.

Has Shaun Tan himself influenced the contents?

We´ve have had a very good dialogue concerning the selection of illustrations. He’s an amazing friendly person and has helped in the best way. We came with suggestions on which illustrations would be out, and then we talked further about the matter.

What’s the reactions from the public?

Great reactions, we are very happy. There have been lots of visitors since the exhibition opened on April 5, many more than usual.

The exhibition is open until June 1st.

Photo: Bror Hjorths hus

Photo: Bror Hjorths hus

Photo: Bror Hjorths hus

Photo: Bror Hjorths hus

Photo: Bror Hjorts hus

Photo: Bror Hjorts hus

Shaun Tan. Photo: Stefan Tell.

Shaun Tan. Photo: Stefan Tell.

Shaun Tan about Rules of Summer

January 13, 2014

2011 ALMA laureate Shaun Tan interviewed by Australian Radio National’s Miacheal Cathcart about his latest book Rules of Summer.

Exhibition exploring pictorial storytelling

October 23, 2013
Annas himmel (2013) by Stian Hole, one of the illustrators in The picture book in new guises.

Annas himmel (2013) by Stian Hole, one of the illustrators in The picture book in new guises.

An interesting exhibition is going on at the Nordic Watercolour Museum in Skärhamn, Sweden. The picture book in new guises is the museum’s fourth exhibition under the theme of exploring the potential of pictorial storytelling. Original illustrations from books published in the past year by 12 young Nordic illustrators are exhibited.

The museum also presents the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

The museum also presents the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

As part of the pictorial storytelling theme, the museum has also chosen to present three ALMA laureates – Kitty Crowther, Shaun Tan and Isol. Among the exhibits are the original illustrations to Isol’s Tic Tac (text by Jorge Luján and illustrations by Isol).

The big draw. A large drawing party with a variety of open workshops led by artists, which will take place next week at the Nordic Watercolour Museum.

The big draw. A large drawing party with a variety of open workshops led by artists, which will take place next week at the Nordic Watercolour Museum.

The museum also presents an extensive program during the autumn. On Nov 8 there´s an open seminar and launch of the book A fanfare for the picture book (our transl. En fanfar för bilderboken), a tribute to the picture book as medium containing articles that examines and celebrates the picture book as a unique medium and an art form in itself. Among the speakers are researcher and ALMA jury member Ulla Rhedin and the 2010 ALMA laureate Kitty Crowther.

The exhibition is available until February 16, 2014.


Sculptures by Shaun Tan illustrate the Grimm Tales

October 22, 2013
  'The Fisherman's Wife' Paper, clay, paint, string, sand, approx 20cm tall.          'The Golden Bird' Paper, clay, paint, paint, shoepolish, approx 20cm tall.          'Godfather Death' Paper, clay, paint, approx 25cm tall.

‘Godfather Death’ Paper, clay, paint, approx 25cm tall.

A masterly visual storyteller. These words are part of the quotation of the ALMA jury for the 2011 laureate, author and illustrator Shaun Tan. His book Rules of Summer (Hachette, 2013) will be published shortly, but there´s yet another reason to put Shaun Tan in the limelight today, and that’s the release of a book written by another ALMA laureate, Philip Pullman (who received the award in 2005). In Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm (Penguin Books, 2012), Pullman retells his fifty favorites, paying homage to the tales that inspired his unique creative vision—and that continue to cast their spell on the Western imagination.

The German edition of the book has recently been published by Aladin Verlag, and contains (as the only edition) illustrations made by no other than… Shaun Tan. Shaun Tan is known for his use of a variety of artistic expressions and to see every book as an experiment in visual and verbal storytelling. In this case, Shaun used small sculptures to illustrate the stories:

As a child, I was actually more obsessed with sculpture than painting and drawing, working with clay, papier mache and soapstone, and was reminded of this when browsing through my collection of books on folk art and particularly Inuit scultpure and Pre-Columbian figurines from Mexico. Many of these small, hand-sized sculptures are strongly narrative and dreamlike, and offered a ‘way in’ to thinking about Grimm’s stories as part of an old creative tradition. The works I ended up creating hopefully convey the spirit of each tale without actually illustrating them, like anonymous artifacts in a museum open to all kinds of interpretation.


'Hansel and Gretel' Paper, clay, paint, wax and cake decorations, approx 25cm tall.

‘Hansel and Gretel’ Paper, clay, paint, wax and cake decorations, approx 25cm tall.

'The Golden Bird' Paper, clay, paint, paint, shoepolish, approx 20cm tall.

‘The Golden Bird’ Paper, clay, paint, paint, shoepolish, approx 20cm tall.

'The Fisherman's Wife' Paper, clay, paint, string, sand, approx 20cm tall.

‘The Fisherman’s Wife’ Paper, clay, paint, string, sand, approx 20cm tall.

Cover for the original German edition published by Aladin Verlag

Cover for the original German edition published by Aladin Verlag

The view from outside

September 16, 2013
Illustration from Shaun Tan's upcoming book Rules of Summer.

Illustration from Shaun Tan’s upcoming book Rules of Summer.

Interesting article on Shaun Tan and his artistry by Peter Robb:

It took a good fortnight of negotiation before I set foot in Shaun Tan’s studio. Long-distance dealings were punctuated by silences that raised their own questions. At one point, I learnt the studio was packed up, and not viewable for that reason. Given that Shaun Tan draws and paints in various media, writes, sculpts, photographs and also transforms his own words and images from book to animated film, I wondered what kind of space could house all these activities, and wondered what the space might tell me. How could it be “packed up”?

Shaun Tan won an Oscar in 2011 for co-directing the animated short film of his own book The Lost Thing. The usual pictures of record from Oscar night show him dressed in a dinner jacket, holding the gold and blinking under the lights. He looks happy, but less amazed or delighted or triumphant than most so photographed over the years. The look on his face is entirely the one you see any day of the week, the one I at last encounter in Melbourne. It’s polite, curious, reflective and sometimes glinting with un-uttered thoughts. Not carried away at all. The appearance is intellectual, almost clerical. The black eyes are bright behind oval rimless lenses, and he moves with a pale and sedentary air. The clothes are black on near black. I have seen figures like this, looking a bit lost around the edges of the Vatican in Rome.

The Tan home is a tiny unrestored dark-brick Federation house in a little curved street in Brunswick, with most of the front taken up by large, bright fern-like plants. The plants mean the studio, the first room on the right as you step inside, is in permanent shadow, which the artist mildly admits is a bit of a problem when he’s painting. The room’s a tiny cabin of dark stained wood. Directly opposite in the other front room I glimpse a paint-stained mattress, some canvas frames and a lot of unidentifiable objects stacked on their side in another tiny space. This is the “packed up” part.

Full article in Sydney Moring Herald here.