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Involving Students

Student Contributions

Illustrating Tales from the Parthenon, by Naomi Harris

Illustrating early Australian stories from Ethel Turner was an exciting experience to have in my Gap Year. I am British and had been working in Sydney at Presbyterian Ladies’ College when the offer arose. On my travels around parts of Australia, I had started to get a feel for life there, but obviously knew very little about Australian life in the late nineteenth century. My early research and inspiration came from J. M. McFarlane’s illustrations in early publications of Turner’s work. These were particularly helpful for a sense of fashion for the characters and a feel of what the illustrator wanted to portray from the stories.

When it came to illustrating “Bobbie”, I knew I wanted her to be running outside, but needed to represent the landscape of Sydney at that time as accurately as possible. From my travels to remote areas in New South Wales and Victoria, I had a collection of photographs of gum trees and old countryside houses of today’s Australian outback. These acted as models for late nineteenth century Sydney as its suburbs expanded into what had not long before been “the bush”.

I wanted particular moments of the stories to be clearly illustrated. For “Gladys and the Fairies” I sought to capture the exact moment she looked up and saw a small elf. This is the most whimsical of the illustrations accompanying the more fairytale-like writing. This piece contrasts considerably with the watercolour illustration of A Dreadful Pickle showing little Miss. Midge Laurayne in rags with the policeman.

“A Dreadful Pickle” was one of the most interesting pieces to research. I had to find old images or descriptions of those Sydney suburbs that stretched out towards Botany Bay. I found images of cobbled streets of close-together houses and used the story’s description of a dark, dirty alley as the perfect place to draw Midge with the police officer.

When it came to actually illustrating, multiple sketches were created before the final versions were approved. The main issue was creating the best likeness for each character. I wanted each one to be individual and unique, as their characters and stories all differed vastly.

I am incredibly grateful to have worked on a Juvenilia Press Edition, especially as it furthered my knowledge and understanding of past Australian life compared to the present that I had become so fond of during my time there.

Naomi Harris

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