Welcome to Creative Kids Tales, Shaun Tan.
At the end of each year, I compile a list of authors I would love to feature the following year on Creative Kids Tales. Some on the list come under the category of wish list, because I know it doesn’t matter how much I beg, their schedule is just too crazy. Shaun Tan was on our wish list, but I still had to try. It only took one email, and Shaun graciously accepted the invitation. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be sitting here writing his intro, so I'd better make it a good one.
Shaun was born in Fremantle, Western Australia in the early 70’s and spent his youth in Perth’s northern suburbs.
Being one of the shortest kids in school was soon overshadowed by his natural ability to draw, and Shaun quickly became known as the ‘good drawer’. He spent his young days illustrating poems and stories. His work closely followed by his peers with drawings of dinosaurs, robots and spaceships morphing from simple to glimpses of the signature genius we have come to recognise in Shaun’s work today.
It is documented that Shaun became fascinated with television series The Twilight Zone and similarly themed books during his youth. Inspired by his love for sci-fi and favourite author for this period, Ray Bradbury Shaun penned his own short stories. The pile of rejection letters is proof of his determination and by the age of sixteen (1990), Shaun’s first illustration was published in the Australian magazine, Aurealis.
Imagine what the world would have missed if Shaun had have followed his passion and become a geneticist. Shaun not only studied art in High School, he also fed his enthusiasm for science studying chemistry, physics, history and English.
It was during his years at the University of Western Australia that he changed his focus from academic studies to art. In 1995, Shaun graduated with joint honours in Fine Arts and English Literature.
His first published cover was for The Pipe by James Moloney, published in 1996 by Lothian Children’s Books and followed by covers for The Stray Cat, by Steven Paulsen also in 1996. In 1997, Shaun’s illustrations graced the covers of books such as The Doll by Janine Burke, The Half Dead by Garry Disher and The Viewer by Gary Crew.
During 1997 Shaun released his first author/illustrated title; The Playground, but also he continued to illustrate work for other authors such as; John Marsden, Nette Hilton, Ian Bone, Gary Crew and Kelly Link.
With his individual titles increasing; The Lost Thing in 2000, The Red Tree (2001), The Arrival (2006), Tales from Outer Suburbia (2008), The Bird King and other sketches (2011) so too was his popularity and accolades.
His awards are….well there are simply too many to list here, so I’ll highlight the ones that defined his career.
The first of many awards, the L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future Contest was awarded in 1992. Shaun was the first Australian to receive this award. He has received a string of Ditmar Awards for his work beginning in 1993 for Relics, in 1995 for Aurealis and Eidolon 1996, again for Eidolon (Cover) in 1997 for Eidolon and the cover of The Stray Cat. In 1998, he received multiple awards Crichton Award, CBCA Notable and the Ditmar Award for The Viewer. From 1999-2002, he won a string of awards for various works CBCA for The Rabbits, The Playground, Memorial, The Lost Thing and The Red Tree. WA Premier’s Book Awards for The Lost Thing and The Red Tree. Ditmar’s for The Rabbits, The Coode St Review of Science Fiction, The Lost Thing and Spectrum Gold Awards for The Rabbits.
From 2002, he took winning to a whole new level with awards from the NSW Premier’s Literary Award, the Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature awarded for The Red Tree. In 2006, he won the WA Premier’s Award for The Arrival. In 2007, he took out the Ditmar, the CBCA’s and the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards for The Arrival. Shaun also collected the CBCA Picture Book of the Year for The Lost Thing.
In 2008, 2009 and 2010 he was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist and was nominated for Best Related Book for The Arrival. Tales from Outer Suburbia received a Dimtar and Adelaide Festival Awards in 2009-10. He took home the Dromkeen Medal and Hugo Award in 2010 for Best Professional Artist an in 2011 he won an Academy Award for Best Short Film (Animated) for The Lost Thing.
Year after year he continues to win industry sought after awards like the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award honouring his contribution to international children’s literature the Peter Pan Prize, Hugo’s, Ditmars and Locus Awards.
From his initial black and white drawings to today’s colourful explosions that dance across the pages of his much-loved picture books, Shaun has never been one to shy away from serious subjects, with his books addressing political, social and historical themes that have been translated for readers of all ages and nationalities to enjoy across the world.
Shaun is a highly regarded artist, writer and film-maker who is recognised worldwide. We celebrate Shaun Tan, from his humble beginnings in Perth drawing images for science fiction and horror stories to his Oscar achievement for The Lost Thing and the countless awards in between and for those still to come. Congratulations!
The Shaun Tan Award for Young Artists, open to all Perth school children aged between 5–17, is another testament to this legendary artist.
Shaun resides in Melbourne with his family.
You can learn more about Shaun Tan on either of the following:
The Bird King blog: thebirdking.blogspot.com.au
Read CKT's interview with Shaun Tan (Mar 2016)