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Tiffanee Daley: blending physical with fantasy

With her first publication as an illustrator due out in October this year, Canberra-based author-illustrator, Tiffanee Daley is on her way up. Combining a childhood fascination with fantasy, together with her adventurous love of outdoor pursuits – you can see where this talented lady gets her inspiration. A member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Tiffanee Daley has many projects on the go at the moment, including a fantasy novel, picture books and her art portfolio.

Keep reading for the inside knowledge about where Tiffanee Daley finds inspiration for not only her beautiful illustrations but also for her writing.

Where do you get your ideas?

Most of my ideas come from the fantasy realm that occupies my mind and is fuelled by a lifetime of epic adventurous tales from movies like Legend, Princess Bride, Willow, and The Last Unicorn. I also find inspiration in my favourite games, such as Mass Effect, Dragon Age and Gears of War…to name a few.

I love stories of sacrifice, betrayal, heroism, great feats, and mythical beasts. These things encourage my tendency to daydream, which, of course, is where I come up with many of my ideas for drawing and writing.

Physical activities, such as archery, rock climbing and canyoning in the blue mountains are endlessly inspiring. Being in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by lush plant life, pythons and massive spiders, and abseiling down waterfalls and scaling cliffs really ignites those creative fires.

What are your tips for students who might be struggling with the blank page?

Hitting that wall, where you do not know what to draw can be a huge demotivator. I like to do one of three things when this happens.

1) Improve my skills in an element of my drawing, like researching anatomy and trying to draw muscle form.

2) Take a mental break and do something fun to reset my mind. It can be reading, exercise, playing Elder Scrolls Online, hanging out with my kids or shooting some arrows. The goal here is to switch off for a bit.

3) Recreate an existing illustration. This can be a favourite character, piece of jewellery or anything that you can knock over in an hour or two. Find an image you like, put pencil to paper (or pen to tablet) and away you go. If you prefer still life drawing and have a few pop vinyl figures lying around they work just as well. As an added bonus, this is a great way to develop technique as you do not have to do much thinking.

If you’re stuck on writing a chapter or simply don’t know where to begin, it’s not going to do any good trying to force things out.

You have to negotiate with your own mind and get it to focus. A great way to do this for writing is to take a piece of text, whether that’s a chapter in your favourite book or a poem or a magazine article, and write down your interpretation of what’s going on in that scene and why you think these things are happening. Get creative with it but don’t spend more than an hour as the point here is to give your head a chill-out session, not to create more work for yourself.

Which of your drawings is your absolute favourite? Why?

At the moment it’s a piece I’m working on called Phynia (see image below). She’s a forest nymph and a character in the novel I’m writing. It’s my favourite piece of artwork to date as it’s the first time I’ve really been able to draw something that’s quite detailed and it has really shaped my style of drawing. I love this drawing because in her face I see mystery and beauty, a soft and loving spirit who is at one with nature. Her eyes look to something behind the viewer which I find really engaging.

Tiffanee Daley
Which of your characters is your favourite? Why?

Without giving too much away, it’s one of the villains in the novel I’m writing. He’s a conflicted and quite complex character who has a very pained background. No one understands him and he operates with his own agenda in mind but also has some consideration for others. He’s as likely to help or hinder someone if it benefits his cause and I love that in a villain. He’s a character I think people will really be on side with and perhaps even a little conflicted about.

As for a character I can actually name, Combat Wombat has to top the list. He’s the hero in Dr Gina M Newton’s latest picture book and I was given the chance to bring him to life.

He’s adorably cute and fluffy but also a wombat of action, complete with a hard hat, rope and body harness.

I love him for the little details that add to his character, such as the scar on his left ear and the cracked harness he wears. Like all heroes, he has his fair share of hard choices to make but that doesn’t stop him from doing everything he can to help others.

When you think about children reading your books, how does this make you feel? What do you want their ‘take-aways’ to be?

As an illustrator, the thought of children reading the books I’ve done the artwork for fills me with a sense of pride and belonging. I put a lot of thought and care into conceptualising characters and giving them strong personalities. Why? I want kids to grow up with the same heart that lives in the characters I create. It’s the same for the books I write. As an author, I obviously want kids to love my characters. I also want them to be inspired to be strong, kind and loving people who understand life is a balancing act with good and bad moments.

Mistakes will be made and life is about living, learning and growing not just as individuals but as a community.

You’ll be wanting to keep an eye out for more work by Tiffanee Daley in the coming months. Start with her website, and also check out her Facebook page for more inspiring creative pieces. Remember to keep your eyes on the bookshelves during September and October 2020 for the release of Combat Wombat.

Tiffanee Daley loves characters who are conflicted and complex – and this means complex words need to be used to describe who they are and what they do. Every complex word we use in a children’s book gives us a teachable moment. Find out more about this in my blog post, Big Words.

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