Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan (born 1974) is the illustrator and author of award winning children's books such as "The Red Tree" and "The Lost Thing".

Tan was born in Fremantle, Western Australia in 1974 and, after freelancing for some years from a studio at Mt. Lawley, relocated to Melbourne, Victoria in 2007. cite web |title=Focus on Fiction - Shaun Tan, WA Author and Illustrator |publisher=Department of Education and Training |url= |accessdate=2007-07-25] In 2006, his wordless graphic novel "The Arrival" won the "Book of the Year" prize as part of the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards. [ [ Graphic novel wins Premier's prize. 29/05/2007. ABC News Online ] ] The same book won the Children's Book Council of Australia "Picture Book of the Year" award in 2007. [ [ CBCA Book of the Year Awards - Winners 2007 ] ]

Tan was the University of Melbourne's Department of Language Literacy and Arts Education Illustrator In Residence for two weeks through an annual Fellowship offered by the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust. [ [ News : The University of Melbourne ] ]

In 2010, Shaun Tan will be Artist Guest of Honor at the 68th World Science Fiction Convention to be held in Melbourne, Australia.


Early life

As a boy, Tan spent time illustrating poems and stories and drawing dinosaurs, robots and spaceships. At the age of eleven, he became a fan of The Twilight Zone and similarly themed books. Tan cites Ray Bradbury as a favorite at this time. These stories led to Tan writing his own short stories. Of his effort at writing as a youth, Tan tells "I have a small pile of rejection letters as testament to this ambition!"cite journal |title=Shaun Tan: Out of Context |first=Karen |last=Haber |journal=Locus |issue=12 |month=December |year=2001 |url= |accessdate=2007-07-25]

Eventually he gained success with his illustrations. At the age of sixteen, Tan's first illustration appeared in the Australian magazine, "Aurealis", in 1990.

Transition to Illustration

Tan almost studied to become a genetic scientist, and enjoyed chemistry, physics, history and English when in high school as well as art and claimed that he didn't really know what he wanted to do, even in University. University studies were taking him along an academic route until he "decided to stop studying and try working as an artist."]

Illustration was something Tan enjoyed. The decision to choose it as a career simply allowed him to make a living from drawing and painting. Drawing was something he'd never stopped doing, claiming " was one thing I could do better than anyone else when I was in school."


Tan claims that he had little formal training in the field of book illustration.

Tan attended Balcatta Senior High School in the northern suburbs of Perth where he was enrolled in a special art program for gifted and talented students. "The main advantage," cites Tan, "was that students came to be taught by a wide range of practising artists, not just art teachers." He completed the program in 1991 and he "credits the...Program [for] providing him the fundamental skills of art making." [ [ WA Dept of Education and Training Media Release] ]

Tan continued his education at the University of Western Australia where he studied Fine Arts, English Literature and History. While this was of interest to him, there was little studio practice involved. In 1995, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts. [ [ AustLit Agent ] ]

Work Process

Tan does not aim his work at a specific audience. He maintains that the most successful works build their own audiences. [ [] Dead link|date=March 2008]

Of his actual works he has said: ‘‘I don’t think I’ve ever painted an image as a reproduction of what I’m seeing, even when I’m working in front of it. I’m always trying to create some kind of parallel equivalent."

Originally, Tan worked in black and white because the final reproductions would be printed that way and this preference extended to The Stray Cat. Some black and white mediums he used included pens, inks, acrylics, charcoal, scraperboard, photocopies and linocuts.

Tan's current colour works still begin as monochromatic. He uses a graphite pencil to make sketches on ordinary copy paper. The sketches are then reproduced numerous times with different versions varying with parts added or removed. Sometimes scissors are used for this purpose. The cut and paste collage idea in these early stages often extend to the finished production with many of his illustrations using such materials as "glass, metal, cuttings from other books and dead insects."

