Shaun Tan is a distinguished alumnus and ambassador of Balcatta Senior High School from which he graduated in 1991. He was a student of Balcatta’s Gifted and Talented Visual Art Program and, after school, undertook to teach himself the art of book illustration.
Whilst at school, Shaun enjoyed reading, writing and illustrating poems and stories; and spent a lot of time drawing dinosaurs, robots and space ships. He was attracted to anything about monsters, outer space or robots.
He also started painting and drawing illustrations for science fiction magazines and horror stories. He said that he was mostly influenced by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, and that visually was probably influenced more by the designs than the storyline in movies and television.
Finally, after facing some rejections, Shaun had a breakthrough and his first illustration was published in 1990 in a magazine called ‘Aurealis’.
Shaun went on to study Fine Arts, Literature and History at the University of Western Australia from which he graduated in 1995.
From 1992 to 2011 Shaun Tan was honoured with 45 awards and prizes and achieved national and international success with his work.
His illustrated work The Arrival is an international best seller and won multiple awards, including both the Western Australian and NSW Premier’s Book Awards and the Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year.
In 2011 he won an Academy Award for The Lost Thing, a 2011 animated film adaptation of a 2000 picture book he wrote and illustrated.
In the same year, he received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, a prestigious international prize for children’s and young adult’s literature.
In 1992, he won the International Illustrators of the Future Contest, the first Australian to achieve this award.
On Friday 1 November 2019, we were delighted to have Shaun share his experiences and promote the 40th anniversary celebrations at the school during an informal interview at the City of Stirling. Shaun spoke about his years at Balcatta SHS in the Visual Art Program and how the Saturday morning art classes were a vital part of his training and skill building. He said what he gained from this was crucial in his development as an artist.
We were also very pleased that he was able to present the inaugural Balcatta Senior High School Shaun Tan Emerging Artist Award to Torren Whisson, a Year 12 student who will graduate from the school in 2019.
Torren is a creative and talented artist whose work has already received many prizes and commendations in art competitions in which she has exhibited at the local, state and national level.