Category Archives: Illustration


PrintCommunity arts, health & well-being and education seem to be where I gravitate in my creative work.  Over the last 20 years I’ve often been engaged by councils, usually via their Community Arts or Community Development teams, to facilitate workshops, youth or community arts projects, or provide illustration such as promotional art, logo design & educational material.

In Tasmania, I’ve collaborated with at various times with Huon, Hobart, Kingborough, South Midlands & Glenorchy Councils since moving here in 2001.  As with teachers, I have great respect for the dedicated individuals who work at the forefront of community development.  They are often very caring, creative (and resourceful!) people who genuinely want to enable positive opportunities for their communities, despite the bureaucratic restraints of the system they work within.

From 2007 – 2016 I enjoyed a longstanding working relationship with Knox City Council’s community arts team, providing the branding for the annual Knox Arts Festival, illustration for various community education resources, and artwork for what became an award-winning public transport advocacy campaign.

KNOX COMMUNITY ARTS FESTIVAL (2007 – 2013)knox-2010-detail

I was first engaged by Knox in 2007 via Anthony McInneny, who I’d previously worked with on a Youth Arts project for Glen Eira Council.  I was asked to create a bold, colourful and slightly Seuss-ish look for the Knox Arts Festival marketing, and for the next 7 years this style continued as the festival brand.  Each year’s festival had a different theme that tied together community, diversity, environment and the arts.  My illustrations were used across all advertising materials, posters, postcards, programs, on canvas banners and even on aprons, T-shirts etc.  I also ran continuous cartooning workshops in Ferntree Gully library over the festival weekend.  There was something deliciously subversive about being almost completely anonymous at the event, surrounded by my artwork trumpeting itself all over the festival on banners, signage, and the like.

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In 2009, as part of Knox’s Waste Education program into the community and primary schools, I was asked to design a family of characters respresenting the 3 different household bins used in the Shire – ie household waste, recycling and green waste.  The Bin Family were used as mascots across various print media and on the Council’s website, and I also designed a deck of playing cards based on the ‘Happy Families’ card game of old, except the families were representing different categories of rubbish eg the Can family, the Bottle family, the Hard Waste family and so on.  The cards could be downloaded from the Council website, printed and stuck on cardboard, for school students to play with.

In fact the cards were a favourite with my own kids for many years.  They’re not on the Knox website anymore, but you can download the whole deck here (If you glue them onto fairly thick cardboard, the cards will last years – ours are still going!)


i-want-youIn 2010, Knox Council’s communications team devised and delivered a public transport advocacy campaign titled ‘Who’s on Board?’, aimed at getting firm government commitments to better public transport in Melbourne’s east in the lead up to the 2011 State election.

Knox Council briefed me to design a central “mascot” character and a selection of supporting images around which all the marketing would be built.  The campaign was a huge success. It generated enormous community interest and media coverage and would go on to win the Best Communication Award at the 2012 Government Communications Australia awards.

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In the award submission prepared in support of ‘Who’s on Board?’ (download here), you can see some of the far-reaching applications of the mascot (named Barney Boardman in a Knox schools competition).  I was surprised to note that while the document acknowledges that their decision to use cartoons was integral in their marketing strategy (as a way of engaging the community in a potentially dry campaign), nowhere in the document am I credited as the artist.  There is a passing mention of the artwork being created “in-house”, which is incorrect: Council out-sourced the art to a professional illustrator (me) who lives interstate and was probably a cheaper option than local illustrators.  Sadly this reflects common attitudes about freelance cartoon illustration – that in being “merely” functional, it’s not a particularly valued artform or skill, and the artist’s contribution is expected to remain anonymous unless of course you generate some kind of celebrity for yourself…an option I’ve always found unappealing as I’m really not of a chestbeating temperament.

ROAD SAFETY BOOKLETknox-road-safety-4-detail

I like commercial illustration jobs that involve some element of education, that require a clarity of line in order to communicate an immediate message, in a style that is perhaps innocuous but warm enough for people to connect with the content.  As an artist who is no stranger to creative complexity, I relish bringing deliberate economy to this style of cartoon drawing, making every small symbol or cliche matter, a hand, a glance in a particular direction, the space between two lines, finding balance with minimal expression.

