Australian illustrator communicates via images

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Australian illustrator communicates via images


An attentive Ann James, an Australian children’s book illustrator currently visiting Korea, pushed her glasses into place as she reached for a tissue for a small boy participating in a workshop she held last Wednesday afternoon. The child, with crayon marks all over his arms and hands, yelled, “tee-suo, tee-suo.”
During her one-hour workshop, Ms. James seemed to be communicating, and, more surprisingly, taming the children present and getting their attention through her drawings and facial expressions, without needing language.
Ms. James was a secondary school teacher for four years before she started working as a children’s book illustrator. It has been 25 years since she illustrated her first book, “A Pet for Mrs. Arbuckle.”
Organized by the Australian Embassy in Seoul and Inter Australia Co., and sponsored by seven organizations including JY Books Publishing Company, Alice Korea Publishing Company, Yeowon Media and the Korea Foundation, the 2006 World Children’s Book Fair started at the Korea Foundation’s Cultural Center in Jung-gu, northern Seoul, Aug. 3 and will continue until Saturday. The fair features around 7,000 children’s books from 18 different countries and 200 publishing companies. It is divided into two main sections ― books available in Korea, and those found elsewhere (mostly in English). One of the highlights of this 17-day festival was Ms. James’ drawing workshop and book reading sessions for children, which ended yesterday.
“Visual narrative is so universal. It is immediately understandable and is the perfect vehicle to combine text and image ― almost like film in that way,” Ms. James said. Together with her friend Ann Haddon, Ms. James is a director for Books Illustrated in Australia, a two-story building that has a gallery of her illustrations in their developmental stages, a selection of children’s books and a studio, where Ms. James welcomes children to watch her work.
This is the fourth time Ms. James has visited Korea. “I’m really excited by Korean illustrations. Australian illustrations as well as other western countries’ illustrations are still very tame and pictorial, tending to depict reality. However, a lot of Korean illustrations are abstract and symbolic. They are whittled down to the essence.”
This preference for bare, imaginative drawings is a main inspiration for the illustrator. “I like spontaneous and warm illustrations. I do not like drawings that are too polished, realistic, pretty or frivolous ― illustrations like that do not last,” she said.

by Cho Jae-eun

For more information about the book fair, visit,, or call (02) 3789-5600.
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