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

Friday 24 May 2024

The Joy of Illustrating Dogs

Blue Mountain Dog
© Tony Flowers

It is delightful to have Tasmanian resident, Tony Flowers, as a guest blogger this week. Tony’s illustrations are true works of art that add layers of meaning to the stories that he so skillfully brings to life. And, of course, hunting for dogs across the many picture books that he has illustrated adds more fun to the reading experience.

One of my absolute favourite things to illustrate is dogs. I have 2 cats (Cleopatra and Miffy) and a Belgian Shepherd (Freya). I have always had cats and dogs. It is the special relationship that we build with our pets that has been the inspiration for many of the animal characters in my books. 

Freya features in a promotion for Scout and the Rescue Dogs
by Dianne Wolfer and Tony Flowers

One of my earliest memories is about the terror our family cat, Snowball, instilled in me. He was a total Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde cat, ready to draw blood without warning at any moment of the day or night. This kind of memory can help me build the tension in my illustrations between a cat and a character's reaction to it. While I do love drawing cats, there is something special about illustrating dog characters. I find drawing dogs with expressive body language, emotive faces and movement easy. It most likely has to do with my willingness to talk to my dogs and overlay complex two-way conversations.

Freya features in This Old Thing by Cassandra Webb & Tony Flower

During my discussions with my Freya, it is all about her response, generally in the form of a head tilt, tail wag, or a single eyebrow raise that always seems to imply the perfect answer to my comment or question. These body gestures are what I use to infuse life into my drawings; it doesn't matter if it is a dinosaur (Saurus Street), a dragon (Billy is a Dragon) or a dog, there is a little bit of Freya or one of my past dogs in there.

I love drawing dogs so much that I try to find ways to weave them into every book that I do. In my illustrated version of Advance Australia Fair, I placed a dog in every scene I drew for the books; I often refer to this book as Advance Australian Dogs.

Arctic dog featuring in Advance Australia Fair © Tony Flowers

The email asking if I was interested in illustrating Scout and the Rescue Dogs came at a time when I was looking to concentrate on picture books and graphic novels. While I love illustrating chapter books, I was working towards creating a new graphic novel series in which I am both the author and illustrator. But a project with 'dog' in the title is a bit of an Achilles heel for me. After a short conversation with Freya and Thor (my recently departed German Shepherd), I said 'yes'; not only was I delighted to have a project that allowed me to dive into the world of dogs again, but this charming story has worked its magic on readers around Australia and made its way onto the Young Reader's shortlist for the 2024 Book of the Year Awards.

Sample sketches of Dotty, Nellie, Freckles and Speckles
© Tony Flowers

Scout and the Rescue Dogs official book trailer by Eden Montgomery

Tony Flowers, dog-loving illustrator.

Web: https://tonyflowersillustrator.wordpress.com/  

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tony_flowers99/ 


Editor’s note: Take the time to check out Tony’s impressive website to explore the breadth of his talent and view him at work in the video clip.

Drawing stuff with Tony Flowers Cambodian Dog


  1. It was fantastic to meet Tony in person the following week at a CBCA Tasmania session about the shortlisted books. Tony brought a range of his exquisite sketches with him - his dogs are so full of life... and mischief.

  2. Tony's videos are so engaging for children to watch. His Saurus Street videos are favourites in my school library. Can't wait to share his more recent ones as we explore and celebrate this year's shortlisted books. Thanks for taking the time to head North for the CBCA meeting at Newstead Tony! It was so exciting to meet you.