Billabong Flats – Australian animal stories by Ria Loader
I published the first of 4 books in the Billabong Flats tales at Book View Cafe in November. Here’s a sneek peek at the covers for the set of books. The first book includes stories about a Big Race, one where Fearless Flyer shares a shining rock with Magpie, and a story for Kookaburra.
Next time, for Book 2, we’ll follow the Dingo pups and how they find their special names.
The images begin as pen and ink, are transformed by watercolor, and then finished as a digital print. Fine art prints of your favorite characters can be found at my sister’s store sagedepot.com.
I wrote these stories for my beloved husband, and for the beamish boy who lived in his eyes. Read these stories to kids, and to each other, for the whimsy of it. Enjoy.
Children’s stories in the Australian Bush
This is a bit of a retrospective view from 2016, however, I found myself with a new publisher – Book View Cafe – in 2020, as yet another Big Race loomed.
Billabong Flats animals by Ria Loader
These are modern fables, tales of the ordinary acts of kindness and friendship, of discovery and adventure. Purely invented, they come from memories of childhood. They occur at the intersection of seeing the animals in the wild, and imagining what their lives would be like if they could tell us stories.
Billabong Flats is a mythical place in the Australian Bush. It is somewhere on the Eastern part of the continent, in the hills, between Sydney and Melbourne, thereabouts. It is also in another fictional world at the same time. Billabong Flats shares virtual space within my love affair 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.
In my stories, the animals dream the world, as…
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A dancing bird for children’s story
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 Sydney Long called Spirit of the Plains. It has a woman with pipes, walking through long grass, followed by a dancing set of Brolgas.
Here she is the piper, and they her companions. Dancing, weaving, living spirit beings. It is almost as if the flute and grasses dance together to create their wild energy.
Along the way to finding my own art style, I found these illustrations for inspiration. I particularly admire the metamorphic image towards the right. The transformation image by Judy Prosser is brilliant. This image gave me the idea of playing with watercolor for my own images.
My first drawing steps were in pen and ink. I typically like to use a .01 pen as it creates very fine lines. I use a gestural style, where I don’t try to fill in all the details. Later, I come back and add the color, let the watercolor dictate the color blends. Then I take it into digital and push the values, erase where needed, and focus on areas around the ‘face’ of the animal.
These images are the sketches for the Billabong Flats children’s stories. Brolga dances in the grasses, down by the water. The spirit of movement, the play of wings and wind, these are her ways.
The graceful cranes, high-stepping in the marsh make me want to move. I am drawn to the rhythm, the sweep of the wings, and the capture of lively abandonment to the moment. Watching and drawing these birds gives me joy.