Bethany Macdonald’s illustrations in ‘Paperboy’

Inside the CBCA Shortlist

Paperboy, illustrated by Bethany Macdonald, written by Danny Parker and published by Dirt Lane Press is shortlisted for the 2020 CBCA Awards for New Illustrator. This award aims to recognise and encourage emerging Australian book illustrators.

The illustrations in Paperboy are emotionally sensitive and beautiful. They showcase an original style and reflect a true artist’s perception and talent.

Thank you for speaking to PaperbarkWords, Beth.

Paperboy is moving to a new house. Moving is always a traumatic time. Could you please tell us what you know of, or feel about, Paperboy?

From the first time I read through the manuscript I felt very moved by Paperboy’s situation. I connected with Paperboy through similar experiences I had as a child. I could feel the trepidation and uncertainty of his world at the start of the book and journeyed with him throughout the text, culminating in his discovery and understanding of his own resilience and strength at the end of the book.

How you have composed the character of Paperboy through art and how have you created emotion in your illustrations in Paperboy?

Margrete Lamond, publisher of Dirt Lane Press, was very supportive and gave me lots of guidance in creating the character of Paperboy and tips on creating emotion in my illustrations.

We had had discussions about Paperboy and what he might look like, how old he was etc. then suddenly Paperboy emerged from the page one night when I was working late on different character designs. I just had that feeling of “Oh – there you are”.

Creating emotions in illustrations involves considering many different elements – colour, texture, the size of the different characters, the positioning of objects and characters on the page and so on. For me it was crucial to ask myself what the core emotion was on each page and try to be really clear on that when I was illustrating.

Bethany Macdonald & Paperboy
(written by Danny Parker, Dirt Lane Press)

You have made Paperboy’s shirt and some other things from paper with typewritten font. Is the text on these something you have created or is it from an existing work? If so, could you tell us which work or the genesis of the text?

I am so glad you noticed that! The text is actually the text of Paperboy that I typed over and over again and then used in the collage process. I wanted Paperboy to be wrapped in his own story.

(Oh, that gave me goosebumps, Beth!)

Could you describe how you have represented Paperboy’s parents? Why have you shown them this way?

I thought a lot about how to represent Paperboy’s parents. I wanted to keep the focus on Paperboy. It is his story. The parents are very important characters but I wanted to ensure that the spotlight stayed on Paperboy.

You have aptly used collage of different papers, acrylic paint and torn up cardboard boxes to create your artwork in Paperboy. What is the role and value of paper to you?

The role and the value of the paper was crucial to creating the works. I used fragile tissue paper extensively where Paperboy was in a vulnerable/fragile situation, moving to sturdier paper when Paperboy was feeling more hopeful and stronger himself.

I used cardboard boxes as they are used to move house and I felt this was a way to connect the reader to Paperboy.

How have you used paper to create texture in your collage illustrations?

Collage is a wonderful medium to create texture and adds physical three-dimensionality to a work. Using paper allowed me to scrunch it, fold it, tear it and otherwise manipulate it in a way that would allow me to use the texture to enhance the emotion in each illustration. One lovely surprise was the shadows that were created by the paper in some of the works.

What other techniques have you used to create texture or depth?

One technique I used was cutting the actual illustration into shapes that enhance the meaning of the illustration. Each illustration was not necessarily rectangular or square. For example, for the final image of Paperboy’s house the illustration was actually cut into the shape of a house.

I also used paint and crayon to create texture like the tiled floor around the pool. I cut each tile out from hand painted paper then ‘laid’ the tiles with glue. I then ‘grouted’ the tiles with crayon.

Layering was also important to create depth in each work. I sometimes used many layers of coloured paper, then tissue paper glued on top etc. to create depth.

There are tiny cracks in some of the family’s possessions after their move. How have you represented cracks?

I represented cracks largely by actually ripping/ tearing the paper objects and re-gluing them back onto the page. I have also represented the cracks in the family by positioning the mother and father on different pages of a double page spread for example.

Where or how have you increased colour during the story?

I have increased colour in the book as Paperboy moves from a vulnerable position of uncertainty at the beginning of the book to a more secure, stable position by the end of the book. The colour palette was quite muted at the beginning of the book and slowly moved to brighter warmer colours such as oranges and yellows as he becomes more hopeful and confident.

How did you collaborate with author Danny Parker on the picture book?

I haven’t actually met Danny Parker who lives in a different state of Australia to me. I collaborated with the publisher, Margrete Lamond.

What impact has being shortlisted for the 2020 CBCA New Illustrator award had on you or your book?

I am very honoured and surprised to be shortlisted for this award. I hope the impact it has had on the book is that more people read it and engage with Paperboy and his story.

You are an artist in your own right. Could you tell us about some of your artwork and where it can be viewed?

I am a painter, collage artist and printmaker. I am posting my work on my Instagram page @bethanymacdonaldartist and have a website that will be up and running shortly.

Could you tell us about your other published book?

Paul, my husband, and I wrote The Hole Idea in 2019. It is illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom and published by us at Book Trail Press. We were thrilled when The Hole Idea was announced as a Notable book by the CBCA in the category of Book of the Year Early Childhood.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a new book that Paul and I have also written together. I am also illustrating this one as well. It is called Where Hope Lives Now. I am also working on a series of linocuts and paintings for an exhibition next year.

What have you been reading that you would like to recommend?

There are so many! I have just read Sarah Crossan’s new book for adults – Here is the Beehive. She is one of my favourite authors. I also loved Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty and Sue Whiting’s picture book, “Good Question”.

(I also love Diary of a Young Naturalist and will look for the others you mention.)

You and your husband Paul Macdonald own the highly regarded and much loved The Children’s Bookshop. Where is the bookshop now located? What are some of its special services? What is your role there and how can people contact you?

Paul has owned The Children’s Bookshop for 15 years. We are located in Glebe and our core business is supplying books to schools and libraries. The business operates the same as it has always done – we just don’t have the retail space anymore. Paul uses his extensive knowledge to curate specialist lists for schools on Paul’s Book Trail. Signing up to Paul’s Book Trail is a wonderful way to ensure school library collections are up to date and school literature circle books etc. are engaging for students. You can contact myself or Paul on

My current role is running The Children’s Bookshop Speakers’ Agency. We have about 65 children’s authors and illustrators that we represent and book into schools and libraries for visits and workshops. It is such a rewarding job and something both Paul and myself are passionate about. You can contact me via our website:

Paperboy is a thoughtful, immersive work, composed with an artist’s eye.

Thank you for your brilliant responses, Beth, and all the very best with this and your upcoming books and art.

Paperboy at Dirt Lane Press

2020 CBCA Shortlist

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