Monday, 2 October 2017

Meet Philip Bunting — Special Guest

Philip with his children, Florence (2) and Leo (4)   

How would you describe your style? Do you have a favourite subject matter?

Australian modernism. I’d like my work to reflect the best bits of the contemporary Australian character. I hope my style is inclusive, warm, and witty, without being overbearing or pretentious. The sense of place is important to me – not for any nationalistic or patriotic reasons – but I can’t help but feel very bloody lucky to live in this part of the world. As a picture book maker, what more inspiration would you ever need than the Australian landscape, or the incredible megadiversity of our endemic beasties*?

*my favourite subject matter

Ringtail possum

Happy koala

Sugar glider

Swooping season (Australian magpie)

Prickly echidna

Why are you drawn to creating children’s picture books?

The beautiful thing about picture books is that they create a unique platform from which to advance a progressive agenda of equality, inclusion, acceptance, kindness and love. The world could do with more of all of these things right now!

By creating good picture books and encouraging more parents to read with their children, I hope to do my bit for the good of future generations (and their planet).

Good education starts at home, and if my picture books can help stir parents to regularly read with their children, I believe they have the potential to promote much more than improved literacy. The magic of good parent-child book reading can help nurture the child’s positive associations with education, their self-esteem, creative thinking skills, and heaps more.

O is for Optimism

Your first picture book, Mopoke, is visually brilliant and laugh-out-loud funny. Your pictures tell a thousand words! How did you come up with the idea for this book and how did you create the artwork?

The bones of the idea came from an old visual gag my grandad used to draw – ’Puffin. Nuffin.’. It looked something like this:


That gave me the basic structure of the book – from Mopoke to Nopoke, and the structure of the couplets (Highpoke/Lowpoke, Poshpoke/Poorpoke, etc.). From that point, it was pretty easy to create the pairs.

In terms of the artwork, the illustrations are initially sketched, then the basic shapes are created through papercut. These are then scanned and arranged digitally to create the base illo. I then collage found textures over the top, and finally clean everything up a bit, in Photoshop.

As far as picture books go, I think the layout and typography are just as important as the illustrations, and so I tried to create all aspects of the book holistically and simultaneously. This way, the book takes on a coherent identity, much greater than the sum of it’s parts.

Mopoke by Philip Bunting (published by Scholastic Australia, Feb 2017)

How do you fit your creative work in with a busy family life? Do you have a routine?

Our children are still young – Leo (4) and Florence (2) – so the vast majority of my work happens after they’ve hit the hay. Making the most of working nights has been absolutely key for me.

Carpe noctem! (Flying foxes)

What do you love most about being an illustrator?

The process of creating! Most children’s authors and illustrators don’t do it for the money, they are in it because they love to create art – whether stories, images or experiences. Picture books are often children’s first real interaction with art. I love that idea.

For me – after having a family – art is the best thing there is. Art (including illustration) is the very best reflection of the human condition, the most telling interpretation of what it means to be here, the product of our view of the world, since waaaay back.

To introduce art to a child’s life from an early age is to give them a better perspective and understanding of the world, and therefore a better chance of thriving in it.

Let's bounce


What do you find most difficult about being an illustrator? 

Finding enough time. Life moves way too quickly, and I’m always conscious of that.

Florence and the koala (Mural 2017)

Do you have illustrators or artists who give you inspiration?

Thousands! There are too many to mention.

Illustration – the contemporary illustrator I most admire at the moment is Carson Ellis, who I think is from Portland in the States. Her work is just incredible, channelling so much spirit, heart and magic. She’s supercool and a real conduit for good.

Art – I’m always drawn to art that truly reflects is time and place. For me the most inspirational artists are typically anonymous, hailing from from indigenous cultures (Australian, Maori, Celtic, Zulu, Norse…) from days gone by. For me, the most inspirational art is art that is created out of service, not ego (and is typically found in museums, rather than galleries).

