Mum and I shortly before leaving Germany
The emmigration forms for leaving Germany listed a number of potential destinations to begin a new life. By way of being quite certain, my father ticked each box. In 1966, my mother, father and I began the long flight to Australia.
My first impressions of Sydney were the sea of brick red roofs and the unrelenting blue of the sky. The house we lived in was divided into flats for migrants and itinerants. With us were sheep shearers from the bush and a salesman, who instead of laundering would burn his business shirts in the backyard at the end of the week.
Perhaps it was proximity to the harbour, or his profession as a boiler-maker, that put the idea to build a yacht into my father’s head. Either way, the vision of a life at sea took hold and we moved to a fibro house with a boat-sized yard on the fringes of the Sydney. Quite soon the frames of a 45-foot ketch were laid out; a toast rack. My father smiled and pointed to the bow where my cabin would be and to where the fish would swim past my window.
It took four years of weekends for my parents to complete the hull, cabins and deck. Somewhat sparse inside and without an engine or masts, the yacht was launched into the Parramatta River. It was named Rosa-M, after my mother. My room had two round portholes, to see fish through.We explored the coast of New South Wales then travelled north to Queensland. The Rosa-M sailed all the way to Cairns, a city with lofty, sumptuously green hills topped by rolling clouds of mosquitoes. It was an exciting and also haphazard way of life, by the time I was fourteen I had attended ten different schools. The yacht was put up for sale a year later which heralded a difficult change for us all.
After a brief stint in a hotel kitchen as a cook I enrolled in a commercial art course which initially led to freelancing work at various advertising agencies, and eventually a number of positions as a regular cartoonist for yachting magazines.
My time at sea was inextricably tied to my life and I continued to sail whilst pursuing my art career. After an ocean crossing to New Zealand in 1988 and a particularly memorable year in the Shaky Isles, I returned to Queensland where an altogether different way of life presented itself. This new way of life took the form of a ramshackle wooden worker’s cottage, which contained a reasonably attractive electrician. We married, and our daughter Jennifer arrived two years later.
What with the sleepless nights and the opportunity for introspection that early motherhood can bring, an old interest in drawing and writing picture books reared its head.
My new goal of illustrating picture books took quite some years to achieve. After years spent drawing for educational publishers, newspapers and magazines, my first break in the children’s publishing industry arrived with Libby Hathorn’s Grandma’s shoes. This earned me the 2001 Crichton Award for best new talent in the field of Children’s Book Illustration. A number of other illustration jobs followed. I had begun to find my feet in the publishing industry.
One of the chief joys of my new life on land was having the space to work on larger canvases in oil paint and making larger and larger messes. I began to do fine art on the side. A chance meeting with a gallerist opened the door to showing and selling these new works.
Ever since then it has been a juggling act between regular exhibitions and the illustrating of picture books.
I have also tried my hand at writing and in 2014 my own picture book ‘Hasel and Rose’ was published by Penguin Random. The theme of the book centers on a child’s experience of migration and finding courage to make a place for herself in a new world. That it took ten years to get 241 words down on a page has become a standing joke in the family.
I made both stoatments and otterances when Doubleday in New York published ‘Hasel and Rose’ under a new title, ‘Rose and the Wish Thing’. While travelling through the States to publicize the book, I was invited to present a talk at the Mazza Museum in Findlay and give a workshop at the Eric Carle Museum. ‘Rose and the Wish Thing’ was listed by the Bank Street Bookstore as one of the best picture books of 2016.
The inclusion of the original art of Hasel and Rose ( Rose and the Wish Thing) in the 2014 Illustrators Show at Chris Beetles Gallery in London was also a very proud moment . I am very excited to be visiting the gallery again in 2018 to launch my new picture book, ‘Maya and Cat’, published by Walker Books. I have not yet broken the news to my dog.
My hope is to finish every scribbled, curly and half-baked scrap of story I have created, until I have a fine stack of picture books on my shelves. Books were among the most comforting and homely things I recall from my childhood travels, and it is ironic that writing and painting have been such an adventure in my adult life. I am very much looking forward to what is around the corner.
- Ronnie Herman (Illustration Agent USA 2014)
- Chris Beetles gallery (St James London 2014)
- Mazza Museum (Ohio USA 2014)
- May Gibbs Fellow (ACBC 2009)
- Lu Rees Archive (ACT,Australia 2007)
- Perc Tucker Portrait Prize (Townsville, Australia selected and hung 2011)
- Parallax Art Fair (London, UK. Invitation only – selected for May 2012)
Australian Publishers (Author/ Illustration)
- Walker Books (Australia 2018)
- Walker Books (UK 2018)
- Penguin (Australia 2014)
- Double Day (USA 2016)
- Chris Beetles Gallery (London UK)
- Stop Laughing this is Serious Gallery . (Blackheath, Australia)
- Customs House Gallery .(Warrnambool, Australia)
- Books Illustrated . (Melbourne, Australia)
- The Book Garden . (Brisbane, Australia)
- Hughendon Hotel . (Sydney, Australia)
- The Perc Tucker gallery .(Townsville, Australia)
- Dromkeen . (Victoria, Australia)
Australian Publishers (Illustration)
- ABC Books,Allen & Unwin,
- Hodder Headline,
- Harper Collins .
- Pan Mc Millan,
- Jacaranda Wiley,
- University of Queensland Press,
- Brisbane News
International Publishers (Illustration)
- Maine Boats,Homes and Harbours USA ,
- Penguin Books UK ,
- Hodder Headline UK,
- Simon & Schuster UK ,
- Random House UK ,
- Oxford University Press UK ,
- Addison Wesley Longman UK ,
- Wright Group USA ,
- Mc Graw-Hill USA ,
- International Marine,USA
Fine Art (Previous Exhibitions).
- Art Nuvo (Buderim, Australia 2017)
- The Gallery Eumundi (Eumundi, Australia 2009, 2010 , 2011, 2012)
- Impressions on Paper (Canberra, Australia 2008)
- Milton House Gallery (Mackay, Australia 2006)
- Stop Laughing This Serious Gallery (Blackheath, Australia 2005)
- The Frances Reilly Gallery (Eumundi, Australia 2002-3-4)
- The Maltby Gallery (Winchester, UK 2002)
- No.9 the Gallery (Birmingham, UK 2001)
- Artspace 2000,Barn Galleries (Henley on Thames, UK 2000)
Previous Fine Art (Individual Pieces)
- Debut Contemporary(London, UK)
- Eva Breuer Art Gallery (Woollahra, Australia)
- Solander Gallery (Canberra, Australia)
- Greenhill Gallery (Perth, Australia)
- Commerford Gallery (Byron Bay, Australia)
- As well as private collections in Aust, USA, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Canada and the UK
Australian Magazines and Newspapers (Cartooning)
- The Bulletin ,
- Sydney Morning Herald ,
- Courier Mail ,
- Sunday Mail ,
- Herald Weekly Times ,
- Oz Arts ,
- Readers Digest
International Magazines and Newspapers (Cartooning)
- Maine Boats and Harbors USA ,
- Classic Boat USA ,
- Boatman UK ,
- Practical Boat Owner UK ,
- Professional Boat Builder USA ,
- Wooden Boat USA
- Amanda Gore Lifestyle Management,
- QLD on Stage,
- Swift & Moore,
- State Library of Qld,
- Power Brewing,
- Knowles Bristow Advertising agency,
- Lloyds Ships Holdings,
- Court Composers Group,
- Royal Flying Doctors Service,
- David Lewis Illustration Agency (UK),
- Chele Simpson Fine Arts Agency (UK).