This particular brief, a booklet on Road Safety for families dropping off / picking up their kids from school,  was all the more satisfying because it was about keeping kids safe – something I feel very passionate about.

Professionally, I was challenged by the fact that in the 80s another cartoonist had already illustrated essentially the same booklet, which Knox Council had supplied me & were really just asking me to copy and “update” his work.  I felt a moral tangle – solidarity with the previous cartoonist, compassion and yet guilt at my own betrayal, concerns about copyright, my desperate need to pay bills and my disgust at it all being reduced to money and survival.  As I applied my own skills to the job, I wondered a lot about the other cartoonist and his life, and this added a whole other depth to my process.

Well, someone has to care about these things, at least momentarily, because generally most people don’t….

Once again, despite my signature on all the drawings and the fact that the booklet is comprised entirely of nothing but artwork, there was no creative credit for myself or the previous artist –  “produced by the Local Laws Department, Knox Council”.  Perhaps I am a Department of Laws unto myself?

You can download the booklet here if you wish to share it with your school.  Personally I think the booklet is a fantastic idea and relevant to the safety of all our young kids.


Earlier this year, Knox produced a brochure for residents of the Shire, outlining a breakdown of  where spending of rates was occurring.  I provided an assortment of generic images that were then placed in the brochure.  Knox got the design idea from another council’s rates brochure, but I do think they did a better job on the design of this one, much warmer and user-friendly.

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My last job for the Knox team was this series of illustrations which became postcards delivered to Knox residents.  The drawings basically depict before / after scenarios reminding residents to keep their gardens off the sidewalks so that people in wheelchairs, scooters, walking frames, strollers etc can enjoy a more pleasant mobile experience as they traverse the suburban thoroughfares.




BUSHFIRE GROUP PICBy far one of my most enduring creative relationships has been as in-house illustrator & occasional creative consultant for independent music education publishers Bushfire Press.   Bushfire Press are a passionate team of ex-music teachers / musicians, who began writing & publishing Performing Arts resources for primary & secondary schools in the late 80s.  My work for them has included a wide range of music teaching resources, most notably the award-winning series Music Room – initially published as 7 books and accompanying CD-ROMs, and later adapted to interactive digital whiteboard format.

One of the team, Rob Fairbairn, had helped promote my cartoon workshops into Melbourne schools during the 90s through his Complete Arts Company, and we’d established a creative friendship over the years.  In 2000 Rob introduced me to the rest of the Bushfire team to see if I’d like to illustrate a new music book project they were hatching for schools, called the Great Southern Songbook.  It was an exciting project, containing original songs from the Asia-Pacific region accompanied by cross-arts extension activities, and supporting CDs recorded by the Bushfire team.


PrintThe Southern Songbook songs covered a range of themes, from Book Week to cultural diversity & reconciliation, Australia’s federation and International Year of the Volunteer. Activities ranged from visual arts & crafts, creative writing, dance & more. Rob Fairbairn composed many of the songs in the books as well as sourcing material from other songwriters & cultures. A great collaborator, Rob also workshopped a couple of pieces with schoolkids & co-wrote a piece with indigenous performer Wayne Thorpe.

Illustrating these books was a fantastic process that included designing icons and diagrams as well as cartoon art.  I had to work closely with the Bushfire team at every stage, to ensure that my drawings were clear in their communication, particularly where they needed to teach something very specific, eg a bushdance pattern.

I’ve illustrated for Bushfire Press for over a decade now, and have created thousands of cartoons, icons, diagrams & charts for their educational material.  As a teacher myself, and a communicator who likes things to be precise, I’ve tried to refine my art to make the information as clear as possible for the teachers at the other end.

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PrintAfter the Great Southern Songbooks (and my move from Melbourne to Tasmania), the Bushfire team needed a less intensive project, which emerged in the form of a couple of fun resources for lower primary teachers, Start Singing Action Songs and Start Singing and Dancing.  The songs & dances were mostly familiar childhood standards like Comin’ Round The Mountain and Farmer In The Dell, and the cartoon illustrations were both diagramatical  and entertaining, expressive enough to breathe fresh life into the standards while keeping the information clear. The books were accompanied by CDs with lively renditions of the songs by the Paradiddle Band aka the Bushfire Press boys, who you will see pictured at the end of this slide show (from the books’ back cover).

