Science Illustrated – Q&A with Coral Tulloch

March 26th, 2019

To celebrate the announcement of Bouncing Back being shortlisted in the 2019 CBCAs we’ve asked Coral Tulloch to share a bit about her inspirations and her creative process.
A drawing of an Eastern Barred Bandicoot with footsteps trailing behind

Illustration by Coral Tulloch

Portrait of illustrator Coral Tulloch

Coral Tulloch – award-winning illustrator of Bouncing Back and Phasmid

Coral Tulloch is an award-winning illustrator who has worked on a plethora of books for children, both in Australia and internationally. In 2015 she partnered with Melbourne zookeeper Rohan Cleave to produce Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect.

Coral’s stunning illustrations helped Rohan tell the true story of the phasmid and its remarkable journey back from extinction. The book received numerous accolades, including its selection as an Honour Book in Eve Pownall Information Category, in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book Awards (CBCAs) in 2016.

In 2018 Rohan and Coral worked together again to release Bouncing Back: An Eastern Barred Bandicoot Story – the captivating true story of how this small, nocturnal marsupial is being saved from extinction.

We are bouncing with joy to announce that Bouncing Back has been shortlisted in the Eve Pownall category in the 2019 CBCA’s!! (external link)

To celebrate the announcement we’ve asked Coral to share with us a little bit about her inspirations and her creative process.

Who or what inspired you to become an artist and illustrator?

I always loved to draw and I am not a painter – I do not see the world in swathes of colour, but in form and line, so I adore drawing.

I love the feel of graphite and ink on paper and various grounds and ochres. I just can’t bring myself to work with a computer as it does not have the feel, smell of the rag paper, the texture and response to me, so I have stayed right away from it. I prefer to challenge myself with materials in my hand. And I just love it. It is not something I chose, I must draw. I see the world in a way I need to translate it. Most times, when I’m working on a book, in finished art, the texture and line of that book will surround my everyday life, I see everything in that style, as I’m driving, or even in the supermarket…so sometimes I have to set up something completely different in the studio to take my eyes away from the detail or design that has permeated my everyday life.

Front cover of Bouncing Back: An Eastern Barred Bandicoot Story

Bouncing Back has been shortlisted for the 2019 CBCA awards!

Do you think science illustration requires a different creative approach?

Not really. Everything we do is based somehow on life, on our experience, on what we see and feel.  Everyone has their own style and their own way in translating a visual interpretation of the world, be that the natural world, or a fictional world. I will never forget being in Antarctica as an artist-in-residence on a tourist ship…we were in a white out nearly all day. I did a piece of work where I tore up 16 small pieces of white paper and placed them in four lines on a black background. Underneath were time slots for the day. Most of the pieces remained white, one or two showed a hint of grey, misty mountains or leads in the ice. I called it, the photographer.

Table with paint and a selection of natural dyes and materials

Coral Tulloch’s work space

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?

Oh, there are so many things. Each book is a completely different concept and challenge. Each stage holds varying loves and stresses, decisions – but above all else, I think I love the process of creating the roughs themselves. There is something so fresh and not self-conscious about the line and depth of emotion in roughs. They hold the spirit and the power of the process of thought and image.

Endpapers from Bouncing Back partially drawn

The creation of images for the endpapers for Bouncing Back

Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring illustrators?

Yes, follow your own voice. Even if you are inspired, and you always will be by the visual world and images, use these, gain ideas and then experiment and find your own way. Use whatever you want to make your marks, nothing is right or wrong. Be strong, and if it feels right to you, it is satisfying and right, go with it, follow your gut and heart. Look at everything that interests you and ignore the things that don’t. You can understand them, but you don’t have to imitate them. Bring your own vision to us. Can’t wait to see it!!!

Draft illustration from Bouncing Back with watercolour paints

The creative process – draft illustration by Coral Tulloch


If you enjoyed reading this interview with Coral Tulloch, you’ll probably love reading this article about Rohan Cleave. You can grab a copy of Bouncing Back from our website.