Tan describes himself as a slow worker who revises his work many times along the way. He is interested in loss and alienation, and believes that children in particular react well to issues of natural justice. He feels he is "like a translator" of ideas, and is happy and flattered to see his work adapted and interpreted in film and music (such as by the Australian Chamber Orchestra). [ [ Shaun Tan: Tales from Outer Suburbia, "ABC Radio National Book Show", 2008-05-29] ]


Tan draws from a large source of inspiration and cites many influences on his work. His comment on the subject is: "I’m pretty omnivorous when it comes to influences, and I like to admit this openly." Some influences are very direct. "The Lost Thing" is a strong example where Tan makes visual references to famous artworks. Many of his influences are a lot more subtle visually, some of the influences are ideological. Below are some influences he has named in various interviews:

*Films: Brazil, Yellow Submarine
*Filmmakers: Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott
*Artists and illustrators: Francis Bacon, Raymond Briggs, Ron Brooks, Frederick Clement, Joseph Cornell, Giorgio de Chirico, Milton Glaser, Edward Gorey, John Olsen, Michael Leunig, Rene Magritte, Sidney Nolan, Gerald Scarfe, Katsushika Hokusai, J. Otto Siebold, Peter Sis, Lane Smith, Ralph Steadman, Arthur Streeton, Brett Whiteley, Fred Williams,
*Other: paintings in galleries, "the pattern of plumbing on the wall behind my local supermarket" [ [ [] Dead link|date=March 2008] , incidents, textures and accidental compositions created by objects, things from other cultures and times, Polish poster art, streets, clouds, jokes, times of the day, people, animals, the way paint runs down a canvas, or colors go together.


The Shaun Tan Award for Young Artists is sponsored by the City of Subiaco and open to all Perth school children between 5 and 17 years. The award is aimed at encouraging creativity in two-dimensional works. It is held annually with award winners announced in May and finalists' works exhibited at the Subiaco Library (crn Rokeby and Bagot Road, Subiaco) throughout June. [ [] Dead link|date=March 2008]



* Hugo Award, Nominated for Best Related Book for "The Arrival" cite web
title= 2008 Hugo Award Nomination list
* Hugo Award, Nominated for Best Professional Artist
* Angoulême International Comics Festival Prize for Best Comic Book for "Là où vont nos pères", the French edition of "The Arrival" [cite web
title= Palmarès Officiel 2008 Fauve D'Or: Prix du Meilleur Album
work= Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d'Angoulême
language= French


* World Fantasy Award for Best Artist [ [ Locus Online News: World Fantasy Awards Winners ] ]
* New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards, Community Relations Commission Award for "The Arrival"
* The Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards: Picture Book of the Year for 'The Arrival'.


* Children's Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year, Honour Book for "The Red Tree"
* New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards, Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children's Literature Winner for "Red Tree"


* Ditmar Award, Best Artwork for "The Lost Thing" (Lothian Books, 2000)
* Ditmar Award, [edit] Best Professional Achievement for "The Lost Thing" (Lothian Books, 2000)
* Western Australian Premier's Book Awards, Children's Books, Shortlisted for "Red Tree"
* Children's Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year, Honour Book for "The Lost Thing"


* Spectrum Gold Award for Book Illustration
* APA Design Award for "Memorial"
* Children's Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year, Honour Book for "Memorial"
* Ditmar Award, [edit] Best Artwork (Professional) for the Cover of "Orb 0", Shortlisted
* Ditmar Award, Best Artwork for Cover to The Coode St Review Of Science Fiction
* Western Australian Premier's Book Awards, Writing for Young Adults award, Shortlisted for "Lost Thing"cite web |title=Western Australian Premier's Book Awards - 2000 Shortlist |publisher=State Library of Western Australia |url=]


* Children's Book Council of Australia, Notable Book for "The Playground"
* Aurealis Conveners' Award for Excellence for "The Rabbits"
* Children's Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year, Winner for "The Rabbits"
* Spectrum Gold Award for Book Illustration for "The Rabbits"
* Ditmar Award, Best Professional Artwork, shortlisted for "The Rabbits", written by John Marsden


* Crichton Award, Winner for "The Viewer"
* Children's Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year, Notable Book for "The Viewer"
* Ditmar Award, Best Professional Artwork for artwork in Eidolon Publications and the cover of "The Stray Cat", written by Steven Paulsen, Shortlisted
* Western Australian Premier's Book Awards, Children's Book, Shortlisted for "The Playground"


* Ditmar Award, Best Artwork/Artist, Shortlisted for "The Viewer", written by Gary Crew


* Ditmar Award, Best Artwork for Eidolon Publications Issue 19 (Cover)


