When you look at Lorena’s illustrations, do you see paint? Ink? Paper cut outs? Her work is certainly inspired by the incredible pen and ink illustrations of Arthur Rackham and the watercolour and cut-out works of Jan Pienkowski, but she uses an altogether different method. In an extract from a conference paper she recently gave at the Australian Fairy Tale Society conference, Lorena describes her method in her own words:

I work entirely with photography, which does surprise a lot of people. These works aren’t paintings or drawings. Instead I photograph many separate elements and montage them together in Photoshop.

We’ll go right back to the beginning of my process. My work always starts with what the landscape gives me. I collect small treasures – leaves, stones, animal bones – and photograph them, then file them into digital folders ready to draw from.

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As you can see below, the bridge of bones is made from an entire fox skeleton, with a couple other skulls thrown in for good measure.  A year or so ago, we had some friends staying, and they returned from a walk in the bush near our house with a bundle wrapped up in a silk scarf. “We have a present for you!” Unwrapping it with a flourish, they revealed a pile of white bones – a fox skeleton! Once I reassembled it, I was thrilled to discover it was completely intact, minus a few tiny toes.

I photographed them one by one on a light box, and assembled them carefully in photoshop. In the end, this image was created from 72 separate photographs, and was the basis for one of the illustrations for The Rainbow Prince in Vasilisa The Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women:

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I start by photographing the pieces I need, either on-location (usually squatting somewhere damp!) or at home on the light box. The light box gives me the silhouette that I need, which I then refine later in Photoshop. If I’m photographing a large subject, like a person, I set up the studio lights, lighting the wall behind the subject, but not the subject themselves.

Next, I upload the photographs to the computer and make any necessary adjustments. These are saved into in my *ahem* extremely well organised filing system, ready for use.

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I usually start a new image with the silhouette components. I either use them as themselves – trees, people etc – or I build creatures out of lots of seperate photographs. The fox bridge for example, or creatures I wouldn’t have a chance of photographing myself. Here are a few animals that I’ve created out of sticks, leaves, bones… stuff from the forest floor. When making a composite creature, I try to be conscious of their surroundings in the story and illustration, and use objects that you would find there. In that way, they are built up from their own ‘landscape’.

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Once I’ve built up the silhouettes, I layer in the background – itself often made from several photographs merged together. And there, after a process that can take anywhere from several hours to many days of collecting, photographing, editing, montaging and layering, we have a completed image.


You can see Lorena talk further about Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women at the Athenaeum Library in Melbourne, this Thursday evening (July 20th) as part of the Australian Fairy Tale Society’s Fairy Tale Evening. Alongside singers, storytellers & writers, she will discuss the upcoming book and her creative process.

And don’t forget to pre-order your copy of Vasilisa the Wise. The first 1000 pre-orders come with a free gift, so don’t miss out!


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