Shaun Tan is an illustrator and author born 1974 in Fremantle, Western Australia. He studied in ‘Balcatta Senior High School’ and was known there as the ‘good drawer’ and ‘the most talented artist’. He wanted to become a genetic scientist but after enrolling in a special art program for talented and gifted students, he decided on pursuing a career in arts. He completed his graduation in 1995 from the ‘University of Western Australia’ where he studied English literature, fine arts and history.
When he was young he drew pictures of robots, spaceships and dinosaurs. In his teens Tan started painting and drawing illustrations for science fiction magazines and horror stories. Finally after facing some rejections, Tan got lucky and his first illustration got published in 1990 in a magazine called ‘Aurealis’. Shaun Tan mostly worked in black and white because he says that the images would be printed in that way. The mediums he used for his works were inks, charcoal, photocopies, pens, acrylics and linocuts. His recent works in color also start with being monochromatic. With a graphite pencil he draws his sketches on ordinary paper. Then he repeats his works many times adding and subtracting different parts of the work. Tan also uses collage work with various types of materials like metal, glass and cuttings from books. He even used dead insects for this purpose.
Shaun Tan takes inspiration from many sources. He states ‘I’m pretty omnivorous when it comes to influences, and I like to admit this openly’. His influences might be ‘indirect’ or ‘direct’ like in his work ‘The Lost Thing’. Some of his works are quite subtle when it comes to inspiration whereas some are conceptual. He has been inspired from many themes and subjects some of which are; Filmmakers like Terry William, Stanley Kubrick, Tim Burton, Ridley Scott, Films such as Yellow Submarine and Yellow. He has also used many artists and illustrators as an inspiration for his works. These include Ron Brooks, Joseph Cornell, Milton Glaser, Michael Leunig, Gerald Scarfe, J. Otto Siebold, Lane Smith, Brett Whitley, Fred Williams, Rene Magritte, Peter Sis, Fred Williams and many more.
His books as an illustrator are ‘Pipe’ (1996), ‘The Stray Cat’ (1996), ‘The Doll’, ‘The Half Dead’, ‘The Viewer’ (1997), ‘The Rabbits’ (1998), ‘The Hicksville Horror’, ‘The Puppet’, ‘Memorial’ (1999) and ‘Pretty Monsters’ (2008). As an author he has written and illustrated ‘The Haunted Playground’ (1997), ‘The Lost Thing’ (1999), ‘The Red Tree’ (2001), ‘The Arrival’ (2006) and ‘Tales from Outer Suburbia’ (2008).
From 1992 to 2011 Tan has been honored with 45 awards and prizes He has received the ‘Notable Book’ award by ‘Children’s Book Council of Australia’ for ‘The Playground’, ‘Writing for Young Adults’, ‘Ditmar Award’ and ‘Academy Award’ for ‘Lost Thing’, ‘Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year, Honor Book’ for ‘Red Tree’, ‘Children’s Books category winner in the Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards’ for ‘The Arrival’ and the ‘Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, winner of the Children’s Literature Award category and the South Australian Premier’s Award’ for ‘Tales from Outer Suburbia’. There is also an award named after him by the City of Subiaco and children with excellent artistic skills are open for this award