One of my Aunties – in her face I see my mother so clearly!
Rotorua, in Aoteroa/ New Zealand, has one of those aromas that you can never forget and which is hard to escape. For me the strong smell of the sulphur is overtaken by an experience that has represented a watershed in the process of doing my thesis. Something I could never have foreseen.
The program in front of me has the words- “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder,” and the speaker is described as an American born Anthropologist whose major study has been in the Mekeo of Papua New Guinea. The theme of the conference is “Arts and Spirituality” and I am presenting some creative writing and story telling workshops on the theme of personal and cultural identity.
I want to meet the speaker before he find out whether he knows much about the village…
I first met Anil Tortop when she and Ozan, her husband, were guest speakers for a professional development session for Writelinks, and have been running into them quite a bit since.
Anil and Ozan originally came from Turkey and when telling us their story on the professional development day Anil used some very cute illustrations and animations. Anil is part of the close knit and warm illustration community of Brisbane and together with her husband can often be found supporting the self publishing dreams of many authors through their design and illustration team work as well as at Children’s Book Illustration events. She is a member of the Brisbane Illustrator’s Group and SCWIBI.
Recently I caught up with Anil, who has boundless energy, and was celebrating the recent release of River Riddle for Ashton Scholastic to find out what animates her as an illustrator.
Today Anil, along with other illustrators is assisting at the Big Draw.
1.June: Anil can you you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you came to be an illustrator
Anil: I used to be an animator and drawing was a part of my job which I loved. Around eight years ago, a publisher/art director friend (who then became my husband) asked me to illustrate a book. Since then I’m constantly illustrating.
2.June: What are the main media you like to work in? Why?
Anil: Wacom Intuos + Photoshop. Because I love the ‘undo’ button! Well, that’s not the only reason of course. I like playing with other stuff too, but nothing feels as comfortable as digital on my professional work.
3.June: Has your style of illustration changed since you came to live in Australia? If it has why? How did you settle in?
Anil: I used to work in a publishing house as a full time illustrator which lead me to illustrate in many different styles. So changing style of illustration was nothing new to me. But I may have changed a bit, as a result of diversity here.
In Turkey I illustrated mostly chapter books, whereas here in Australia I do more picture books.
4.June: Can you tell me about Tadaa?
Anil: My husband Ozan, who has publishing and design background, and I founded Tadaa Book a couple years ago.We call ourselves “Children’s Booksmiths”, providing professional publishing services to authors who consider self-publishing.
We focus on illustrating and designing children’s books mostly. But we also support authors for the next steps, like publishing, creating websites, posters, bookmarks and all the other bookish things.
5.June: What are some of your recent books and works, can you especially tell me about your work with apps?
Anil: My latest published book is River Riddle (Jim Dewar, Scholastic). I have just finished a picture book called Granny, Wait for Me!, which will be published very soon by Little Steps. In the meantime, I am currently working on three other picture books.
Also I have some ongoing projects like regularly illustrating for a Turkish children’s magazine, and doing illustrations and animations for an online education platform called Koantum.
Having an animation background, I love working on apps where I can combine my skills, even though animation work is very limited. I have worked on several interactive projects including some apps for AppTalia. My latest one is a storybook app, called Overlander Adventurers, written and created by Tamara Anne Hogan. Tadaa handled the project direction and my part was again illustrations and animations.
6.June: What do you believe makes a good app?
Anil: Story is the key, of course. Then visuals, especially if it is for children. Then the technology behind it, nobody likes crashing apps. Sound, music, interactivity. It’s all combined, like all other good things.
For a picture book, we say 50% story and 50% illustration. For a good app, you need to add voice overs, sounds, animations and clean coding to story and illustrations.
7.June: How does your work with Scholastic differ or similar to your work with Tadaa, what sort of communication do you have with the author?
Anil: The creating process is pretty similar, only the people and their roles are different. With Tadaa, authors are the publisher. I work directly with them and also the editor, if they hired one.
With Scholastic, Scholastic is the publisher. I work with their editor and I don’t have any communication with authors during the creating process.
