Lucy's Cat and the Rainbow Birds
Q&A with JANE TANNER
Lucy's Cat and the Rainbow Birds is Jane Tanner's children's picture book number 12! The much-loved Melbourne artist has since published picture book number 13 ... her own Just Jack
What were your thoughts when you read Lucy's Cat and the Rainbow Birds?
There were two things going on in contrast to each other. One was the idea of a kind of war between the birds and the cat, as there is in nature anyway. And then there was the humour in the story ... the comedy took away from the cruelty of the cat hunting the birds, in a way which I really liked.
Sample cover for Lucy's Cat by Jane Tanner
Why did you use pastels for the illustrations?
When I use pencils they have very sharp points, and it's hard to get movement with a thin, fine line when you're colouring something in. It's different if you're working with a line drawing, but when you're working with a three dimensional image I really wanted it to have lots of movement. The way to do that was to smudge the soft pastel. The pastels soften the drawing and almost create a kind of time warp as wings flutter or the cat leaps. Pastels are just right for that.
It contrasts, too, with the movement of the birds and the stillness of the cat.
Yes, that was important. If you look closely at the cat you'll see the face is often very still, and I managed to get the detail of the eyes and the expression. Then I moved along the cat's body and added some movement. It's quite subtle, but often you'll see the cat's body has a kind of trembling movement and tension, but there's a stillness in the eyes.
Did you use a real cat as a model?
I walked around the streets looking at cats, but I didn't have one I could access. When I saw a cat I would often look at the scale of the cat against the background of trees and birds so I could keep that in my mind. Then I went through lots of photographs of cats I've had at different times, and also reference books. I made up Artemis from all of them, really.
It's amazing you didn't have one sitting on the desk in front of you!
I would have loved that. With Drac and the Gremlin (written by Allan Baillie) I had access to my sister's cat. But I'm afraid that living with dogs... It's the keeping of everything in proportion that is important. If I saw a cat in the street I'd stop and pat it, and look into its yellow eyes, and get the feel of how it moved. I did go back to observing living cats. I didn't just work from photos.
Was there a real girl that you used as the model for Lucy?
Yes. She's a Greek girl, and she lives at the corner of my street, and her name is Daisy. I asked her to pose for me, and of course we got to know each other very well. Daisy treats me like an Aunty now! She was so excited taking the book to school for the first time.
So there are four real Lucys!
There's Anthony's daughter Jane. Verona's Lucy. Jane's step-daughter Lucy. And now Daisy! All with a claim to be the "real" Lucy!
Lucy (Daisy) and another sample cover