It's been nearly 10 years since Liz Anelli landed on our shores and became a Newcastle resident. And we're going to miss her.
Anelli, a talented illustrator, moved to Newcastle from the UK with her husband, Mario Minichiello, who took up a role at the University of Newcastle.
The couple is moving back to the UK in 2022.
At the moment, a prime example of Anelli's work is on show at the Lovett Gallery upstairs at Newcastle City Library on Laman Street. The exhibition, Dry to Dry, The Seasons of Kakadu, is based on the award-winning children's book of the same name, written by Pamela Freeman and illustrated by Anelli.
The detailed illustrations in the show are not directly from the pages of the book. Rather, they are indicative of Anelli's process of making illustrations for the book. The show includes creative art activities for children, an animation from Dry to Dry made by local students and a written narrative about Kakadu, Australia's largest national park.
Thirty school groups were scheduled to visit the exhibition, many with hands-on workshops with Anelli.
"I don't think we've printed any final pages, because this is about showing the artwork," Anelli says. "One of the things we encourage the kids to do - look, see what's different.
"This page, for example, migratory birds. You immediately see the great bustard was on a separate layer. He just gets photoshopped in later on. That's a different sky. There's a lot of fiddling around. That's how I work - fiddle around."
Anelli visited Kakadu on two separate trips for research for the book, visiting in October, before the wet season, and again in April, after the monsoon season.
She filled up one entire sketchbook with notes and drawings on two trips, making colour notes and water sketches.
"I have a little watercolour box I take out with me," she says, "so then I can sit somewhere in the bush and lather up with anti-mozzie stuff, and just paint the colours and the shapes that I see. And they directly informed how painted the scenery is, particularly for the artwork.
"I took loads of photos as well, but it is that thing particularly having translated it to paint in a sketchbook, that kind of helps the mind work. Because there is so much colour there. It's like a smorgasbord of rainbow everywhere. Like being selective at the time helps me be selective with my colour palette when I'm back in the studio."
Of course, Anelli has some other research techniques. The book notes the changes in flora and fauna through the six seasons of Kakadu. Among the animals found there are crocodiles.
"Part of my research is go to the Ocean Baths as much as possible and pretend to be a crocodile," she says. "Like you go down as far as you can and then look up - what does it look like when you are at the bottom of the pool looking up. It's really hard to stay down and keep like a crocodile. It was fun."
She adds, "I could not get into the East Alligator River like a croc. I wouldn't be standing here now."
Anelli is a natural talent with school children and has led many workshops in schools in the Hunter. Her natural sense of humour seems to always be there.
It was the illustrated children's book, Desert Lake, about the seasons of Lake Eyre, by Freeman and Anelli that directly led Walker Books to commission Dry to Dry. And that has led to another commission, a book on the Daintree, which is now underway.
Anelli takes nothing for granted. Illustrating a book on a national park of Kakadu's stature was beyond her dreams when she moved to Australia.
"I thank maybe that's one of the reasons I'm so thorough in my research," she says. "It feels like a real honour to be given one of the most well-known national parks in Australia to illustrate."
She says, "I am hugely proud."
"I feel so lucky."
And we do, too.
Dry to Dry: The Seasons of Kakadu, Lovett Gallery, Newcastle City Library, Laman Street, until August 21