Sha’an D’Anthes is both author and illustrator of the new picture book, Bandits (published by Lothian Children’s Books). Bandits has great visual impact, is set in a slightly futuristic society and looks at significant issues in a highly appealing way.
Thank you for speaking to PaperbarkWords, Sha’an.
You have such an interesting name and pseudonym (furry little peach). What are their derivations?
Aw thank you! I’m afraid the origins for both names are less mysterious and interesting than they seem! I think my mum was feeling creative the day I was born – and the pseudonym was a username I created when I was 17 and wanted to start a blog – I just liked the way it sounded.
Where are you based and what is your artistic and commercial background?
I am based in Sydney, Australia. I studied art and design and now work as an illustrator, but I began my career in digital design, designing apps and websites at an agency. I am so grateful for that experience because I think it made me a much better and more well rounded creative.
You have an amazing profile on Instagram and as a YouTube vlogger. How would you sum up your online content and presence in a few words or so?
I see my presence online as an extension of my illustrative work and I would describe it as vibrant, joyful and welcoming. I have so much fun doing what I do, I love being able to share that journey with people.
You have a very distinctive art style. What do you think makes your style and design so unique?
Thanks so much! I feel like I still have a very strong sense of childlike wonder and I create the work I want to see in the world.
Could you introduce Fern, the protagonist of your new picture book, Bandits?
Fern is a clever and inquisitive kid who grew up in an ordered but colourless and lifeless city. One day her city is overrun by Bandits and she decides to follow them out of the city. She finds out that things are not quite as they seemed.
What is the significance of the title, Bandits?
Both of my books began with a single image in mind – the image I began with for Bandits was a girl with a mask and loot-bag riding a giant raccoon. I asked myself, who are these thieves? What are they stealing? How did they get here? Everyone has a story, and so I ended up with these two supposed “bad guys” revealing themselves as something more.
Bandits has important themes about the environment, sustainability, society and community. How have you shown some of this in your endpapers?
Apple cores in the first endpapers become fresh apples in the last endpapers – I think it’s a really nice metaphor for several instances in the book where our perspectives shift. Something that could be considered trash has the potential to be transformed into something valuable.
What media have you used to illustrate Bandits? Why have you chosen this media?
Bandits was created with mixed media. I mostly began with watercolour and coloured pencil, and then I would composite elements together and add final details digitally. There are also a few spreads that use Risograph printing (a printing technique that was developed in Japan in the 80’s that can be described as a cross between a screen print and a photocopy) – I love the way they create a really nice printed media effect!
How have you used colour in the story?
Colour is one of my favourite things to think about and work with. The book begins in a grey city, surrounded by grey brick walls – the beginning of the book is really devoid of any colour because Fern’s life is quite sheltered and she is surrounded by people with one world view. I wanted this to come through in everything from the repetitive lines and shapes as well as the colour in the first pages. As her view of the world expands and she begins to think more critically about the things she was taught and once believed, the book becomes a lot more colourful.
How is this a story of hope?
This book really celebrates finding your own understanding of the world through empathy and seeking to understand others. I really feel like if we had more of that in the world – it would be a much more colourful place.
Could you tell us about the other book you have written/illustrated?
Zoom was my debut picture book (also published by Hachette) that explores our solar system. It follows Scout, a young adventurer, who builds a space shuttle and visits all of the planets. Mars is a little red fox, and Jupiter is a giant whale! I wanted to create a visual device to teach kids about the order and size of the planets because science when I was little, we were taught science in a way that I found difficult to grasp – I wanted to make it easier for kids like me who learn more visually.
What are you working on now?
I’m at the very early stages of developing ideas for my third picture book, as well as working as a commercial illustrator and documenting it all on Instagram and Youtube!
Sha’an, you are a wonderful picture book talent, and I hope that your work continues to grow and be appreciated by children and many others – as it no doubt will!