Picture book illustrations

The Peter Williams Collection

The Peter Williams Collection is the State Library’s collection of exemplary artwork from Australian picture books. With illustrations dating from 1920 to the present day, the picture book illustration collection showcases the artistry and diversity of Australia’s illustrated picture books. 

The collection is mainly contemporary (1970 onwards) and includes thousands of illustrations, sketches, storyboards, and colour studies from renowned Australian artists, including Alison Lester, Kerry Argent, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Wendy Binks, Leigh Hobbs, Bob Graham, Shaun Tan and more. 

Named in appreciation of Dr Peter Williams, the collection began with a donation of 107 artworks from the eponymous children’s literature enthusiast and expert. Since Williams’ initial contribution in 2006, the State Library has continued to add to the collection, recognising the importance of picture books in fostering a love of literacy and lifelong learning. Explore a few highlights below or find more through the catalogue using the call number “PWC”. Artworks from the illustration collection are regularly exhibited in the Story Place Gallery and incorporated into learning and engagement programs.

Picture Book Illustration Highlights

Original artwork from This is the Wind by Rebecca Cool
The 1970s was a flourishing period in the Australian picture book industry.
Cover illustration for Teacup and also page 4-5

Picture books can sometimes be dismissed as simple.

On shoulders original illustration from page 32 of Look see Look at me  Dee Huxley
The bond between families and friends is a recurring theme in many stories.
Original illustration from the book Simpson and his donkey
Authors and illustrators draw inspiration from real life.
Original artwork from Big Rain Coming
Illustrators take inspiration from where they live and places they know.
Original artwork from Wheres Stripey
Picture books are full of imaginative creatures who do many wild things.

Illustrators spotlight

Original artwork by artistauthor Leigh Hobbs
Gain an insight into the process and artwork of author and artist, Leigh Hobbs. See original artworks, drafts and character studies and hear Leigh discuss his career and works in a short video interview.
Steve the gorilla original artwork for the book Steve goes to Carnival
with Joshua Button and Robyn Wells
In this short time lapse video, collaborators Joshua and Robyn work on an illustration for the book Steve Goes to Carnival.
Original illustration from the book Our stories Ten Pound Pom  Liz Anelli
Tilbury Docks
This short animation shows how Liz Annelli created the illustrations for Ten Pound Pom using a combination of techniques
Original artwork from A perfectly posh pink afternoon tea
for A Perfectly Posh Pink Afternoon Tea
Take a look at into the art and process of illustrating children's picture books with Gabriel Evans. See drafts, sketches, colour tests and storyboards. Evans work is playfully rendered with watercolour, gauche and ink in high key colour.
Little Bird’s Day by Sally Morgan and Johnny Warkatja Malibirr shares the story of a day in the life of a Little Bird. See Johnny Warkatja Malibirr’s illustrations, watch videos of the children's book and hear him talk about the process.

Current & Upcoming Exhibitions

Asians and Afghans in Eucla with camels 1900
Unpick the often-mistold history of ‘camel men’ and their social, cultural and economic contribution to Western Australia. Delve into the origins of South Asian migration to Australia in the late nineteenth century and learn about the adventurers who built a life against the odds.
Aboriginal family in camp in the South West ca1905
Past/Present Future
Utilising photographs from Storylines, the exhibition provides examples of Aboriginal architecture and design from the late 19th century to the present to showcase the unique skills and practices steeped in cultural knowledge.
Ella and Faulkner Mackay looking at photograph album
Cherished Family Mementos from the Collection
The Keepsake exhibition examines why mementos and everyday objects often hold the key to family history and ultimately shape who and how we identify ourselves. Showcasing cherished family moments from the State Library’s collection.