There's a Lair in there......
'Tony Flowers is king of kids with 3D Drgaons'
Sydney Morning Herald, Spectrum, page26, August 24th, 2013 - by Lucy Hughes Jones
When a man armed with glue sticks stands before a room full of young children and encourages them to create pop-up books, there's a great deal of potential for things to go horribly wrong. But this is Australian illustrator Tony Flowers - conducting a workshop at Paddington's Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation - and before long, the children are hunkered down on the floor in deep concentration, the room is littered with scraps of coloured paper, and pop-up mermaids, sausage dogs, dragons, snails and even Eiffel Towers begin to emerge.
Flowers - who is wearing Batman shoes, socks and a matching belt buckle, feels at home with youngsters. He considers himself a big kid.
''I'm living my childhood dream; I've grown up to be an adult and I still get to draw pictures of dinosaurs as a job,'' the Tasmanian-born artist says.
Flowers, who moved from Hobart to Sydney last year, is the illustrator of the popular Saurus Street book series, written by Nick Falk. The stories are about dinosaurs turning up in suburban backyards, and the illustrations are regular drawings rather than pop-ups.
The pop-up books Flowers makes are handmade one-offs. ''They're not printed and they've primarily been produced either for an exhibition or a competition,'' he says.
While other countries, including Japan and the US, are experiencing a revitalisation in pop-ups, the Australian publishing industry doesn't consider them an economically viable option, because the local market is so much smaller.
''I'd love to commercially produce pop-ups but I can't find a publisher that's willing to take the risk at the moment,'' Flowers says.
Flowers taught himself how to construct 3D illustrations. He pulled apart pop-up books he owned to figure out how the mechanisms worked and mastered the skill through trial and error. He uses a similar strategy at the workshop, letting the children learn at their own pace.
Flowers made the leap to professional illustration almost 13 years ago, after working as a hospital orderly, glass-blower, postie and, finally, a customs officer. During this time he submitted portfolios to publishers and created pop-ups for competitions.
''I'd do all the pencil work on the bus to work, lunchtime I'd do the ink work, then I'd go home and do all the computer colour work,'' he says. ''I might be up until two in the morning making pop-ups, and then I'd get up and go to work the next day. That's probably when you'd meet the grumpy customs officer!''
Flowers' late-night efforts won him a prize at Japan's 2010 Oshima International Handmade Picture Book Competition, for his pop-up book Gaijin Holiday, a wordless, fantasy version of his sons' engagement with Japanese culture on a family holiday.
Having grown up watching Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, Flowers is drawn to Japanese folklore and samurai legends, which influence his work. In Saurus Street book No.5, to be published next month, he has ''given a bit of a nod to the Japanese woodblock print''.
Despite his passion for pop-up, standard book illustration is still Flowers' first love. With the Saurus Street books, for example, he was contracted to do 40 pictures for each book and ended up doing 80 to 100. This turned out to be a real boon. The series has proved popular with reluctant young readers because of its many drawings. Book one has been shortlisted for Speech Pathology Australia's 2013 Book of the Year.
The fruitful professional partnership between Falk and Flowers came from a chance meeting. They met while Flowers was walking his dog on a Hobart beach two years ago, when Falk was a fledgling children's author.
''Nick told me he had a series about dinosaurs and couldn't find an illustrator for it,'' Flowers says. ''I read the first chapter and thought it was hilarious.''
Dragons are the shape of things to come, as the pair work on a new series, Billy Is a Dragon.