Women In Design
The joy of escaping to another world is what drives this children’s book author and illustrator to keep creating.
Children’s author and illustrator Anna Walker juggles the realm of the imagination with everyday family life.
Even before she could read, Anna Walker was smitten with books. “I remember gazing at my picture books and thinking, ‘This is what I want to do when I grow up’,” she says. “I’ve always loved the idea of escaping into the realm of the imagination, and creating worlds in which you can be anything you want to be.”
Anna’s mother was a librarian and her father a goldsmith, so she grew up surrounded by art and books. “Mum and Dad were busy running a jewellery shop and I spent many hours there, filling in time reading, drawing and sewing.” This held her in good stead.
Melbourne-based Anna initially worked as a graphic designer, then as a freelance illustrator for newspapers and magazines, before being commissioned to illustrate her first book in 2006. Since then, she has illustrated 31 titles, including 18 of her own. Her stories have gentle, amusing and life-affirming narratives, including the awardwinning Mr Huff, a simple tale about dealing with difficult emotions. The characters she creates are always semi-autobiographical. “They’re introverted and quiet and trying to find a way to fit into the world. Each one has a part of me in them,” she admits.
Anna not only conjures up characters for her books, she often brings them to life as felt dolls and in stop-animation videos. “I love spending time with the characters and exploring with them,” she says. “It’s like we’re on a journey together. It’s a lovely place to be.”
8am MORNING SEND-OFF, HAWTHORN EAST
Anna lives in a renovated cottage with her interior-designer husband Scott and their children: Olive, 16, Sam, 12 (left) and Joseph, 14. After rising at 6am, she takes Sunshine the labrador out for a run. Back by 6.30am, she makes the kids’ lunches and gets ready for work. “It’s frantic between 7 and 8am,” says Anna, pictured with the children and Freddy, their Birman cat.
11am–1pm STUDIO, RICHMOND
Anna and author Jane Godwin (right) review the images and text for GoGo and the Silver Shoes, their sixth book together, due out in March 2018. “We rescript and refine, to make the book the best it can be,” says Anna. “There’s a strength and truth about Jane’s words that I admire. Truth is really important in children’s stories.”
9am STUDIO, RICHMOND
“I adore my studio and always arrive with a smile,” says Anna, who shares the space with three other creatives. Her illustrations are mostly in ink and watercolour, but she also enjoys exploring different media, such as collage, pencil, wood-block printing and etching. While the illustrations come easily, the writing can be nerve-racking. “But I love to tell my own stories,” she says.
‘I have been working to achieve this all my life. It’s taken passion and perseverance.’
2pm COLLINGWOOD CHILDREN’S FARM CAFE, ABBOTSFORD
Brainstorming with trusted peers is all-important for Anna, meeting here with friends and fellow creatives Kat Chadwick (left), an illustrator, and Klarissa Pfisterer, a book designer, to discuss ideas for one of Anna’s next books. “I know they’ll give me honest feedback,” she explains. “They’re not afraid to say what’s working and what’s not.” Anna works on a book a year, part of a non-stop creative output. “I usually have one book as my main focus, while plotting the storyboard of a second and gathering tiny seeds of ideas in the hope they might grow into a third, future story.”
Anna is happiest when surrounded by her family, pets and sewing box. “Making things is relaxing,” she says. Here, Anna and Olive make Christmas garlands (far right) while Sam plays with Freddy. annawalker.com.au
HOME TIME Most weekdays Anna aims for “pens down at 3pm”, to be home for the children. Interspersed with making dinner and overseeing homework, she also knits and sews. Her latest project is Christmas cards with a matching felt deer (above left). “I love making characters out of felt,” she says. “It’s like bringing them to life.” ‘My favourite Christmas tradition is making pudding like my nan did, in a calico cloth. Bringing home a Christmas tree is always fun, too.’
‘I love the world of children’s books because I spend the day roaming with imaginary creatures. I can lose myself on a brave adventure and be back in time for the kids’ arrival home.’