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Freda Chiu

Author, Illustrator

Freda Chiu is an Australian Chinese illustrator, author and educator whose work has been published locally and internationally. As well as writing, she has illustrated children’s books and middle-grade novels for acclaimed authors. In 2022, she was shortlisted for the CBCA Award for New Illustrator and the IBBY Australia Ena Noel Award for her debut picture book as author/illustrator, A TRIP TO THE HOSPITAL. Freda works with a variety of mixed media techniques including pencil, gouache, mono-printing and digital in her cosy home studio.

As a presenter and teacher, Freda is energetic, encouraging and engaged with her inner-child. She hopes for children to go home feeling inspired to create.

Where were you born?

I was born in Western Sydney to a family who had an appreciation for the arts. My Por Por (Grandmother) was an exhibiting artist and embroiderer in Hong Kong whose work had a great impact on me during my childhood. My parents migrated from Hong Kong in the 1980s, so I was lucky to experience a blend of two cultures growing up!

What other jobs have you had?

I worked as a children’s bookseller for many years where I developed my love for picture books and comics. I am currently lecturing and tutoring in Illustration and Visual Communication at the University of Technology Sydney, where I am privileged to teach extraordinarily talented budding illustrators. As well as illustrating children’s books, I am a commercial illustrator working with brands and organisations to create vibrant art for lots of digital and physical contexts.

What themes are recurring in your work?

I like characters that are imperfect, genuine and multi-layered, so this is often reflected through the rawness of my textured and quirky illustrations. Embracing what makes you unique helps you love yourself and appreciate everyone’s differences. I don’t like my art being too ‘pretty’ or polished as that’s not what life is about!

What have been the highlights of your career?

I feel very fortunate to have been shortlisted for the 2022 CBCA Award for New Illustrator and Ena Noël Awards for my debut picture book as author and illustrator, A TRIP TO THE HOSPITAL. It was also exciting to be recognised for my illustration teaching when I was awarded a commendation at The University of Technology Sydney in 2021.

Where have your works been published?

A TRIP TO THE HOSPITAL has been published by Allen and Unwin in Australia, NZ  and the UK and is distributed throughout the US. I have also illustrated books for acclaimed authors and publishers which are now published in Italy, South Korea and soon, France!

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about encouraging kids to tap into their individuality and personal experience, showing them that everyone can be creative regardless of their drawing ability or background.  I strive to make my books as inclusive as possible no matter what theme or genre I’m illustrating. I think diversity and representation in children’s books is crucial to provide a sense of belonging for children and fostering open minds.

Haven’t I seen you before?

Maybe? I’ve been commissioned by SBS Learn to design and present a filmed children’s art activity in front of the camera to celebrate Lunar New Year, a fun and unforgettable experience! You might also find my art lurking around parts of Australia- I’ve painted windows for shop fronts, live paintings for events, illustrated covers for bookstore catalogues, collaborated with corporate companies on fun illustrated campaigns, and even illustrated branding for a literary festival!

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I’m an absolute horror fanatic, and actually started my career as a horror illustrator…a stark contrast from my cheerful and colourful work for children! I also love animals and had lots of pets growing up including dogs, cats, chickens, a sheep, turkey and even a peacock at one point.

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