Illustrating a reef adventure

Illustrating a reef adventure
Author and illustrator Rhonda N. Garward describes how she created Tilly's Reef Adventure
5 January 2018

To even think about making a book about the Great Barrier Reef is daunting. Where do you start? The idea of a little guide sprang up: Tilly the hatchling turtle, guide and traveller.

Sketch of Tilly by Rhonda Garward

Final artwork of Tilly by Rhonda Garward

The reef is such an amazing place, a treasure as alien as anything in space and yet so close to us, just under the water for us to explore. Tilly introduces young readers to various aspects of the reef, from its construction to its creatures large and small—and its care. 

The most challenging part was deciding what to put in and what to leave out. Each bit of research threw up more questions and it was fun to follow every thread.

Sketch of Humpback Whale by Rhonda Garward

Final artwork of humpback whales by Rhonda Garward

To make the book interesting, I chose creatures from the reef that can be seen in aquariums by children reasonably easily. I wanted to get children to ask questions: ‘Who are the people with the turtles? Is that hermit crab like my pet? What are the children doing?'

For this book, I started with the idea, and then developed a story board to decide on the content of each page. The text followed. Next I began my research into fascinating reef facts and looked for images to inspire my art, photos from aquariums and museums and even family photos.

I drew the images, saving them in computer files to be put together in the compositions for each page. At last it was time for choosing colour schemes and doing colour trials. Then the paintings began ...

Final artwork of underwater scene by Rhonda Garward

Final artwork of children on beach by Rhonda Garward

Tilly's Reef Adventure by Rhonda N. Garward was released by NLA Publishing, the imprint of the National Library of Australia, on 1 November 2017. 

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