Shaun Tan

Shaun TanShaun Tan is an Australian artist who creates and illustrates “picture books“, which in his case usually means wonderfully bizarre and imaginative flights of fancy that look, at least at first, like somewhat dark children’s fantasy, but are often aimed at both younger and older readers.

He sometimes works with a writer, as in the award winning The Rabbits (image at left, bottom), written by John Marsden, and sometimes writes the stories himself, as in The Lost Thing (image at left, top), which is also a theatre production and in development as a short animated film (more information here).

Tan starts his paintings with thin layers of acrylic over white lines on a dark background, working from dark to light and continuing with oil for the final rendering. He also works in other media, including sctatchboard, pen and ink , pastel crayons, gouache and watercolor, collage, assemblage and digital media.

You can see the multi-media and assemblage techniques in many of his illustrations which employ a stratified and multi-planed approach, with areas broken into smaller images within a larger whole, unified by textures and patterns playing across their surface.

Tan also mixes design elements with more painterly areas, and also works in a more straightforward painterly approach at times, creating a fascinatingly varied array of work.

Tan’s books have been translated into multiple languages and have received book awards in several countries. Tan is also involved in other interesting projects, including murals, theatre productions and a children’s “Art Trail”.

Some of his books, like The Red Tree (image at left, middle), feature experimental narratives, or absence thereof, leaving the reader to wander amid the images and form their own narrative, almost like a Surrealist collage-novel.

Link and suggestion courtesy of Jesper Svedberg

[Update, 2011: See my more recent posts on Shaun Tan.]


10 Replies to “Shaun Tan”

  1. Not sure if it is the fault of “lines and colors” but it seems as if Mr. Tan’s website is currently not reachable due to the server exceeding its allowed monthy bandwith… Too bad, the pictures look very inspiring.

  2. i got two books -the arrivel and the red tree’ and i thing that it is one of the most beutiful presents i have ever got.Not only that you paint amaizing’ but olso your sensetivity’ and anderstanding people and situations is vert spacial.
    Ilana from Israel

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