Your second picture book, Koalas Eat Gum Leaves, is authored by your wife Laura Bunting. How was that experience and how did the collaborative aspect impact on your creative process?

It was a fantastic experience! I only got bashed over the head with the frying pan three times.

Laura and I see the world the same way, we share the same values and care about the same things. If you can work with like-minded people – whatever the discipline – the creative process is typically far more straightforward.

We have created a few books together now (all signed, but still to be published), and the process has generally been pretty great. Picture books tend to work best when the words and images share the same spirit, and I think (or hope!) that translates in ours.

Koalas Eat Gum Leaves by Laura & Philip Bunting (published by Scholastic Australia, Oct 2017)

Koalas Eat Gum Leaves by Laura & Philip Bunting (published by Scholastic Australia, Oct 2017)

What are you currently working on and what will we see next from you?

Koalas Eat Gum Leaves is due for release in Australia in October. This one was written by my better half, Laura, and it follows the journey of one little koala who has grown tired of his gum leaf diet. We’re very proud of the book, and we can’t wait to see it out there in the world.

I have also been lucky enough to illustrate another picture book for Australian comedian Dave Hughes, and his wife Holly Ife. Excuse me! – an epic tale of manners, retention and flatulence – will be on shelves in Australia in November.

And here’s my bibliography-to-be (as of September 2017):

  • Koalas eat gum leaves (with Laura Bunting), Scholastic Australia, October 2017

  • Excuse Me! (with Dave Hughes and Holly Ife), Scholastic Australia, November 2017

  • Kookaburras love to laugh (with Laura Bunting), Scholastic Australia, early 2018

  • Sandcastle (author-illustrator), Allen & Unwin, early 2018

  • How did I get here? (author-illustrator), Scholastic Australia, mid-2018

  • Errol (with Zanni Louise), Scholastic Australia, mid-2018

  • Another book about bears (with Laura Bunting), Scholastic Australia, late 2018

I’m also working on a junior fiction series (8-12 year-olds) with Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc. The first book in the Mighty Mitch series will be released in November, just in time for the Ashes! That’s with Scholastic Australia, too.

Excuse Me! By Dave Hughes and Holly Ife (published by Scholastic Australia, Nov 2017)

Do you have a dream creative project you'd love to be able to do?

I’d love to be able to create work that inspires parents and children to be more conscious of the environmental crisis. I’m not sure what the project is, but I’m looking out for it.

Artwork for Earth Hour 2017

Many of our members would like to break into book illustration. What advice can you offer them?

  1. Work harder than you ever thought possible. Every overnight success is 10,000 hours in the making.

  2. Do it for the process, not the result. You have to love the process of illustration – that’s what it’s all about – if you don’t love every moment of it, do something else.

  3. Read widely – take inspiration and reference from sources other than contemporary illustration. Be original! Crank up the Fleetwood Mac and go your own way.

  4. Always keep a sense of humour.

  5. Drink lots of tea. Tea solves all problems.

Why can't emus wear sunglasses? Because they don't have any ears.

Do you sell art prints?

I have set up the tiniest of shops, stocking three kinds of framed print: Mopoke; Two pokes; and Mo’ pokes. See

Each print is signed, numbered and limited to an edition of 100. All prints are framed in 100% reclaimed Australian hardwood. I choose to frame my prints in Mulbury frames for two reasons:
  1. Because Mulbury are dedicated to leaving the planet in better shape than they found it. Mulbury reclaim and recycle local eucalyptus timbers to create picture frames, and in doing so save literally tonnes of timber from landfill each year. Their hand-made recycled timber picture frames are made from 100% post consumer waste.

  2. Because I know mopoke would approve of the choice of hardwood.
    We all have an obligation to remain conscious of our consumption habits, and a responsibility to act in the best interests of our planet. Mulbury are a good example of an Australian company doing their little bit, and doing it beautifully.

Two 'pokes framed print

Tell us something we don’t know about you.

I drink at least 2 pints of Yorkshire Tea every day. Tea solves all problems.

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