I grew up in the Adelaide Hills, where my family ran two shoe shops. Paints and brushes were always around as my dad painted posters for the shops, copied from lettering and style manuals. I liked to copy comic characters but, really, was much more interested in making contraptions in the shed. My home town, Woodside, was close to an army barracks where soldiers were training for the Vietnam war. From inside our classroom, we heard the rattle of machine guns on the target range while Iroquois helicopters d-d-d overhead, practising fast landings and take-offs. Out of school, mates and I mucked around at the local rubbish dump, finding excellent stuff to use in our pretend combat - helmets, bits of uniform and rucksacks, ammo boxes, bullet-riddled targets, stretchers. It was hardly an artistic upbringing, but there was plenty of imagination and lots of outside play.
And lots of football. My sister, Maire - who had always been, even as a small kid, very skilled at drawing - left home to go to the South Australian School of Art. I later followed in her footsteps. I studied graphic design, and photography, but typography (lettering), was my main interest. We were also made to draw naked people, mainly women. I grew to like drawing. It was much funnier than typography. An assignment was to illustrate a story. It was a struggle. I submitted it to a publisher in Sydney. She rejected it, but encouragingly added in her letter, 'If you ever come to Sydney, drop by'. I hitchhiked up there almost immediately. This led eventually to my first picture book, Christobel Mattingley's 'Black Dog'.
I have been a freelance illustrator since 1976. For some of the early years I had part-time jobs - washing dishes in a restaurant, scraping rust off the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Doing drawings for advertising - groan! One interesting job was working as a nurse's aide in a hospital for the elderly. In that role I was able to observe the human body - something artists usually do in a life drawing session. This experience has stayed with me and has affected the characterisation of my work.
I live with Erica, in Melbourne. We have four grown-up children. And four little grandchildren.
An illustrated extension of this bio is available here. (ALEA Conference 2011)