Another stunning book from artist and writer Shaun Tan
Maybe this week’s theme should be “My Heroes”, what with Nick Bantock yesterday and Shaun Tan today. Both gentlemen are certainly alchemists, creating lush worlds from the seemingly ordinary.
Today I have been swooning over Tales from Outer Suburbia, Shaun’s new collection of short illustrated tales. It took me quite a while to get past the end pages, wall to wall doodle-fests of tiny creatures, aliens, robots and caricatures. And then come the full colour illustrations, many bathed in dusty late afternoon light. There is a sense of space to these paintings that reminds me of the American West: big sky and endless tracts of boxy houses. But then Shaun Tan is from Western Australia, so perhaps that big sky feeling is something shared with America.
But just when you are thinking, yeah, wide open spaces – bang! – the next story is about a tiny foreign exchange student who lives in a teacup. Here Shaun’s virtuosic skill in drawing close-ups of household objects is breath-taking. It reminds me of one of his other books, The Arrival, a wordless picture book that was so moving it made me choke up in Borders when I first looked at it.
And then another surprise…the next story’s illustrations are homages to Japanese wooodcuts, with delicate colour and texture. Is there anything this man can’t do? Because as you go along, you find dense hatched ink drawings, beautifully tinted with subtle colour. And then further on, ye gods – is that scratchboard (scraperboard to some folks)? Toward the end of the book, there is a full page spread that looks like pastel or oil pastel, a
riot of pink textures.
Ahh, what a pleasure to read and look at. And so are Shaun’s other books: The Red Tree, The Viewer and The Lost Thing.
If this isn’t enough inspiration for a Friday afternoon, have a look at Shaun’s website and prepare to swoon.