Short road to the Oscars
CALL it a study in, and of, contrasts. The room where writer-illustrator Shaun Tan works has a filing cabinet filled with well-ordered reference material and sketches, a table covered in neatly arranged jars of pencils and pots of ink, and a Brazilian sun parakeet.
Tan is self-taught; he did an arts degree and majored in fine art, ”but it was all theory and history, totally academic”.
Tan concedes he was something of an outsider growing up. The son of a Chinese-Malaysian father and an Irish-Australian mother, he was something of a rarity in suburban Perth in the late 1970s. ”In the whole school, and it wasn’t a small school, there were just three Asian kids.”
His father is an architect. ”He gave me my first paid job,” Tan says. ”I drew a palm tree on one of his designs and he paid me 20¢, and I thought, ‘Wow, imagine what it would be like to do this all the time – drawing and getting paid for it’.”