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MUSIC ROOM series (2005 – 2011)

UNIT3.7.L2APrintThe MUSIC ROOM series was the biggest illustration project I’ve been involved in yet.  A total of seven books, each containing a full school year’s worth of lesson plans for each primary grade level.  Bushfire’s aim was to create a resource that any classroom teacher, musical or not, can easily implement.  Book 7 in the series won Best Primary Teaching Resource
at the Australian Educational Publishing Awards in 2012, and rightly so, as the amount of research, consultation, planning, structuring, creating, editing, cross-referencing, triple-checking and plate-spinning invested by the Bushfire team is phenomenal.

The deliberately “commercial” style of the cartoons – simple bold lines, cute characters, bright colours – belies a lot of deeper thinking and problem-solving around how to clearly communicate very specific information in concise but expressive symbols, while remaining engaging and fun.  The multitude of icons, charts & diagrams in the books required design solutions that constantly had teachers in mind.

MUSIC ROOM pages 1Any work I do is inseparable from my own life processes, and I really value work that involves collaboration and building relationships.  This project deepened my personal friendships with the Bushfire team, and was an anchoring element in my own shaky life trajectory for over a decade – my move to Tasmania in 2001 with no money or sense of identity, my subsequent reinventing of myself on Bruny Island, the birth of two babies & renovating a house, a difficult family breakdown, deep clinical depression while recovering from a nervous breakdown / and the usual ongoing struggles to create a basic income as a self-employed artist. There were times when drawing happy sunny children was utterly at odds with what I was feeling in myself, but the consistency of the characters, the working formulas, provided some degree of stability amidst chaos.

Often working on the illustrations provided a focus where I had none, or acted as a meditative tonic.  The Bushfire team allowed me plenty of creative freedom, and encouraged a touch of friendly irreverence, in developing the illustrations.  They trusted my skills and my process completely, knowing full well that in doing so they would get the best from me.  Throughout the drawings are private references to friends and family, various in-jokes and a shared passion for encouraging creative thinking in children.

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DANCE ROOM (2008 – 2009)

While the MUSIC ROOM books were finding success in schools, Bushfire collaborated with Dance teacher Barbara Snook to create a similar style of teacher resource called DANCE ROOM.  As with MUSIC ROOM, the DANCE ROOM books were a developmental program of sequential lesson plans that Lower Primary teachers could use to teach the elements of dance.

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Building on illustrative cues I’d developed throughout the MUSIC ROOM and DANCE ROOM series, this book of traditional folk dances from around the world uses diagrammatical cartoons to clearly communicate dance steps.  The group illustrations, showing the children demonstrating the steps in a circle, were particularly challenging because of the character style (big head / little body / short limbs / sausage fingers) eg heads obscuring other kids in the circle etc.

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WE’RE ORFF! series

PrintIn recent years, Bushfire Press have been collaborating with music educators Tamara O’Brien and Mark Carthew to produce a fantastic series of resources that ‘demystify’ the Orff approach to music education for the classroom.  I mainly provided the cover illustrations and a handful of illustrations inside.  I particularly like that the Orff approach deconstructs music learning into its most core elements, in much the same way I do with my thINK approach to teaching drawing.



Visual Scribe @ Relationships Australia (TAS) Conference, Hobart


OCT 26 / 27 2015 Visual Scribe @ Relationships Australia (TAS) Conference, Hobart

In Oct 2015, Relationships Australia Tas employed me as a “visual mapper”, illustrating in realtime the core themes and ideas that emerged from their annual 2-Day conference of 150 employees from around the state.  I stood at the back of the room, listening, observing, interpreting & translating into symbolic images & key words.  At the end of each day, participants used the visual map to reflect on their conference experience and reinforce their understanding of the conference themes.

RELTAS 11It was great to be part of such a strong gathering of people sharing the common aim of helping other people – social well-being, communication, social education. I had done some live “visual mapping” at a 2-hr Death Café event earlier in the year, but having two whole days onsite allowed me time to really immerse myself in the process & develop the ideas in my drawings a bit more thoroughly.

