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Realising a Dream for Thornbury Resident

05 Mar 2007

Recollecting her childhood memories of visiting her aunt in the outback in Amata in the Northern Territory was the inspiration for Thornbury resident Jody Pratt when she illustrated her first children's book recently.

The book, Volga Olga from the Mulga, written by Veronicah Larkin and Robert Gibson, is set in the Australian Outback and tells the story of an eccentric Russian actress that comes to live in the Outback. Every year, her young Australian cousins, Katie and Jack, stay with her during their school holidays and go on adventures with the actress.

For Jody, 37, a graduate of Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) in Illustration, creating the colourful illustrations for the book was a nostalgic indulgence in her own past.

'When the book was offered to me and I read the story, I had the feel for it immediately. There was this great rapport and I remembered all my adventures in the Outback visiting my aunt on school holidays when I was a kid,' Jody said.

'I remembered seeing red dirt everywhere and also the big spaces and the gumtrees; it was like being in a different world to suburban Bundoora where I lived and I loved it.'

For Jody, thinking of the colours of the desert and her own experiences helped her create an authentic picture book that she worked on at night in her studio at her home in Thornbury.

A mother of two young boys aged Murphy 14, and Ethan, 12, as well as having a seven-month old baby girl, Abby, Jody had to juggle the demands of her family and other work commitments to illustrate the book.

'I was pregnant with Abby when I did the book and I was getting more and more tired and sometimes I had to force myself to work on the book as I just felt exhausted. But I knew I had to finish it before Abby was born or I would never do it.

'Sometimes I'd just be staring at this blank piece of paper and couldn't do anything, but the next day, images would come to me. It was a lot of hard work but I really enjoyed doing it.'

The book took about 15 months to complete and Jody said it was the realisation of a big dream.

She has been painting and drawing since a mere child herself and it wasn't until she was in her early 30s that she decided to enrol at NMIT and take a risk with her creative streak. Previously, she had been working as a cook and waitress in a café, in between illustrating.

'The book's illustrations are a mix of acrylics and collage; I scanned in some images to give it texture and depth and make it really interesting for kids to look at.'

The book will be on sale at leading retailers for $28.95 in April.

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NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) – Situated on six campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne’s north plus a regional campus at Ararat, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce.  NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.