for 35 years, Craig Smith has been illustrating picture books.
Now, for the first time, he is going to unleash himself and his art to create a grand collage of his lifetime’s work.
“It will be the original artwork, on five or six panels, showing some early sketches and some finished work.
“I’ve only ever done this in my own house before, and I thought it was pretty dynamic.”
Craig will be joined by his long-time collaborator, the writer Doug McLeod, to take part in the inaugural Bendigo Writers Festival, from August 10 to 12.
He will bring with him advance copies of their new book, Heather Fell in the Water, the first time audiences anywhere will see the book and have a chance to talk with the creators about it.
His big collage will be part of a wider exhibition of his work, and he will also be creating artwork in workshop, as part of the festival.
Craig said he has learnt, over the years, that keeping it simple is the most important rule for illustrators.
“I used to work hard on the style, paying heed to all the tiny details, but I have lost that patience because now I don’t quite believe in it,” he said.
“It is a strategy, to provide a showcase, to show off.
“But along the way you learn how to put an image together, and to avoid the trap of trying to impress adults.
“A picture book is for a child, it has to be legible.”
Craig also said he is surprised people think it’s easy to read a book to a child.
“I don’t think a lot of people know how to do it, but everyone thinks a parent should know how to do it,” he said.
“It’s important that you become familiar with the words, so you can make the story come alive.”
He has worked with most of Australia’s best kids’ book writers, including Emily Rodda, Christobel Mattingley, Gillian Rubinstein and Nette Hilton.
While the illustrator has to do so much more work to make a picture book come to life, Craig said it’s the writer who counts.
“I admire many of them,” he said.
“It’s the writer who is privileged as the storyteller.”
Craig Smith and Doug McLeod will be appearing at the schools’ day, August 10, and then talking on a panel about writing for young readers on August 11, at the Bendigo Writers Festival. Full program and ticketing details in the Bendigo Weekly, next Friday.