8. June: Best experiences as an illustrator vs most challenging?
Anil: After over 40 books, I still love the moment that I hold and smell the fresh printed book best. The feedback I receive sometimes make me awkwardly dance.
I still find each new book is a new challenge in a different way. But if I need to chose a ‘most challenging’ part, it would be deciding what to draw.
9.June: What sort of texts appeal to you and why?
Anil: Funny! I love fun.
10. June: Thanks so much for sharing Anil. I am sure there will be many more books and apps from you and the Tadaa team! I love your sense of fun and thanks so much for your time!
Time is a culturally bound construct. We may, based on what culture we are born into, think we move chronologically, but in many cultures we carry the memory and ancestors with us in stories, songs and myths and a belief in the presence of spirits.
The past walks with present and the present with the future.
We can use our memory, past, wisdom to assist the present if only we pay attention to it.
In writing of lands I have lived and traveled through in an organic and intuitive process I find connections that make a spiral, even a circle, rather than a straight line.
Whilst we physically can’t change the past our understanding of it can dramatically change based on the patterns we find there.
I like the idea of spirals more than circles because in a spiral you can progress even as you seem to circle back to where you once were, but you are still moving forward.
My Papua New Guinea is not a physical memory of a landscape or extended family members, but is carried in the life and story of my mother and precious photographs from an anthropologist.
It is walking beside my brother in a grass skirt with a shell necklace; it is in the culture dance groups my mother starts for her nearby grandchildren and other Pacific friends. They combine forces as there are not many from any of their cultures living in Tasmania.
I think of my mother listening to the songs of Papua New Guinea, of the Maipa Fakai, and Maipa Angapu, whilst learning the new songs of Tasmania. I wonder if she has PNG soul bones or Tasmanian ones now and would she only discover how she truly felt if she left Tasmania to live in another space.
What is it to be Tasmanian raised? What is it to have her soul bones? I am proud that my generation is the one that saved her wild rivers and saw her become more than the apple (orchard) isle.
She has come to embrace herself as a tourist destination and yet still struggles with the highest unemployment in the country and is still making peace with her Indigenous inhabitants.
She is a place of beauty, but which many young people leave for opportunity, but which others feel they can never leave. She reminds me of the Cassowary Coast. She reminds me of the struggles of people on the Sunshine and Gold Coast, who are also trying to stop development that affects the natural beauty of their areas.
Why can’t we have opportunity and soulful nature’s beauty in one package – is it at all possible to have the package together?
I’ve been collecting my life story blogs into a memoir. Today I was so excited because that collection hit 75,000 words.
This is how I presently describe the book: exploring landscapes, dreamscapes, writing scapes, and the getting of wisdom from Tasmania to Queensland: a Mekeo/Australian girl’s daily and remembered life.
The book has shown me how much my blog has focused me into the daily task of writing and contributed to the creation of many works that I can now polish.
My major preoccupations have been growing up in Tasmania as a second generation migrant, the process of writing, gaining wisdom from life experiences, the making of identity, experiencing Queensland and moments of epiphany that sometimes appear like side tracks in life, but where understanding of the world become clearer.
Some of the stories in my collection include: how my Mum and Dad met, meeting an anthropologist studying my Mum’s village in Papua New Guinea, experiencing the night of Cyclone Yasi, being a community journalist charting the recovery process after a natural disaster, the experience of racism, belonging and acceptance, school, writing groups, how my family coped with my brother becoming brain damaged after being knocked off his bike, the loss of another brother who had many problems and died in his thirties, the joys and challenges of motherhood and the exploration of what makes identity in terms of – place, spirit, culture, religion, upbringing.
Music, art, photography, writing, creativity all weave their way through the many stories. It pays tribute to many inspiring friends and people met in my family’s life journey.
My present challenge is do I leave it as a collection of stories and poems that I connect with newly written stories or newly written passages in the stories already there, or do I now use it to inspire a memoir written in a more traditional way.
Now it’s time for me to read a lot of memoirs and think about what makes someone want to read a life story.
If you have any suggestions of great ones to read let me know.
I am really interested in – What makes you read a memoir or a collection of related short stories?