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Thursday 26 October 2023

Meet The Illustrator: Helen Milroy

Helen Milroy

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Whatever works at the time, lots of colour and movement

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Mess. I do like a lot of things to look at like cards, books, paintings, photos. I also like a lot of stuff like toys, pencils, paints, material, craft, canvases. I also like drawing in the garden. When travelling all I need is my iPad. I also love it when my cat sits with me.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I love acrylic paint on canvas but now I use the digital medium. It is great to be able to take your artwork with you wherever you go.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Shaun Tan
Shirley Purdie
Leonardo Da Vinci

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
I would love to go back and visit my ancestors and understand the stories from the cave and rock paintings.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
I was always a visual reader and loved picture books more than words. I wanted to live in the images created so wanted to be able to create illustrations that stimulate imagination. I grew up on stories and drawings. Even if there was no paper, we would go down the backyard and pull a bit of paperbark off the tree and draw on that or draw in the sand. I also loved Aboriginal peoples art and the idea of painting stories.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it.
This photo is fairly typical of my work space. My cat Smokey, is asleep on his cat tower, my favourite puppet, Honey Possum (who always comes with me for storytelling) is on the desk, and there are papers, books, pictures and paintings easily visible. There is also one of my scarves which I may put on for zoom calls. I like to be surrounded by familiar things and I like a lot of colour. If I am painting, I will clear a space as I am a bit of a messy painter. Probably why I like using digital art now so there is less to clean up. I also feel inspired by what I see, patterns, shapes, textures and forms and how odd bits and pieces somehow fit together.


What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
I some times find it hard to get started but once I am in the creative mind space, the illustrations literally fall onto the page. I love this process of allowing the images to draw themselves, it is a beautiful space to be in where everything around you just fades away and I can enjoy the moment. I also love looking at the finished image and smiling. Best of all though, is seeing how kids respond to the illustrations.

Helen Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia but was born and educated in Perth. She is Australia’s first Indigenous doctor and child psychiatrist. Currently Helen is the Stan Perron Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Perth Children’s Hospital and University of Western Australia and Honorary Research at the Telethon Kids Institute. Helen is the Chair of the Gayaa Dhuwi Proud Spirit Australia organisation and a board member of Beyond Blue. Helen is also an artist and published author and illustrator of children’s books. She has been shortlisted for several children’s literature awards and received the 2021 Whitley Award for best early childhood reader for Backyard Birds. Helen loves storytelling and promoting imagination and creativity as part of social and emotional wellbeing.


For more information, please visit Helen's website.