From Blackfriars to the bookshelf for old scholar illustrator/author

You may not know Blackfriars old scholar Danny Snell, but if you have young children, chances are you know his work.

Snell (BPS’87), pictured, is an artist who works primarily as a children’s book illustrator. After graduating from Blackfriars, Snell studied at the Adelaide Central School of Art and the University of South Australia, where he completed a Bachelor of Design (Illustration).

Since then, he has illustrated almost 25 children’s books (many available in Blackfriars’ Hallinan Library), winning several awards along the way. He has teamed up with many well-known authors, including Janeen Brian, Phil Cummings, Monica McInerney and Emily Rodda, best known for the Delta Quest series.

His latest book – One Little Duck, with Katrina Germein – will be officially launched next week*.

Snell, who came to Blackfriars as a Year 8 student from Rosary School, said he always enjoyed art.

“It was my favourite subject,” he said. “I did it in Year 12 and I always loved that space there. Back then, there was this big woodworking area … and I loved that sort of stuff.”

While he initially eyed a career as a graphic designer, he switched to illustration during his university years. “I suppose, initially, graphic design seemed a good way to use my skills but I discovered that I could make a career as an illustrator.”

He said he “loved the narrative aspect, creating a story with pictures” that came with working on children’s books, adding they could be “deceptively hard” to create.

“You have so few words and you have to be able to see the world through the children’s lens,” he said.

In 2015, Snell released Seagull, his first book as an author and illustrator. It won The Wilderness Society Award for Children’s Literature – Picture Fiction in 2016.

“I got the idea for that (Seagull) … when the kids were quite little and we were staying at a beach house,” he said. “We saw a seagull that was tangled up in some fishing line. The kids were a bit anxious about it, so we started making up stories about how the seagull got some help. I sat on the idea for a while before I sent it off to the publisher.”

One of his more-recent books, The Fire Wombat, written by former Australian Children’s Laureate Jackie French, tells the story of a wombat who shares her burrow with other animals as the flames of a bushfire approach. It was named by The Guardian as one of six books to help kids deal with bushfire anxiety.

Year 1 students read old scholar Danny Snell’s book, Seagull.

As well as children’s books, Snell has worked as a freelancer for ad agencies, design studios, newspapers and magazines. His cricket-inspired artwork features on the label of Jim Barry Wines’ Cover Drive cabernet sauvignon and his editorial illustrations have been published in magazines including The Big Issue and Sophisticated Traveller Magazine.

Reminiscing on his Blackfriars years, Snell said he was “one of those kids who tried not to stand out”. But he did have fond memories of former headmaster Father John Neill OP.

“He had a real rapport with the kids and everyone respected him,” he said.

  • UPDATE MAY 2024 – Mr Snell’s book, One Little Duck, has been shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) 2024 Book of the Year: Early Childhood.
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