HOW DO YOU translate an idea in someone’s head into a graphic illustration? That was the challenge Brenna Quinlan faced when she set about illustrating David Holmgren’s book, Retrosuburbia.
It was also her challenge at Australasian Permaculture Convergence 14 — APC14 — in Canberra.
The book, a new take on the potential role of households in a resource-constrained future by the co-originator of the permaculture design system, is the outcome of several years of thinking and writing about the topic. Brenna’s illustrations give the book its visual ambience, its feel, its look. Choosing the right look is important to a book’s appeal to its target readership.
The graphics clarify David’s thinking on retrosuburbia, and in this they are an act of translation, of making physical what is mental.
While some participants at APC14 were still in their bunks thinking about breakfast, Brenna was already at work. When I wandered downstairs around 7.30 on the mornings of the four day convergence, there she was at work in the common room, pen in hand, turning people’s ideas into graphic reality.
Brenna talks about illustrating David Holmgren's Retrosuburbia book and the Convergence.
As APC14’s graphic documenter, Brenna produced large, A1 size, coloured illustrations that summarised the sessions of the day. Attached to the wall, her work served as both summary and aide memoir for the ideas that flowed out of the sessions.
Those large-scale works were the end pieces of a process that started with Brenna sitting on the floor at sessions, writing and sketching in a notebook as she extracted meaning from what speakers said. Somehow, her brain distilled the essence of people'e words into notes and what might be called concept sketches. I think those notebooks would be worthy of publication in their own right.