TOWNSVILLE’S MARGIE O’HARA PHOTOSHOPS HER TRAVEL PHOTOS INTO WHIMSICAL ILLUSTRATIONS FOR HER ELLY ROSE CHILDREN’S BOOK SERIES
Travelling is food for the soul for Townsville writer and illustrator Margie O’Hara. “To see how life functions, whether human or natural life, in other places is really humbling,” the mother of two adult daughters says.
“Meeting people from other places will show you that your world view isn’t the same as everyone else’s. You can’t imagine how different life is in another place until you see for yourself.”
O’Hara, who has travelled extensively around the globe and has written numerous travel articles for the Eye, says travelling makes her more grateful for what she has.
“You meet the most amazing people and see the most amazing things,” she says. “The more you travel the more tolerant you become of other people’s beliefs, religions and ways of life.
“Travel makes you a storyteller. When we travel we either have great stories and want to go back or we have such a bad time we never want to travel again. Either way, they’re chapters in the story of our life.”
And O’Hara says her travels ignited her passion for storytelling and illustrating, creating the popular travel-inspired books for children, the Elly Rose Adventures series.
“The Elly Rose series came about when I was playing with one of my travel photos,” she says. “I was studying Photoshop and one of my assignments was to do a series of six related images that told a story with a universal theme.”
O’Hara says the character Elly Rose is, personality-wise, a child version of herself, albeit braver and more confident.
“She is adventurous and loves exploring and meeting new people,” she says.
“Elly Rose is cheeky and fun and always ready to help someone.
“I wanted her to have red hair and green eyes instead of the stereotypical blonde haired blue-eyed character.
“She loves wearing quirky dresses. I loved sewing similar style dresses for my girls when they were young.“
O’Hara says digital art and technology play a significant role in her illustrations for the Elly Rose Adventure series.
“My artwork starts with an original photo, and then I digitally build up layers bringing a piece to life,” she says.
“Some pieces have up to 30 layers to create the finished look. I go back and forth from writing to artwork until they fuse together. Sometimes they morph into something completely different to where I started.”
O’Hara works in a temporary administration job after being made redundant from a long-term admin public service role.
The Julia Creek-raised author has always loved writing and says she wrote her first manuscript when she was only eight as part of a school assignment.
“Each night instead of writing a new story as required, I continued on with my own story,” she says.
“My mother kept the manuscript and when I left home I eventually typed it up, as my writing was so messy, it was hard for me to read. Unfortunately I threw the original manuscript away, but I still have the typed one. I didn’t do anything with it because I couldn’t draw and I knew how the images looked in my mind.”
O’Hara says she has loved photography from an early age and loved how a single image could tell a story of where a person has been or what they have seen.
“I bought my first film camera at 18 when I travelled to Europe on my own,” she said. “I met a young photographer who told me when you are taking photos of something famous, look where everyone else is standing and taking photos and move in the opposite direction and find a different angle.
“He taught me about rules of thirds. Both these tips have helped me to capture images that are hopefully a little different and interesting.”
O’Hara says her photography tends to focus on nature and architecture.
“I like to frame images with flowers or foliage if available and I have done this in my illustrations in the Elly Rose books,” she says.
“I haven’t really taken many photos of people, and if I do I like them to be creative.
“When my children were small I nailed the Anne Geddes style images, but now they are older I’m not allowed to take photos of them.”
O’Hara says she has nurtured her storytelling and illustrating since her daughters, Caitlin and Sophie Roseby, left home.
“Being a mum kept me busy until my girls left home,” she says. “While they were at home I didn’t have time to be an artist. I had to find other ways to be creative, such as cooking, sewing, and making home-made cards and gifts with the girls.
“When the girls left home I found I had much more time for myself. I started going to the photography workshops to improve my photography. Someone suggested going to their writing workshops to write stories for my images. I had forgotten how much I loved creating stories. Once I started, the stories just kept coming.” READ ABOUT MARGIE’S TRAVELS IN SRI LANKA ON PAGES 26-27 OF TODAY’S EYE Margie O’Hara’s published books include The Elly Rose Adventures – Selfies from Townsville; The Elly Rose Journals, Elly Rose in Sri Lanka; Through the door to Sri Lanka; Elly Rose in Japan and Elly Rose in Denmark. For stockist details, go to ellyrosetownsville.com.au