Like most children’s book illustrators, Anne Spudvilas earns a living through many kinds of art work. She’s done court sketching, school presentations, and commissioned portraits as well as children’s books. Preparation for her most recent book, The Peasant Prince involved traveling to China with author and former classical ballet dancer, Li Cunxin, and studying Chinese painting. After her trip, Anne received an Australian Council grant that allowed her to focus exclusively on illustrating the story of Li’s remarkable life. It’s a luxury for an illustrator to work on only one project for a while!
The trip to China was wonderful, as Anne’s email and photos demonstrate (Here she is with Li’s brothers). “Visiting China with Li, getting to know him and his family and friends and discovering a country so rich in culture and history was the experience of a lifetime. Beijing was buzzing with new buildings going up everywhere, the skyline is alive with moving cranes, and workers were re-landscaping the streets before our eyes in preparation for the Olympics. My strongest memories are of the wide smile of Li’s mother, the delicious array of food, seeing Beijing grandfathers with their baby grandchildren, and the gorgeous old Beijijng Opera costumes for sale in the Panjiayuan market. And I can’t leave out the exhilarating experience of watching the students at the Beijing Dance Academy.”
The success of The Peasant Prince, has led Anne to another project. Li is sitting for a portrait that Anne will enter in the 2008 Australian Archibald Prize competition, awarded annually to the best portrait of a person “distinguished in Art, Letters, Science or Politics.”
The Peasant Prince is coming out shortly in the United States with the title Dancing to Freedom, with a new cover illustration by Anne. We’ll be reviewing it on the PaperTigers website soon.