The conference theme was “One Team”, looking at ways of unifying the diverse skills of everyone within the organization, from admin to management.

RELTAS 8Guest speakers were Saroo Brierley, with his remarkable story about reuniting with his lost family in India, and Alisa Camplin with her motivational experience of winning gold at the Winter Olympics against all odds.  Both described two very different ways of setting oneself a seemingly impossible goal, and seeing it to completion.

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This job was a rich & challenging experience, both personally & creatively – not only did I need to sharpen my creative thinking skills on the fly to make my drawings concise & communicative, I felt I was able to draw deeply on many other personal skills and insights. My own lived experiences around mental illness, relationships and family breakdown, emotional communication and psychological transformation, all gave me a better understanding of the context & enabled a more authentic creative process.



Visual Scribe @ Calvary Palliative Care schools pilot program 2016



Following my experience as visual scribe at Calvary Hospital’s Death Café in 2015, one of the organisers Belinda Clarke approached me about being involved in an innovative pilot program she had devised in partnership with Calvary Hospital & two Hobart high schools.

A group of Yr 12 girls who were considering a career in nursing, were to attend six weekly sessions at Calvary’s palliative care unit, in which they would learn about various aspects of palliative care and begin to have more open conversations about death, dying, and ultimately, life.

image002Each week there were presentations by various health care professionals in the field, discussing topics such as medical & holistic supports for the dying, ethics, grief, care in the wider community. The students also spent time with a patient at the unit who was undergoing treatment, and who shared her views on life and facing death. The students kept creative journals throughout the course and used these to produce a creative response to their experience, in the form of visual art or writing. Each session was filmed & edited by HypeTV into a DVD overview of the pilot program to present to other schools.

Once again, my role was to attend some of these sessions as a live “visual scribe”, listening to the presenters and distilling their information into simple expressive drawings for student reflection.  As the course had never been tried before, Belinda had no expectation of outcome, and we were all very much in the unknown with the process – a place I always feel is creatively exciting!

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It was fantastic to be part of this innovative learning process, to support this important work and to again consider my own mortality more deeply. It was particularly powerful for the students, some of whom were directly dealing with death in their own families, and they embraced the challenge with great maturity and insight.

You can read and view the students’ creative responses, as well as see video diaries of the sessions, at Belinda’s blog here:

Here is the completed 13-minute documentary of the project, produced by Hype TV:

Death Cafe: Visual Scribing @ Calvary Hospital 2015



In 2015 I was invited to provide live cartoon “scribing” at a Calvary Hospital event in Hobart. It was a 2-hour “Death Café”, in which the general public were invited to meet and have open conversations about death and dying – not a grief group, but a safe space in which to normalise the usually-taboo subject.

death cafe 4More than 1000 pop-up Death Cafes have been organised by communities & health organisations around the world since 2004. Swiss sociologist / anthropologist Bernard Crettaz held the first Death Café after recognising the need to break the culture of secrecy around death & dying.

At the Calvary event, participants sat around the room in small groups, and my role was to move around the room, listening in on the various conversations and extrapolating the main themes, which I then tried to distill into images & words on two whiteboards.

This was both a creative and personal challenge. Leading up to the event, it made me think about my own mortality more, and practical aspects of death such as preparing a will, and it prompted some challenging conversations with my two adolescent children and my partner. Naturally we avoid speaking about our death with people we love because it touches on deep feelings of sadness & loss, but open conversations can help us feel more prepared for that loss when it happens, and potentially help us appreciate the time we do have with each other more fully.

death cafe 3Creatively, while I have decades of experience drawing spontaneously with groups in new situations, I had never tried live “visual scribing” before, and I was nervous about whether I could deliver something meaningful in a brief 2 hours.

In the end, it was a gently powerful experience for everyone, and the conversations ranged from attitudes about suicide, to feeling more alive in the face of death, to the commercialization of death, to the dangers of shielding children from death, and beyond. It was both fascinating and a privilege to be allowed to listen in on people’s stories, and many people found that my drawings helped them reflect more deeply, and even created connections across the room between separate conversations.

