Much has changed in my life since White Cloud Worlds Volume 2, and much more will have changed by the time this new book comes out. By then, I will be three-quarters of the way through a Master’s degree and I will have become a father. Realizing you’re going to become someone’s Dad really causes you to reflect on what you do for a living. You start asking yourself questions like ‘Maybe it’s about time I finally learnt to change a tyre without having to call the AA?’, ‘Do I really want my child to become like me?’ and ‘Should I encourage or discourage them from becoming an artist? I mean, how can drawing pictures all day in my boxers contribute to a better society?’.
Perhaps it is important questions like these that drive a man to put on some pants, leave his cushy job as a contract illustrator in the advertising industry and re-enter the world of academia and teaching.
After graduating five years ago, the last thing on my mind was more study, but after a few years of professional practice you start to miss the freedom you have within the university environment to experiment and question. What this year of study has given me is the time to think and research some social issues and perhaps even ask how I might contribute to society as an illustrator and storyteller.
This brings me to my current Master’s project, which looks at ways to address the literacy gap between teenage students from Pasifika backgrounds and those from other ethnic groups in New Zealand. The aim of this research project is to explore, through design practice, illustration as a sequential storytelling method for the engagement, education and empowerment of Pasifika youth.
In other words, I’m looking at how the visual language found within comics might be used to engage reluctant and struggling readers. Thus far, the project has given me a refreshing perspective on my work and skills as an illustrator. I know it may not be able to solve all of the world’s problems, but I’m excited to see how illustration can be harnessed to address important social issues like literacy.