Illustrator Interview – Jacque Duffy

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meandwork copyI met Jacque Duffy in our lovely 12×12 community last year. She was one of the most committed participants last year and her enthusiasm and vivacity were and are contagious. 

I am very happy to be interviewing another Australian on the blog!

[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?

[JD] When I come up with a story it is as though I am watching a movie or cartoon, the characters act out the entire thing before my eyes (with sound effects). Unfortunately, sometimes I find it so mesmerizing I don’t write it down as it happens and my head doesn’t have a rewind button.

[JM] How have your culture and/or where you have lived influenced your work?

[JD] Quite a few of my stories are very Australian, I confess to not recognizing that till I have shared them on 12 x 12 and comments come back asking questions about things I have taken for granted. I mean, how else can you call chickens to their pen ‘Here chook, chook, chook.’

[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.

[JD] It seems drawing is the only thing I did well at school, my imagination was a little too vivid for my teachers. In junior school my friends used to swap work with me, I would do their art projects and they would do other subjects for me. Artwork and generally being creative is what I am about, I can’t imagine a life without it. I left school at 14 (passed all of my subjects) and worked as a window dresser in one of the country’s largest department stores, I had 21 windows and 5 levels to take care of. After having children I started teaching people how to draw and paint. I had always wanted to be a writer but had never been encouraged and so had no confidence. I had published 3 books before I told my family.

[JM] Do you have a preferred medium to work in?

[JD] It depends on my mood and the project at hand. When I paint I generally go for acrylics because of the drying time. However I am a lover of watercolour, but I also use oils, pastels, charcoals, pencils and etch/cut. I also enjoy creating artist books.

[JM] Do you have themes or characters you return to in your art?

[JD] Yes, very much. Over the years I drew and painted what I thought people would like, a few years ago I spent a week painting with an artist who asked himself “What do I feel like today?” During the week I occasionally asked him for guidance and his answer was always the same “What do YOU think you should do?” At first I confess to feeling a little ripped off, but I went home and painted and his voice echoed in my head and my artwork changed to what I wanted, what I felt and it is so much better. I love colour, movement, people and architecture, so now my artwork is overflowing with it and I sell far more, go figure.

[JM] Can you tell us a little about your, “That’s not a ….” Series?

[JD] My first leap into writing was to write a ‘learn to read’ style book for my nephews who live far away from us. It was to show them how their cousins (my children) live so differently to them surrounded by farms and machinery that work day and night. Not long after I wrote that, the Australian Government was making policy changes that were affecting many local farmers and many protests were held, farmers were losing their farms. I wanted to help, I knew that to engage the interest of city people protests were not the way. I thought if, as an x-city person, I put my money and effort where mouth was in aid of the farmers it might attract attention. I wrote and illustrated a ‘learn to read’ book for each kind of farm affected and self-published them donating the money raised to the farmers fighting fund. The government somehow saw these books (5 in total) and bought thousands of them to put into schools and libraries. They were evaluated by the Education Library Services and (phew) accepted. I have since discovered they are even used within Australia’s various university Education Faculties. Last year I was contacted by the Education Dept and asked if they could digitize my books so disabled children could access them, what an honour, I was so pleased. Then late last year I was approached by two professors who were creating the new National Curriculum and asked if I had anything new they could see. I put them in touch with the publisher of my latest picture book “The Bear Said Please” it is now part of a lesson plan for the National Curriculum. It sits alongside books by Jane Yolen, Mem Fox, Roald Dahl, Jackie French, Emily Gravatt and lots of other incredible authors and illustrators. I can’t believe it, I am still pinching myself.

[JM] What does your workspace look like?

[JD] Well… I find it difficult to focus on just one thing at a time, my work spaces reflect this. My art studio is separate to the house (thank goodness) and I write at a small desk near my kitchen so I have two chaotic areas – two photos follow.

busy space 1

busy space 1

desk near kitchen

busy space

[JM] Can you share a piece or two with us, maybe of a WIP, and the process of creating them?

[JD] Sure thing. With my urban landscapes I start off with charcoal and play on the canvas creating a black and white abstract. As I add layers of colour I spin the canvas around not knowing which will be the top. When I finally have a finished abstract that I am happy with I look at it and imagine what kind of buildings, people, vehicles and weather might be there then I draw bits in and take bits out till I am satisfied.


Photo credit Trish Andrews

white-lipped-tree-frog0790FairyTaleGrim copy

White Lipped Tree Frog                                                  Fairy Tale Grimm

[JM] Have there been any classes/groups/books/encounters that have been key to your progress as an illustrator?

[JD] I am still learning to be an illustrator (a good one at least). The book Wolves by Emily Gravatt was an eye opener to me. I feel I had an enormous learning curve in regards to pictures telling a different story to the words on the page and also the perspectives used in that story focuses the reader’s eye and mind, creating tension.

[JM] What art do you have hanging in your house?

