Children’s stories in the Australian Bush

Billabong Flats is a mythical place in the Australian Bush. It shares space with other imaginary places like the Five Acre Wood, the Peace Rock, and the abode of Ratty and Mole. It is just as real as you’d like it to be – no more, and no less.

The animals dream the world, as much as the world creates them. The Land speaks through them. They welcome all, no matter how different they may be, or what native languages they may speak. When they come together, they can all speak the same, the voices become that of friendship and accord, where all can have adventures together.

“Each according to their nature,” says Flying Fox, who likes to have fun.

“Each according to their means,” says Koala, who is wise in such things.

The first adventure occurs when Koala organizes the First Billabong Flats All Creature Race. The letters are all in capitals, because it’s a Very Important Thing.

When the world gets too noisy, and there is discord and strife all around, come visit the world of Billabong Flats and have some fun.

Researching illustration styles

At first I wondered if I would do cartoon-like characters for the stories. I must have looked at hundreds of styles over the past month. After trying a few styles, I fell back on art school pen-and-ink techniques, aided and abetted by having some fun with watercolor.

The more naturalistic images from the fifties and sixties had some appeal, but I didn’t want to draw every bit of fur and feather. I wanted them to look like the real animals, which meant researching thousands of images to find photographs that I could adapt and draw from to create the characters for the stories. I already knew what they looked like. Sometimes I was able to find a photo that was close. Often I exaggerated the curves, the poses, or made the eyes just a little larger than ‘natural’. Still, a month later, and a sore hand-and-wrist I have around 80 images sketched.

The next step is coloring them for the first book. There are ten stories written. I’ll share some of the images here s they are finished.

Hope you like them.

A dancing bird for children’s story

Brolga by Ria Loader
Brolga Dancing by Ria Loader Copyright 2016

As long as I can remember, I have loved images of Brolgas. They are a crane-like bird that lives in marshes and on the plains. One of my favorite images is from Sidney Long called Spirit of the Plains. It has a woman with pipes, walking through long grass, followed by a dancing set of Brolgas.

When I find a good reproduction, I’ll share it with you. Meantime, I am enjoying playing with the intersection of pen and ink sketches and watercolor wash.