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Jan Ormerod grew up in the small towns of Western Australia, with three older sisters, and as a child she would always be drawing. She went to art school and studied drawing, painting and sculpture. After completing her degree, Jan become an Associate of the Western Australian Institute of Technology and Design in Education, taught in secondary schools on enrichment programmes, and lectured in teacher’s college and art schools.
Jan's first picture book, Sunshine, won the Mother Goose Award in 1982 and was highly commended for the Kate Greenaway Medal. She has since had over 70 books published - so many of them award-winning. Many of Jan’s books are a celebration of the fun, warmth and love of parenthood.
In Her Own Words...
"I grew up in the fifties, in a series of small towns in Western Australia, with three older sisters. As a child I drew constantly and compulsively, inspired by beautifully drawn schoolgirl annuals from England. I secretly devoured forbidden American comics, poring over the draughtsmanship.
I went to art school at a time when the practice of drawing was regarded as the underpinning of all activity in the visual arts 'coming to know' by looking closely and recording honestly. All my options took me into the fine arts--drawing, painting, and sculpture. I was obsessed with the human face, figure, and gesture. I became an Associate of the Western Australian Institute of Technology and Design in Art Education and taught art in secondary schools on enrichment programs for talented students, then lectured in a teachers college and in art schools.
As a young woman I was not very maternal. My books have largely been a celebration and savouring of the positive experience of parenthood I had not anticipated - the fun, warmth, and love. Designing picture books for young children, I am aware that such books are almost always shared by the child and a caring adult. I find the challenge of communicating with both child and adult-working on two levels in one book--a demanding, intriguing and rewarding task. I design picture books for children and adults because I depend on the adult to create the right atmosphere and help children read them. When this happens, it is a time for physical closeness and comfort, a quiet time for sharing ideas and feelings, for laughing and learning together. Anyone who takes time to share books with young children is rewarded and revitalized by the experience every time.
My task as a visual storyteller is to observe, record, and edit. Some images go straight from life into a book. Most need to be carefully sifted, reinvented, reorganized. Telling a story with words and pictures is a little like watching a movie, then selecting the evocative moment like a still taken from a film. I need to capture the moment that has clarity and simplicity, invites empathy, and allows the reader to bring her own knowledge to that moment, to enrich it, and develop it according to her own life experiences.
Jan now lives in Cambridge, England and returns to Australia to be with her family and friends as often as she can.
In recent times, Boori Monty Pryor and Jan Ormerod collaborated to publish the picture book Shake A Leg, illustrated by Jan, which has won multiple awards including the 2011 Prime Minister's Literary Award for Children's Fiction. Shake A Leg evolved from a residence at The Literature Centre where photographs of Boori's family dancing were seen and admired.