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team pic

The Death Cafe team: Aneeta Oakley, Sarah De Jonge, Cath Schlyder, Belinda Clarke & Santa Claus




The first poster – © Bradfield Dumpleton 2004

In 2003 I spontaneously answered a small hand-drawn ad in MacFie’s Music shop in Nth Hobart, someone looking for interested parties with whom to play guitar music of a Eurofolk bent.  It was Luke Yates, a young uni student recently-returned from travels in France, previously an 80s metal guitarist who had an acoustic epiphany while tending goats in the French countryside.

Cactoid Fractal Swing  (Dumpleton / Yates 2004) – Bradfield Dumpleton – acoustic guitar, horses, jaws harp / Luke Yates – acoustic guitar, from the album An Anthology Of Revised Ambiguities.

Luke & I immediately discovered a shared curiosity in the quirky, offbeat sounds of European folk, Rom gypsy, Jazz Manouche, the Near East, Flamenco, the pathos & melancholic edges of cabaret, circus music, anything with that exotic flair, weird time signatures & plenty of articulate dissonance.  Not that either of us had learned to play any of it, we just devoured as many recordings as we could and worked out the essential ingredients ourselves.  Within the month, Spondooli Brothers were writing & performing their first compositions.

symbolThere’s also a certain absurdist humour inherent in all these musics, which appealed to our own sense of same, and before long a Spondooli aesthetic emerged – the music, the lo-fi Op Shop gypsy outfits, the accents, the mythology…..and the artwork.  Creating the Spondooli artwork was a welcome departure from my usual commercial illustration, and for the first time in many years I gave myself permission to draw for My Own Pleasure.  (This is a big deal, when all your creative energy is usually spent illustrating other people’s ideas & teaching / inspiring other people’s kids to get creative.)

PIGS bigI’d been designing some circus tent panel designs for Justus Neumann’s Circus Elysium, and while researching old circus poster art (a la PT Barnum et al), I found a glorious image of a man in tux & fez, solemnly conducting a pair of musical pigs.  For some reason the pig idea stuck, and so developed our mascot, the Ukulele Pig.  The UpsideDown Question Mark represented the Spondooli response to the world – a state of perpetual bafflement.  The circus theme continued into the lettering for our logo and the subsequent gig posters & CD art, and was all the more fitting when, performing live, we never knew if the music would derail mid-hurtle or not, and we often felt like trapeze artists without a safety net.

Recently I dusted off all the old Spondooli art & decided to put it together here as a celebration of more colourful days, so here ’tis.  I’ve included some Spondooli tunes as a soundtrack, to complete the picture as it were, if you so choose. You can also click on the images to enlarge them.

Moustafa’s Revenge  (Dumpleton / Yates 2004) – Bradfield Dumpleton – acoustic guitar / Luke Yates – acoustic guitar, from the album An Anthology Of Revised Ambiguities.


guitartamer hats COLThe very first Spondooli poster was the generic design at the top of this page.  The Spondooli Brothers didn’t perform frequently (on account of spending most of our time wrangling work, babies, uni studies, work, family, babies, uni studies, family, work etc etc), so when we had a gig, I wanted the posters to make a splash, and to be pieces of art in their own right.  The style was old world retro (before old world retro became de jour), and stood apart from the trends of the time (though of course it all just goes in ever-diluting circles).  Also, being an acoustic duo, we were better suited to sharing gigs with kindred acts who had a more robust sound, and this was a fundamental inspiration for each poster.

Dancing On Yesterday’s Grave  (Dumpleton / Yates 2004) – Bradfield Dumpleton – acoustic guitar, vocals / Luke Yates – acoustic guitar, from the album An Anthology Of Revised Ambiguities.


Animal characters also became a theme (we’re all just performing animals in the circus of life, are we not?), and a useful device to indicate the flavour of each gig – eg the funky medieval lute-playing pig when we shared a CD launch with Harlequin, who played Moorish music on hand-crafted medieval instruments.  Some of these characters’ lives were extended – the Dancing Bear reappeared on the back of our CD cover, the Funky Lute Pig stars on the cover of my Baroque-tinged album Marzipan, and the Crooning Moon Man became a mascot for my own solo ukulele music post-Spondoolies.  In hindsight, the Crooning Moon Man is clearly indicating my growing interest in ukulele & 1920s jazz, but I had no idea at the time where that would take me.


