Anna Walker first came into my children’s lives with her delightful illustrations of Australian seasons in All Through The Year, followed by Hurry Up Alfie and most recently Mr Huff. We’re big fans of her soothing ink and pencil scenes and characters, and were so excited to be able to ask her about her life as an artist and mother. This is what she told us.
How did you start working as an illustrator and author?
I worked as an illustrator in the areas of editorial and packaging for a long time before finding my feet as an author and illustrator of children’s books.
After 10 years or so of knocking on the doors of publishers, I finally got my break in 2006. The stars aligned during a retreat for book illustrators and authors, where I met people in the industry and gained the confidence to send out some of the rough book ideas I’d been working on.
Was creativity encouraged when you were growing up?
I was surrounded by the arts while growing up – my father was a goldsmith and my mother a librarian. I was encouraged to paint, draw and make things. My grandmother loved to paint using watercolours and we often used to paint and sew together when I stayed with her.
When I was about four years old I had a picture book of fairy stories. I remember looking at the enchanted world within the pictures and thinking, this is what I am going to do when I grow up.
I’m inspired by things like listening to my children tell a funny caterpillar story, the way our cat lies on its back like an otter and daydreaming while watching the trees outside my studio window.
Do you include your children in your creativity?
I love to include the children, but as they have gotten older the response to a drawing expedition is not as enthusiastic as it used to be! One of my favourite outings is going to the National Gallery and Fed Square with the family.
What do you have in place in your current life that allows you to be a mum and also a creative?
My husband picks up the children from school one day a week and my mum is also wonderful at helping out. I have lovely friends who come to the rescue when things go awry! I use milk and bread delivery and am forever writing lists and schedules of after-school activities, places to be, and hopefully the correct time and day for things.
What’s surprised you most about becoming a mum?
When I had my first baby, everything was a surprise. I laugh now as I remember my desk set up in the baby’s room, thinking I would work there while she slept! My whole world changed when Olive was born. I was overwhelmed with love for her, and shocked by the all-consuming world of looking after a baby. In time we settled into a routine.
Now I look back in amusement at what I thought life would be like with a newborn.
What helps you parent well?
Taking time now and then to stop and breathe. I have a busy personality and am often rushing about. Sometimes I need to remind myself to slow down and look around – to take the time and listen to my children and hear what they have to say about the world.
What’s the best parenting advice you’ve been given?
It’s okay to feel like you don’t know what you are doing at times. There is no instruction manual that comes with a little baby. You and the baby are both learning about each other.
What’s the best creative advice you’ve been given?
Do you have any advice for other women who may be trying to combine their lives as creatives and caretakers?
I think juggling creativity and motherhood is worth all the hard work and hurdles you have to jump over to achieve some kind of balance. While there are moments I feel like I am doing neither very well, most of the time going to the studio fills me with joy and I look forward to seeing the kids after school. I am doing what I love and I think that makes me a better mum.
Anna is one of six inspiring Australian women featured in the August 2015 issue of CHILD Mags. Pick up your copy to read advice on being a creative mother from Anna Walker, Christine Pobke, Beci Orpin, Laura Blythman, Amy Harris and Chantelle Ellem.
Want to see more Anna? Watch this absolutely delightful video of Anna Walker working in her studio on YouTube.
Anna Walker is a 44-year-old illustrator and author, and mum to Olive, 14, Joseph, 12, and Sam, 10. She lives in Victoria with her children, her husband Scott and their pets, Sunshine the dog, Fred the cat, Flopsy the rabbit and Fish the fish. Visit her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr.