Get to Know

Artist Interview: Kelly Canby

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To what do you owe your love of storytelling?

My love of storytelling definitely comes from my mum and my nan. They both had a crazy, fun sense of humour and when I was young I would beg them to tell me their funny stories over and over again.

Why do you create for young people?

I think because I relate to them the best. In my head, I’m anywhere between 6 and 16 most days so that’s really who creates all my work - that young person inside my head.

What were your all-time favourite childhood books or stories?

My absolute favourite book when I was a child was Little Boy with a Big Horn written by Jack Bechdolt with illustrations by Aurealias Battaglia. It was a Little Golden Book and mine came with a record so you could listen to the story while you read. As far as stories go, it’s not a particularly great one (I re-read it recently), but the combination of beautiful illustrations with sound and words had me captivated! I was also quite an inquisitive child so my favourite types of books were usually non-fiction. I had a set of three books called Tell Me Why that had answers to just about every question imaginable and I would study those for hours. 

As an illustrator, what would you choose as your mascot or avatar?

Ooh, hard one! A jar of really colourful confetti with arms and legs that jumps up and down with excitement a lot. Yes. That.

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

I try to make it to the Sydney Writer’s Festival every year - is that a pilgrimage? I don’t know really, I feel like everywhere I go in the world is a literary pilgrimage of some sort because I always come back having seen amazing things, feeling inspired, full of ideas for new stories and ready to dive back into work. Because I’m a creative thinker that part of my brain never switches off so no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I’m planning and thinking and scheming something up!

If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?

It’s ok that you’re not so great at math or sport. Your thing is drawing and creating so stick with it, kiddo; you’re gonna love it!

What do you think most characterises your work?

I think my work is a little bit silly, a little bit fun and a whole lot of playful. I hope.

What do you do when you are not creating?

I don’t think I’m ever not creating! In my spare time, I draw or paint or make-over a piece of furniture. I find creative work very relaxing. I also like to cook and spend time with my family.

Where do you find your ideas?

All around me! Ideas are everywhere; you just have to close your eyes, reach out and grab one. The hard bit comes when you have to turn that idea into something; that’s the real work. 

How do you know when a story is finished?

When my editor or publisher tells me it is! Also, I know it’s close to finished when I read it and I smile instead of frowning.


Want to see Kelly at the festival? Book here for her workshop, Creative Characters.