by Kim Kelly

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Our Millthorpe Pop-Up is a celebration of Australian storytelling, our books all gathering together in a little gold-rush era village with stories whispering from every wild colonial verandah post. So Ad, how has your Australianness, or your experience of Australia, inspired or influenced your creative explorations?

Seafurrers is the third history book I’ve illustrated (after Girt and True Girt, David Hunt’s ‘unauthorised’ histories of Australia). My grandfather Gavin Long was Australia’s official war historian for WW2… so I’m sorta following in his footsteps, in a slap-dash, unofficial way. That’s pretty Oz, to my way of thinking.

Indeedy it is – and she’ll be right, mate. Now, if you were to create a story of Millthorpe through images, with its many layers of history – from the Wiradjuri wars to boutique stores – what might your sketches tell us?

The style I use for my ‘historical illustrations’ involves sourcing old photos and illustrations, then cobbling them together with other elements (including my own cartoon drawings) to create an image that documents a moment that has otherwise escaped illustration. The pictures are whimsical, and very clearly ‘fake’.  I would be looking for a comical or intriguing story about Millthorpe, and looking to commemorate it… with an extra flourish.

I want to see that Millthorpe ‘history’. Maybe you could take some inspiration from the Central West’s famous roadside haybale art – we’re pretty good at comedy out here. In the meantime, please tell us about the wonderful book you’ll be bringing to the Millthorpe Pop-Up.

Oz coverSeafurrers has just been published (by the Experiment, in the US, and Affirm Press in Australia). As the book blurb says, it’s a cat’s-eye view of maritime history. With words by Phillippa Sandal, we remember the bold seafarers of yore—from Magellan to Shackleton—for their extraordinary exploits: new lands discovered, storms weathered, and battles won. But somehow history has neglected the stalwart, hardworking species who made it all possible . . . yes, the noble cat! That’s what I’m looking to share with the world… but I’ll probably bring a few copies of the Girt books too.

What’s your favourite Australian story – be it a novel, a film, or legend? Or even a painting? And why do you love it?

The ridiculous legend of Lassiter’s Reef lives on, and invites comical reinterpretation.

Oh yes, please! And please, describe the view from your studio window today.

The butt end of a few buildings that are about to be demolished and replaced with towering flats.  It won’t be sticking around to enjoy that new view!

Noice. If you were to write the Great Australian Novel – or draw it! – where might you begin?

Elsewhere. In Asia. I have a new novel under consideration by a publisher that features an Australian protagonist but starts in India. And that’s just the beginning. Australia’s future is very much as a part of Asia, and it surprises me that we reflect that so little in our art and storytelling.

Good point. Now, that was all very exhausting, wasn’t it? Time for a cup of tea. Fortunately, Millthorpe has plenty of options, from country pub to hatted restaurant, and several gorgeous cafes. So what’s your yen? Coffee and cake? Beer and chips? Coq au vin and Pinot Grigio?  And while we’re here, which Australian author or artist would you like to invite to your table?

All of the above, thanks.

Can I choose a dead artist and author? Emily Kame Kngwarreye was Australia’s only truly great artist, on an international playing field, and a genuine visionary. Applying the same rules to writers, I guess Colleen McCullough was our most successful international writer… and something makes me think those two old girls would be interesting to sit down to lunch with.

My goodness, there’d probably be a lot of sharp chat and laughter at that table. And cheers to that! Thanks for bringing your story love to Millthorpe, Ad.

 Ad Portrait

Find out more about Ad Long and Seafurrers here.