James Foley

Illustrator, author, speaker, facilitator

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Designing a playspace for kindy kids


I’ve been working on a great community project since April; I was hired by Yanchep Community Centre to redesign their playgroup outdoor area. It needed to be suitable for the 2-4 year olds from the weekly playgroups, and it needed to include a water play area and a music play area.

The area was pretty plain to start with – there was an old pergola, a sandpit, a plastic playset, a cubby house, a blackboard and lots of grass.

First we got input from the playgroup mums. What would their ideal outdoor area look like? What features would the area include?

The number one issue was shade. There was plenty of space, but not much of it was in the shade. In summer it was a real issue. The pergola didn’t cover the playset properly; ideally they would like to have some shadesails installed.

A second issue was flat ground. The kids loved taking the prams, bikes and scooters outside, but there wasn’t a purpose-built flat area to allow this kind of play. Ideally they wanted a bike track.

From those initial meetings I made up some rough plans and concept illustrations.

Many times my concepts needed to change on the go due to availability of materials. We had already grabbed some great things from Remida in North Perth; they’re a not-for-profit that collects industrial discard material and provides it for upcycling. We also received a lot of donations from playgroup families, and the City of Wanneroo provided yellow sand, mulch, old cricket training mats, old playground parts and security doors.

The next stage was construction. We had a Saturday busy bee with many families donating their time and energy. We also had help from some morning playgroups and an afternoon youth group.

Over many weeks, the outdoor areas began to take shape …

… and now – aside from some shade sails still to be installed – it’s all done!


Big thanks to Remida; to David Green and the City of Wanneroo; to all the families who donated materials, helped at the Busy Bee and assisted in the workshops; to the youth who helped with spray painting; and to Tweedie for hiring me.

HUGE thanks to to Jenny , Ell and Nell at Yanchep Community Centre for continuously helping along the way.

EXTRA HUGE thanks to Laura, one of the playgroup mums, who really pushed for this and volunteered a huge amount of her time; and to Jade, who was at the Centre on work experience and came back after her placement to help me get everything done. You made a huge difference!

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The Rottnest Island Retreat, & other SCBWI news

Thompson Bay, Rottnest IslandEvery year since 2009, members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) have gathered on Rottnest Island in June for a winter retreat. We spend four days writing, drawing, working on stories and learning from guest speakers. It’s my favourite time of the year.

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Attack of the Zombie Animals

moo-brains-20150515-headerSubscribers of my email newsletter The James Foley-O will know that I have a new book coming out in October. It’s about a pet rabbit that dies and comes back from the dead as a zombie; it’s called My Dead Bunny. It’s written by Sigi Cohen and published by Walker Books Australia. I’m busting to show you the cover! I’ll reveal more in the next couple of months. In the meantime, here’s some pictures of other zombie animals …

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Making a marionette


Late last year I was feeling overworked; firstly I was working too hard, but secondly I wasn’t doing anything creative just for myself. Then along came an opportunity to do something different … Spare Parts Puppet Theatre was running a 6 week marionette-making course.

Spare Parts is an incredible company that creates original puppetry productions; they’ve also adapted quite a few children’s books for the stage over the years. They’re based in my hometown of Fremantle, and I remember seeing some of their shows as a kid. I signed up for the course straight away.

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Making a mural at the Perth Writers Festival


The Perth Writers Festival is over for another year. The weekend goes by so quick! I was very happy to be back this year as a presenter on the schools’ day and family day, and this year I also got to work on something a bit different – a massive mural.

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How to survive as an illustrator: advice for a student

IMG_0613Once or twice a year I get an email from an illustration student. They usually have an assignment to write, which requires them to ask a  professional illustrator about their work. I got one of these emails last week, asking me for advice on how I got started, how I survive in the industry and how I self-promote. This is my reply.

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The Little Girl Giant and her giant picture book


reading the giant picture book

If you live in Perth in Western Australia, you couldn’t have missed the buzz about The Giants back in February. For three days, giant marionettes walked the streets of the city with over a million people turning up to welcome them. I was excited just to see the Giants, but even more excited for the Little Girl Giant to finally receive the enormous picture book I helped out with.

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