Luke & I were both really proud of our first CD, An Anthology Of Revised Ambiguities.  For us it was an authentic work of art, so it deserved to be clothed in appropriate finery.  The Guitar Tamer was a shoe-in for the front cover, and we wanted a full-colour booklet inside, an extra window for people to explore the world of Spondooli through, to add more story to the music.  Like back in the old days, when album cover art mattered.

BOOKLET 8_1I decided to create individual panels to illustrate the songs, using the titles to suggest the imagery.  In some cases the illustrations are reflecting a story or mood in the song, in other panels the drawing is a story unto itself.  The long vertical shape & design aesthetic of the panels were a little reminiscent of the old cigarette cards of the 1920s.

BOOKLET 2_7For instance, the instrumental Dancing On Yesterday’s Grave was our very first collaboration and marked a new beginning for us both, in defiance of our past, so a Mexican Death image seemed fitting.  The baby in the guitar case for New Song was a tribute to my daughter, and the flailing trapeze artist in Symfonjo Garibando was myself and every man who walks the tightrope juggling the pressures of family life & work.

Symfonjo Garibando  (Dumpleton / Yates 2004) – Bradfield Dumpleton – acoustic guitar, vocals / Luke Yates – acoustic guitar, from the album An Anthology Of Revised Ambiguities.

BOOKLET 6_3The centre of the booklet became a homage to sheepliness (Luke & I both being born in the sign of the Ram), bucking the “flying pig” trend with an airborn woolly, a kind of Dumbo-meets-Ottoman-Empire thing.BOOKLET 4_5

Madame Octopus  (Dumpleton / Yates 2004) – Bradfield Dumpleton – acoustic guitar, vocals / Luke Yates – acoustic guitar, from the album An Anthology Of Revised Ambiguities.

One of our best-loved songs had always been Madame Octopus, so I payed homage to her on the inside disc tray, with the Guitar Tamer printed on the disc, so that when you removed the CD from the case, the two images created a before / after sequence, thus:

DISC LABEL BACKTRAY INLAY 2The final ingredient was the back cover with track listing, and after some deliberation it was decided the Dancing Bear should make a final appearance.



Around this time I also designed a map of Spondoolistan, which didn’t make the CD booklet but was used in other promo material.  Drawn in Ye Olde Mappe Style, the chart is peppered with puns & visual jokes, some esoteric humour & nonsensical randomness, as well as a couple of villages named after two songs on the album.

When I released the limited edition Camel Lips CD (solo project, as the Spondooli Other), I connected each song in the liner notes to its native region on the map, delving deeper into the Spondooli mythology.

SPONDOOLISTAN MAPThe Spondooli illustrations mark a creative renaissance for me, reconnecting me with the pleasure I once took in drawing for its own sake, and is an illustration style that I still enjoy working with.  This period represented a new level of creative expansion, musically & artistically, that I think I’m still tapping into.


Spondooli Bros performing @ Taste Of Tasmania Festival 2006

KIDS LIKE US – vital work for (twice) exceptional kids


APR SUN 19 – KIDS LIKE US (Sandringham)

On Sunday April 19 I’ll have the pleasure of continuing some drawing exploration with a small but highly-creative & enthusiastic group of young people from Kids Like Us.  This will be our third gathering, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where the journey takes us this time.

Kids Like Us Australia are a small and passionate team of people working to help children who are “twice exceptional” – kids who have highly specialised gifts but also live with challenges such as dyslexia, autism, aspergers, ADHD, anxiety & depression.  These kids process the world in remarkable & highly creative ways, but are often misunderstood in mainstream education.

This year I am excited to be running some workshops using the thINK drawing process with some of the more visually-oriented KLUA students.

I have also been designing some illustrations for KLUA, including the ubiquitous Bowler Hat, who is to represent their Ambassador program.

If you’d like to attend their Annual Gala Fundraising event in May, or would like to support the vital work KLUA are doing, please contact them!