Bigger image

More to explore...

  • Happy-Birthday-x3

David Cox

As a child

I was born in Goondiwindi, a dusty little town in outback Queensland. My parents owned a small sheep station not far away. My mother was English, but my father's family arrived in Australia in 1800. Mother was artistic and, in London, had mingled with writers and artists. Father on the other hand was a very fine horseman from a line of horsemen. I began to draw and ride horses at about the same time, maybe three years old. There were four children in my family, two girls then two boys. We were barefoot, galloping kids. A lot of our schooling was done with the Queensland Correspondence School which worked out well, but when there was work to be done, mustering sheep or cattle, schoolwork went by the board. For my secondary education I was sent away to boarding school. I was sixteen when my father died and I felt I was old enough to make my own decisions, so I left school and went to work as a jackaroo on a sheep and cattle station (ranch). It was quite a big one for its district with eight hundred square miles. What I liked about it was that it ran good shorthorn cattle and good thoroughbred horses. I did a lot of horse breaking there. The only trouble was that the horses were very tall and I was very short. I became very good at mounting tall half-broken horses.

As an adult

In 1954, when I reached the age of twenty-one, I found I had saved a good amount of money. 1954 was a good year - I was champion bullock rider at the Eromanga Rodeo and I played polo in the Quilpie Polo Carnival; but I felt I was missing something by living in the bush, so I booked a passage on an Italian ship bound for England. It took six weeks, but I loved the spaghetti. On arrival, I moved to London and one of the first things I did was to enrol at St. Martins School of Art. It was wonderful. In Western Queensland, girls were out-numbered by boys by about three to one; in the beginners' class at St Martins; we were outnumbered at about the same rate. My first story was published by Elizabethan Magazine. Those were the days! After about seven years in London and one in France, I came home to good old Queensland. For years, I worked as an artist and art director for newspapers. That was good because I also wrote articles. Now I am a freelance artist and writer, working from my home studio in Brisbane. I am married to a very talented Australian composer called Betty Beath. If you do some sums, you'll notice that I'm getting on a bit ... still working, mind you. Grandchildren live in the house behind ours and a couple of them come for breakfast every morning. I do the cooking and Betty gives them piano lessons and then I drive them to school. What a life!

As an artist

I suppose my career as an illustrator began with a commission from a children's book publisher. To have an illustration printed in Elizabethan Magazine I had to write a story, so that is how I began to write. When I got back to Australia, I wrote about six travel stories, just to have illustrations published; they ended up as radio broadcasts. I worked as an artist for Queensland newspapers and by a stroke of luck, won the national Walkeley Award for illustration. In 1974, Betty Beath and I were awarded a grant by the Literature Board of the Australia Council, which funded a journey to Java and Bali. Many things came from this trip; stories, and on Betty's part, compositions and a picture book. A year later, the Schools Council invited us to go again to Bali to research material for a short musical drama for children; the result was titled 'The Raja who Married an Angel'. We retain an interest and love for Indonesia and her language. Right now, Betty is writing orchestral settings of Indonesian poetry. We have several music dramas now and a song cycle. I have written and illustrated quite a few picture books, some of which have won awards in Australia and the US, and have illustrated lots of books by other writers.

Things you didn't know about David Cox

  1. I like to play chess, but am far from being a master.
  2. I find illustrating books quite difficult. I have to work like mad.
  3. Sometimes, when things aren't going so well, I wish I was still riding horses for a living.
  4. My son-in-law, who lives in the house behind ours, is an elder of the Jinniburra Tribe.
  5. My grandchildren, except one, who is only eight, tower over me.
  6. I like baking bread. My speciality is 'pain de campagne'.
  7. My favourite illustrator is Charlotte Voake.
  8. I do a bit of painting, but I wish I did it better.
  9. I compete in my garden with a bunch of scrub turkeys. I plant, they dig out and they always win.
  10. I've also had to learn to live with an old carpet python, which does no harm but does like turkey eggs.

Bear Logo