* Crichton Award for "The Viewer"
* Ditmar Awards, Best Professional Artwork for Aurealis Magazine and Eidolon Publications


* Ditmar Award, Best Artwork, Shortlisted for "Relics"


* L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future Contest: First Australian to win


* The Convocation Award for Art Criticism and fine arts awards for exhibitions in Kalgoorlie, Melville and Wanneroo. [] Dead link|date=March 2008]



As Illustrator

* "Memorial", written by Gary Crew (1999)
* "The Puppet", by Ian Bone (1999)
* "The Hicksville Horror", by Nette Hilton (1999)
* "The Rabbits", written by John Marsden (1998)
* "The Viewer", written by Gary Crew (1997)
* "The Half Dead", By Garry Disher (1997)
* "The Doll", by Janine Burke (1997)
* "The Stray Cat", by Steven Paulsen (1996)
* "Pipe", by James Moloney (1996)

As Author and Illustrator

* "Tales from Outer Suburbia" (2008)
* "The Arrival" (2006)
* "The Red Tree" (2001)
* "The Lost Thing" (1999)
* "The Playground" (1997)


Mural in the Children's Section of the Subiaco Public Library (Perth, Western Australia). Size: 20 Metres Square

Adaptations of Tan's Works

*"The Red Tree", a play based on Tan's book of the same name, was commissioned by the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. [ [ Queensland Performing Arts Centre Media Release] ]
*"The Red Tree", a music performance created by new composer Michael Yezerski with Richard Tognetti; performed by the Australian Chamber Orchestra with the youth choir Gondwana Voices, and accompanied by images from the book. [ [ Australian Chamber Orchestra "The Red Tree] Accessed: 2008-05-29]
* "The Lost Thing" is currently being adapted as an animated short film. [ [ Lothian Books] ]
* "The Lost Thing" inspired an album by Sydney band Lo-Tel, complete with artwork from the book.
* "The Lost Thing" has also been adapted as a play by the Jigsaw Theatre Company [ [ Jigsaw Theatre Company ] ] , a youth theatre company in Canberra. This was the main event for the National Gallery of Australia's Children Festival (Canberra) and at the Chookahs! Kids Festival (Melbourne) in 2006.
* "The Lost Thing" was the theme for the 2006 Chookahs! Kids Festival at The Arts Centre [ [ Homepage - The Arts Centre - the home of the performing arts in Melbourne ] ] in Melbourne, with many different activities based on concepts from the book.



* [ "About Shaun Tan" "Aboriginal Student Support and Parent Awareness Program"] Retrieved December 27, 2005
* [ "About Our Authors and Illustrators". "Lothian Books"] Retrieved December 27, 2005
* [ "CMIS Focus on Fiction: Shaun Tan", "Curriculum Materials Information Servicesin the Department of Education and Training, Western Australia"] Retrieved December 27, 2005
* [ Haber, K. (2001) "Shaun Tan: Out Of Context", "Locus magazine"] Retrieved December 27, 2005
* [ Malyon, Craig [interviewer] . "Illustrator and graphic designer – Shaun Tan". "The NSW HSC Online"] Retrieved December 27, 2005 from .
* [ "Media Statement (2005)", "Western Australia Department of Education and Training"] Retrieved December 27, 2005
* [ "The Red Tree", "Queensland Performing Arts Centre"] Retrieved December 27, 2005
* [ "Shaun Tan Award For Young Artists", "City of Subiaco"] Retrieved December 27, 2005
* [ "Shaun Tan: Biography", "Dreamstone"] Retrieved December 27, 2005
* [ "Shaun puts students in the picture (2000)", "The University of Melbourne"] Retrieved December 27, 2005
* [ "Tan, Shaun", "AustLit"] Retrieved December 27, 2005
* [ Tan, S. (2001) "Originality and Creativity", "AATE/ALEA Joint National Conference"] Retrieved December 27, 2005
* [ Tan, S. (2001) "Picture Books: Who Are They For?", "AATE/ALEA Joint National Conference"] Retrieved December 27, 2005

External links

* [ Shaun Tan's website]
* [ The Lost Thing: Online interactive version]
* []
* [ Interview with Shaun Tan on Australian Edge]

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