Shaun Tan’s illustrations will come to life at The Literature Centre

Shaun Tan
Shaun Tan

INSPIRED by his dad and his work ethic, West Australian illustrator and author Shaun Tan has released his new picture book Cicada.

The Literature Centre will open its galleries to show Shaun Tan’s original artwork for the book.

The story is about an unappreciated and mistreated cicada working in an office until finally he retires and must take his leave.

The illustrator and writer Shaun Tan, who now lives in Melbourne, said he learnt a lot from his dad which helped inspire the story.

“Dad, who worked as an architect most of his life in Perth before retiring and disappearing almost permanently into his very dense veggie and fruit garden in the backyard, his main passion being, well, veggies and fruit,” he said.

“He was a very good architect and designer, but I don’t think his talents were necessarily recognised, and being an immigrant (Malaysian Chinese) with less than perfect English skills perhaps accounted for certain social and career limitations, and no doubt some degree of passive racism.

“He was always very hard-working, exacting, punctual and ethical, and I like to think I’ve learned a lot from him in my own practice, and being true to one’s own nature in spite of adversity.”

Mr Tan said it takes up to a year or up to five years to finish a book.

“In the case of Cicada, I first started sketching ideas for the story in notebooks about ten years ago, and have been thinking about it on and off ever since,” he said.

“I was actually able to produce the text and artwork fairly quickly – over about four months – thanks to having ‘worked’ on it in my mind for so long.”

Mr Tan said he hoped people will feel anything other than boredom when reading Cicada.

The Literature Centre will open its galleries – showing Shaun Tan’s original artwork and creative process, as well as three other exhibitions of original artwork by Matt Ottley, Freya Blackwood and Gus Gordon – between 4pm and 8pm on Wednesday and Thursday 22 and 23 August.