“Inspiration and ideas are very precious, they need a special type of care, nourishment and tenderness.”

David Booth, who also works under the pseudonym Ghostpatrol, is a Hobart-born, Naarm-based artist whose practice shifts between studio works, site specific installations, commissioned murals and commercial design. Also a featured creator in Story Tools Series 1, the Story Box Library team quizzed David on his inspiration practices, early memories of the quintessential Australian children’s book Possum Magic and why Australian kids need Australian literature.

What inspires you as a creator?

I’m a curious and enthusiastic person, I’m always collecting ideas to draw. I once heard the role of artists described as ‘a professional observer’ and that’s what I am. My mind gets excited by so many things. I love looking for weird and interesting organic shapes, animal experiences, accidental colour combos that sing and people interacting in special moments.

I think a lot about my childhood and fond memories of friends and travel and it all gets thrown in the big mixing bowl of ingredients with all my favourite cartoons, books, graphics and music that I’m always soaking up and remixing. I’m always trying to make work that will make people smile and encourage people to create their own magic drawings.

What do you do when you experience ‘writer’s block’?

I guess my version would be drawers’ block. I’ve never really encountered full paralysis. To protect against this I use the power of my sketchbook. I’m always collect seed ideas and plant them in my sketchbook to turn to when I need a new idea. Some ideas are marinating in my sketchbook for years. Inspiration and ideas are very precious, they need a special type of care, nourishment and tenderness. I feel pretty confident that I won’t be running out of new ideas soon if I keep my sketchbook and mind healthy and well fed.

Tell us about a defining moment in your early life, when you found your creative spark, radically changed careers, etc.

I have so many! Only recently have I re-discovered a memory tucked away of a special moment that happened in early primary school. I must have been about 7 years old when Mem Fox visited our Tassie school. We all knew Possum Magic, it was already a classic. The most memorable part for me was when Mem shared her handmade dummy copy of Possum Magic. It was scrappy and glued together from many cut out pieces of paper. It looked so accessible and like the way I made my own little books. It really cemented the idea that things start out rough and can grow into something amazing. It felt real and really inspiring. That moment really awakened something in me.

What does your mum/dad/kid think about your books/stories?

That’s a good question. My family has been really supportive, I’m always trying to help them connect with what I do. As an artist I’m very aware of how weird an alienating art and galleries can be, so I’m always trying to demystify and connect my family to the things that I make. Sometimes drawing is lonely - so I really appreciate the honest feedback and response that my family can bring to my work. 

Why is it important to support the Australian children’s book industry?

As someone who was born in Australia I care deeply about Australian stories. I recently attended the Australian Children’s Television Foundation 40th birthday event to witness Janet Holmes à Court reflect on the founding principles of the organisation. It was really moving and epic. Janet spoke passionately about the mission for Australian children to have Australian stories in order to have Australian dreams. I feel very lucky to have grown up amongst this vision, it’s had a big impact on me. Australia has such a rich community of creatives in the book industry and it’s a real honour to make my own contributions and stand on the shoulders of the great giants that have come before me.

Find David Booth in Story Tools Series 1, teaching Lesson 6: Introducing Illustrated Stories and Lesson 7: Drawing Characters. Learn more about Story Tools.

Try a free lesson from Story Tools

We’ve recently released a free lesson from Series 1, allowing educators to try Story Tools and inspire students’ imaginations, with Lesson 1: Story Sparks, hosted by George Ivanoff and Nova Weetman. Click here to begin!