Art to Share: Shaun Tan


This Art to Share post is a little different from the first, featuring Jeff Whatcott. Jeff is a personal friend, and his photographs are licensed to share, so I had access to lots of images and the opportunity to ask him some questions about his work.

Except I'd have those light-up wands

Except I’d have those light-up wands

Today’s featured artist, Shaun Tan, lives on the other side of the world, has no idea who I am, and doesn’t have a handy “hey, ask me anything, let’s be friends” link that I could find to click at his website. In addition, his art is his livelihood. This all means that you can picture me as if I’m on an airport runway, holding those long flasher things (you can picture ear protection and a reflective vest, too), signalling broadly to guide you over toward his website, so you can explore his amazing illustrations. I include a few here so you’ll know why you want to go there.

Though I’m sure I had seen some of his art before, I first took careful notice of Shaun Tan’s work in the book Lost and Found, a collection of three intriguing stories. Tan calls the first story, “The Red Tree,” “a meditation on feelings of alienation and displacement.” There are very few words, but the illustrations speak volumes. Consider this image from the perspective of the central figure, a young red-haired girl.


darkness overcomes you


Think of this next one as a thumbnail of the illustration that you’ll want to go find and examine. It seems to capture the anxiety dream experience of suddenly finding yourself on stage when you haven’t learned your lines. (I know that actors, even amateurs like me, tend to have such dreams. Your anxiety dreams may run more to “how can I not be wearing any pants?” or the like.)


sometimes you just don’t know what you are supposed to do


The second story from the book, “The Lost Thing,” was made into a short film. Tan won an Oscar for it in 2011.


The third story in the book, “The Rabbits,” is a remarkable rendition of the consequences of colonization–here specifically of Australia, but easily applicable wherever natives have been conquered.


I am not the only one impressed with Shaun Tan. He’s a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator, and he’s won lots of awards in addition to the Oscar. I’m holding up the flashing things, pointing you in the direction of some amazing art and thought-provoking essays.

If you happen to be an artist yourself, you might be interested in his advice for a new illustrator (scroll to the bottom of the page).

But enough of my words. Head over to feast on his pictures. You’re in for a treat.





5 thoughts on “Art to Share: Shaun Tan

    • Tan’s style can be kind of infectious. Loquita has already filled several pages with sketches of creatures that would feel right at home with the Lost Thing.

  1. Hi Lori – thanks for this – I did read the advise for new illustrator – Jenny is starting her new “Art Business” and I think these things also apply to her. – liked them all but my very favorite pict of all was the first one of all the paint brushes! 🙂 Helen

    • It is a great one! I decided it would be the image to signal to people that we’ve got another helping of art coming, so you’ll be seeing it again–

  2. Pingback: Lori Notes turns 100 | Lori Notes

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