A bit about me

2020

Hi, I’m Judy Watson. I’m a book illustrator and artist, working from a studio in Frankston South, where I’m lucky enough to overlook the Sweetwater Creek. I share my house with my husband and two teenage children and I have trees, birds, insects, lizards and frogs on my back doorstep. I have chickens and dogs in the front garden (and usually on the couch).

2019

2019 was a fabulous year because I had two picture books published and even an inclusion in a fabulous children’s poetry book. The first picture book was Leonard Doesn’t Dance, written by Frances Watts and published by HarperCollins. It’s a story that explores friendship, self doubt, loyalty and kindness. The characters are birds and it’s brimming over with colour and love. It also features the view out of my kitchen window.

The second book was Searching for Cicadas by Lesley Gibbes and published by Walker Books. It has since been shortlisted for the CBCA book of the year in the Eve Pownall Award category for information books. This book was a lovely exploration into our Australian landscape for me. I spent time finding ways to depict our unique plant life, roaming around in our garden and neighbourhood looking at trees and herbs. The connection between a child and grandparent in the story, reminds me of summer holidays with my own family.

The book of children’s poetry was Moon Fish by Harry Laing, published by Ford Street Publishing. This was a fun idea, where many of Australia’s well known illustrators contributed illustrations for the poems of their choice. Momentarily the bidding was fun but fierce! I wanted the magpie poem, but missed out. However, I was very happy to accept the emu poem instead. (I’m such a sucker for birds.)

2017

Prior to these I contributed to a little chapter book gem by Lisa Shanahan, published by Allen and Unwin in 2017. It’s called The Grand, Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler. I did small cover figures for this one and several small black and white vignettes for the interior. I loved reading this book and contributing to it. It radiates warmth and wisdom.

2015

Thunderstorm Dancing, written by Katrina Germein, was published in 2015 by Allen and Unwin. It’s a story about a family celebrating the sights and sounds of a seaside thunderstorm. It’s a great one for exploring music and movement, and also has a strong family element. You can see lots of snippets about the making of Thunderstorm Dancing here on my blog. The illustrations have since won a Highly Commended Award in the 2015 Illustrators Australia Awards, and the book was made a CBCA Notable Book for 2016.

thunderstorm-dancing-cover Notable

2012

Goodnight Mice! written by Frances Watts was my first 32 page trade picture book, (although I had done a flap book and two board books before this). I was so excited when it won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award (Children’s Fiction) in 2012 and also became a CBCA Notable book. It has been printed in all kinds of sizes and formats and been a great favourite with many people.

goodnight-mice-
19 print 15cm wide image area

2009 and earlier

Frances and I had previously worked together on Extraordinary Ernie & Marvellous Maud. Extraordinary Ernie and Marvellous Maud was named a Notable Book in the Younger Readers category of the 2009 CBCA Book of the Year Awards. It is part of a series of four books and has a special place in my heart.

extraordinary-ernie-marvellous-maud
Ernie and Maud page 50
It’s not easy being a superhero but it can be rewarding.

I’ve illustrated several other chapter books for primary school aged readers, many of them in the Aussie Nibbles or Aussie Bites series for Penguin Books. I’ve also done a few cover illustrations, including covers for Emily Rodda’s Fairy Realm series.

Along with books, I’ve had the pleasure of illustrating many educational resources. Some of my work has been with Melbourne Museum who always challenge me with fascinating and wide-ranging subjects. I’ve drawn dinosaurs, markets in ancient Pompeii, Chinese opera, solar systems, Phar Lap, archeological digs, and many other things. For a while I worked on the Museum Victoria members’ magazine Kids Page which was a lot of fun.

Early work as an illustrator and designer

Some of my work in the past, has been for councils and for Greening Australia, helping to teach people about our wildlife and about Landcare practices that help to conserve our ecosystems and keep our farmlands productive and healthy. This involved researching, illustrating, designing and typesetting pamphlets, brochures and signage.

I was lucky enough to meet my future husband at Greening Australia. And being a plant nerd, he has had an influence on my growing interest in plants and nature over the years. I must admit to having known virtually nothing about plants before working at GAV and meeting Scott, although I had always had a love of being in nature. (Illustrating Searching for Cicadas felt like a combination of my later learning about plants, nature and teaching materials and my early life spending school holidays in the country.)

Country holidays. My very naughty pony Tom Thumb and I, in the front paddock with Snowy the steer. We used to drop out of trees onto the steer’s backs when they wandered underneath us.

I also had fun illustrating quite a few posters at this time. I did posters for special events like Christmas carol evenings and Spring Planting Festivals. I love posters – they’re a lot like book covers. They need to have visual impact, clarity of design and good typesetting or lettering. I enjoyed learning everything I could about type over the next few years. I even went a bit crazy about logo design.

Loads of other stuff happened.

1966

I was born in Melbourne. (On Labour Day, but I haven’t made a habit of being so literal since then.)

Here I am in the middle of my two brothers in 1966. It looks like Robert is aware that his world is collapsing around him. Peter is too young to have a clue yet, and still thinks I’m funny.

If you’d like to read the occasional post about my illustrating adventures, subscribe to my blog to have blog posts delivered to your email. I’d be so happy to have you here.

15 thoughts on “A bit about me

    1. Judy Watson Post author

      Thanks GE :-) much obliged. My response to the questions will have to wait a little however, as I am up to my neck with picture book deadlines. If this causes a problem, you can pick somebody else if you like. Otherwise I’ll get to it as soon as I can. Cheers, Judy

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    1. Judy Watson Post author

      Thank you! I hope you enjoy Ernie & Maud. I ordered a copy of Hildafolk on your recommendation last night. I love a good graphic novel. Have you read ‘Jane, the Fox & Me’ by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault?

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  1. lisajaynemurray

    Hi Judy…Saying a little hello from just up the road in Beaumaris and also a big thank you for sharing your creative process online. I hope you know how very helpful and encouraging it is to us wannabee’s who are tentatively dipping our toes in the scary ocean of professional illustration. Thanks Muchly LjM

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    1. Judy Watson Post author

      Hi Lisa Jayne. Sorry I’ve taken a while to get back to you. Thanks for visiting and commenting. Not sure why you should say wannabe when you are so successful already! I will have to catch up with you in person so you can teach me a thing or two. You are indeed not far away at all in Beaumaris. After I get back from Italy in April we should meet for a cup of tea.

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  2. Pingback: Thunderstorm Dancing | Katrina Germein

  3. Elaine Rogers

    Hello- are you selling prints of your greyhound illustration “diamonds”? I have a few greyhounds and saw this illustration of yours recently. Many thanks- Ellen

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  4. Judy Watson Post author

    Hi Elaine, Thanks for your enquiry.

    Are you referring to the illustration from Thunderstorm Dancing that has been going around on social media? It has the little girl with her arm around the whippet/greyhound (it turned out in-between size!) She is wearing red bathers. The dog is in a red bandana. If so, I can get high resolution archival quality digital prints made to order.

    The version on the internet has been cropped down just to the dog and girl, but the original includes the sunset and the beach and horizon. Please feel free to email me to discuss what you have in mind. Cheers, Judy

    My email address is judydotthumbprintatgmaildotcom. You just need to replace the dots and ats with .s and @s. :-)

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