BROADER HORI­ZONS

TOWNSVILLE’S MARGIE O’HARA PHOTOSHOPS HER TRAVEL PHO­TOS INTO WHIM­SI­CAL IL­LUS­TRA­TIONS FOR HER ELLY ROSE CHIL­DREN’S BOOK SERIES

Townsville Bulletin - Townsville Eye - - Feature - WORDS: BET TINA WAR BUR­TON P HOT O:ZAK SI MM ONDS

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

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