Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Friday 3 December 2021

An anthem for all

Watch out for this forthcoming publication that celebrates our national anthem and is due for release at the start of the New Year. Tony Flowers shares the research and investigations undertaken to craft a broad and encompassing portrayal of Australia.

Two years ago, I was relaxing after a day of presenting to school groups at the Byron Bay Writers Festival when I received a call from my publisher with a new opportunity for me to consider.

Book cover [insert] - the Nomad on safari. Image © Tony Flowers

I was asked, 'How would you feel about illustrating the national anthem?'. After my initial hesitation, I thought it would be an interesting challenge to see if it was even possible to make the anthem into an engaging narrative. After all, this is a song that is girt by controversy.

After a few hours of scribbling away at my sketch pad, I became quite excited by the idea. One of the challenges was that the Australian Government holds the copyright for the anthem. I created a rough layout and submitted it to the prime minister and Cabinet to get approval to use the text. The biggest challenge lay ahead once this hurdle was passed: illustrating the national anthem without making it look like a cliché, a travel pamphlet or flag-waving festival to everything Aussie - green and gold.

Arctic sketch [insert] and finished version. Image @ Tony Flowers

My approach was simple; the book would celebrate the diversity of the Australian landscape and the diversity of people and lifestyles that make up our country. I would also have to include locations from each state. I wanted the images to feel more like a scrapbook of memories rather than a collection of picture-perfect iconic scenes. As a result, the finished book includes:
Images of the red centre.
The frozen ice of Antarctica.
Urban cityscapes.
Rural landscapes
Boats on the high seas.
And much more.

As I set about drawing up the illustrations for the National Anthem, I found myself weaving in friends, family, my motorcycle and my dogs into quite a few pages. There are so many dogs in this book; I jokingly think of it as having the alternative title of 'Advance Australia dogs' as there is a dog (at least one) on every page.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Permit 554. Image © Tony Flowers

The one image that I desperately wanted to do a site visit on was for the Uluru page. I had never been there, and I knew if I didn't go, my illustration would have been based on a bunch of cliché giant red rock style images. A window of opportunity opened up between rolling Covid lockdowns, and my wife and I flew off to Uluru.

Uluru trip Ceri and Tony. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Permit 554.
Image © Tony Flowers
Many of the wildflowers and reptiles that we encountered on this trip made their way into the illustrations, as did the purple colour tones of Uluru is itself. This was certainly a colour pallet that I wouldn't have used with having been there. On this trip, I also discovered that Uluru is the only place I have ever been so hot and dry that the flies drink the water from your drying watercolour painting!
Uluru trip drawing. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Permit 554.
Image © Tony Flowers

My hope for my version of Advance Australia Fair is that people are surprised by the fantastic and diverse landscape. We are more than a country of harbour bridges and red sand. Hopefully, younger readers will gain a clearer understanding of what the words of the anthem are about. I also hope people feel inspired to get out and see more of our country and its people.

Tony Flowers – Illustrator
Instagram: tony_flowers99

Editor’s note: Read a summary of the book and some historical background on the choosing of Advance Australia Fair as our national anthem. The book will be released on the 1st of January.

1 comment:

  1. I'm looking forward to reading this when it arrives in the library mail!