The Curious Explorers Illustrated Pocket Companion To Exotic Animals is a colourful illustration book by Australian artist Marc Martin. Inspired by his own exotic travels, Marc says the idea grew from a love of weird and wonderful creatures.
“The idea for this project started over a year ago when my partner and I were travelling overseas,” he says. “I did a lot of drawings while we travelled, and some of those drawings – especially those from Borneo and Indonesia – developed into this book. The feedback from the first book I did (kids’ illustrated short story A Forest) was really positive, so I knew that there was an opportunity to carry that momentum through to another book.”
Although Marc’s inspiration comes partially from Eric Carle – who everyone will know from his most famous creation, The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Marc avoids a pitfall of coming across as twee by keeping the theme specifically to exotic animals.
“The idea was to do a world safari of animals,” he says. “I like the 'old world' idea of bizarre, unknown creatures in far away lands, when people weren't very familiar with a lot of species and the notion of the 'exotic' was still new.”
As for his illustration style, Marc likes to keep things bright and bold.
“I usually work with a combination of watercolour, textas, ink, scanned textures and a computer,” he explains. “I'll start off by finding as many images of the animal as possible. Then I'll sketch on paper and develop some shapes. I tried to make sure that all of the animals were very simple, always using some kind of geometry. Then I'll move it onto the computer and turn it into a vector illustration. I'll move the whole thing into a photographic program and start masking shapes where I’ll add textures and paint strokes.”
Although Marc’s methods involve plenty of research, the limiting nature of the A-Z theme must have posed some problems. How many animals can you think of beginning with the letters Q and X? And there must have been others that he wanted to include but was bound to just one.
“The letter Q was probably the most challenging to find interesting animals for,” he admits. “The X ray fish were a bit of challenge to illustrate in terms of trying to represent their transparency, but I think it worked out OK in the end. I really wanted to put in a Frill Neck Lizard, but the Flamingo got done first. I guess there's always time to do another A-Z book.”
Hang on, another one? Surely there’s not much scope for a follow up.
“One thing I noticed [during my research] is that there's pretty much a bird for every letter of the alphabet,” he claims. “Maybe I'll have to do a bird book next.”
For more on Marc Martin, visit his website at smallandquiet.com.