- Jeannie BakerIllustrator–Australia
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Jeannie Baker is the author and illustrator of thirteen critically acclaimed picturebooks. Her characteristic use of mixed media to create detailed and elaborate "relief collages" is stunningly original. Born in Croydon, London, England on November 2, 1950, she studied at the Croydon College of Art (1967–69) and attended Brighton College of Art (1969–72) in Sussex, where she gained an Honours Degree in Art and Design. She worked as a commissioned artist before illustrating her first book, Polar (1975) by Elaine Moss, and then published Grandfather (1977), which she had created at art college.
Baker emigrated to Australia in 1975 and lived first in Tasmania, where she created a sequel to Grandfather titled Grandmother (1978). She then moved to Sydney, where she now lives. Millicent (1980) and One Hungry Spider (1982) were her next publications. She then spent part of 1980 and 1983 in the Visual Arts Board's New York studio, researching and then exhibiting Home in the Sky (1984).
Soon after I first arrived in Australia, I became conscious that this strange new land, its strong clear light, unfamiliar smells and sounds was deeply affecting my senses, my outlook, my use of and feeling for colour ... the greys, browns and subdued tones of my English work changed to more vivid hues, echoing the luxuriant colours in the landscape here.
Her inventive, intricate, and tactile collages utilize found objects and employ a complex process for preparing, coloring, mounting, and preserving them. Her intense focus on the environment and her ardent conservation message have caused her to be "described as a gentle activist, but she is nothing but uncompromising and steely in the integrity of her environmental statements." Her several "wordless" visual texts include Window (1991) and Belonging (2004), companion books in which changes to the environment are viewed through a window as time passes. Baker has also consistently exhibited, filmed, and toured her work and is truly a multimedia artist.
Her themes include urban sprawl, land degradation, introduced pests, and destruction of natural habitats via development; they promote global cooperation and understanding. Circle (2016) traces the threatened godwit's incredible cyclical journey around the world. Above all, Baker's work exudes empathy with the landscape, with the flora and fauna it nourishes, and with the people who inhabit it. But this empathy is never sentimental. It is founded on the belief that living a life entails responsibility and that we are all partners in the local and global communities in which we live: "If people's feelings are affected, they might then be motivated to try and change things."
Jeannie Baker is one of Australia's most internationally recognized and influential picturebook artists. [End Page 41]