[JD] I have a lot of art on my walls. Some are my own (paintings that have won awards and I want to keep) some are by my children and others by friends and a couple are art pieces that tell stories special to me. I also have a lot in storage. I have a large Pro Hart sketch that he did for me in the 80’s, that one has pride of place and is listed on my insurance policy. In my art studio the artwork on the walls should be something to inspire me while I work but are actually pieces I have bought because they are not only beautiful but show techniques and help me when I teach classes. I can say ‘See in this painting the artist has used only three colours but it appears we have the entire palette.’ Or ‘In this painting the artist has simplified the shapes and …’

Five Fun Ones to Finish!                                                                                               [JM] What word best sums you up?

[JD] Erratic

[JM] If you could live anywhere for a few months, where would you go?

[JD] Barcelona (Colour, movement, sound, design, Barcelona has it all)

[JM] What’s your go-to snack or drink to keep the creative juices flowing?

[JD] Bananas (luckily I am surrounded by farms)

[JM] Cats or dogs?

[JD] cat, dog, horses, wild creatures like snakes, goannas, possums, echidnas, cassowaries.


Bundy 005

CUTE, but you’re going to have to tell me in the comments what cassowary is!! [JM] Which literary bad guy do you like the most?

[JD] Max (Where the Wild Things Are)

[JM] Where can we find/follow you and your work?

Your studio, your art, your children, your smile are indeed overflowing with color! Thank you for sharing this bright life with us. To you success.

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22 Responses to Illustrator Interview – Jacque Duffy

  1. Jacque says:

    Thank you for interviewing me Joanna, I really enjoyed the process 🙂
    In answer to your question, a cassowary is an endangered bird that lives in rainforest and beach areas. They are very big and quite dangerous (as is most of Australia’s wildlife it seems). The male cassowary takes care of the eggs and chicks, often caring for chicks of other birds. The cassowary has a large external bone protruding from its head it uses this as it crashes through the forest, it also has heavy duty spurs on its feet (the dangerous part)
    If you ever come to visit, I can take you to see some (friendlier ones) that live at our local beach and walk around the holiday park, they don’t worry people picnicking on the beach (watching out for crocodiles).
    Once again thank you for the interview.

    • Joanna says:

      You do realize I have an extraordinary tendency to take people up on their invitations!! I would love to see the cassowary and some of the other extraordinary fauna in Oz! Thank you as I am always interested to know more about endangered species as you know.

  2. I have a friend whose favorite bird is a cassowary! I’d stay away from their dangerous head-bone though. 😉

    What fun to learn about the irrepressible Jacque and see inside her studio! As much as we “know” each other from the wonderful 12×12 community, there is always so much more to learn about most of the members.

    I would have loved to see a photo of the darling bears that Jaque sewed for The Bear Said Please book. 🙂

    Thanks for another fun interview to brighten my Wednesday, Joanna and Jacque!

    • jacque says:

      Hi Teresa,
      I too love cassowaries, actually the locals are very serious about their protection which is good. In fact our local government area is called the Cassowary Coast. The birds are wonderful to draw and paint, colourful and prehistoric in their appearance.
      It is their feet you must be wary of, when they do attack they kick and the talon on the heel has been known to disembowel. (As I mentioned, they are always at our local beach and there is no need to fear them just be respectful – and don’t feed them)

  3. Genevieve says:

    Fascinating, Jacque! Talk about being proactive and in the right place at the right time. Continued success. I want to be you when I grow up!

    • jacque says:

      Hi Genevieve,
      I have a knack of being in the right place at the right time. Tony Curtis stood on my fingers once as I counted paint tubes for a stock take. I was sitting in my hot pink VW Beetle at a red light (the only person for miles) when very unexpectedly, the Pope went past in the Pope Mobile, I know it was ME he waved to. I could go on but you may not believe me.

  4. Thanks for sharing your work with us Jacque. I’m glad you share your work now. It’s always fun to read these interviews Joann and learn more about our author/illustrator friends. Beautiful work Jacque.

    • jacque says:

      Hi Stacy,
      I absolutely love being part of the 12 x 12 community (family). People such as yourself make sharing enjoyable and a learning experience that is very positive.

  5. Tina Cho says:

    Great interview. That’s so neat about your “series” of learn to read books. Congratulations!

  6. Yvonne Mes says:

    So wonderful to learn more about you, Jacque. Wow, first job as a window dresser at 14, that is pretty cool 🙂 Your studio looks lovely/ light and I think the chaos shows your creative mind. Your cityscapes are just delicious!

  7. I was a little surprised to find only one mention of snakes in this post! I have been hearing about so many of Jacque’s exotic animal encounters over the last year or so, that I almost feel disappointed! Ha! Very happy for you and the success of your books, and look forward to reading future ones. I love all the woderful bright art in your studio!

    • jacque says:

      Hi Julie,
      I think I have conquered the snake visitor problem, I have a collection of ‘other’ snake skins and they seem to deter the regulars.

  8. Catherine says:

    What a wonderful story. I love that you painted first then did books. I’m going the other way around or a bit of both together. Your paintings are beautiful and I love your room too.

  9. So much talent! Such an inspiration! 🙂 xx

  10. Great interview, Joanna! I love Jacque’s work space and art work. 🙂

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