The Great Barrier Reef

My Great Barrier Reef story

My first kids picture book is about the challenges facing the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure on earth! As Dr Suzie Starfish I am writing, illustrating and publishing my story with Little Steps Publishing, a creative collaboration I am super EXCITED about! The book is due for release in mid 2018 and I will provide regular updates here so you can ‘sea’ the steps and progress of creating my first underwater story for children (and parents, grandparents, teachers and the wider community!). This story would not have surfaced if it wasn’t for the amazing support and advice of my writing mentor and friend, the very talented, Michelle Worthington. Thank you Michelle for encouraging me to just DIVE IN!

My story about OUR Great Barrier Reef illustrates the impacts of climate change which is a global issue, but I believe through the power of positive storytelling we can ‘be the change we want to SEA in the world‘! Even though my story addresses some of the challenges facing our Great Barrier Reef, it also offers HOPE that we can make change now to help the Reefs future. That’s why I have created this unique hashtag #haveGBRhope so you can follow and be part of the creation of this important underwater story, as we are all global citizens of the Great Barrier Reef. The launch of my book this year also coincides with 2018 being the International Year of the Reef, so I’m very excited that I can contribute through my visual storytelling.


The Story behind the Story

I have always been drawn to the ocean and I just love sea-ing the living colours of our Reefs whenever I’m lucky enough to visit them. I have been working on my Great Barrier Reef story for many years now, prompted by the impacts I have seen first hand on our reefs and the constant doom and gloom about the Reefs demise. I believe good news travels fast vs gloomy news so I have written a story that illustrates the impacts on our Reefs and and gives children hope that there are ways that each of us, no matter how big or small we are, can do to help the Reef.

The theme of the story can easily be explained by its title, however the title is currently under wraps, as it is such a GREAT title! The story is about the challenges facing the Great Barrier Reef told through the eyes of a feisty female fish named Anthia. The story is based on marine science and paints a picture (literally) of what happens to our reefs when we are not looking. Although the storyline is not always about happy times on the reef, my story is full of hope and Ocean Optimism as I cannot imagine a world without coral reefs, can you? Remember, colours are the smiles of nature so follow my story at #haveGBRhope.


Progressing the Story

I am partner-publishing with Little Steps Publishing and have been working with the lovely Editors Bonnie and Katie and Creative Director Angel who help me FIN-esse (pardon the fish pun) the words and pictures. I will be using watercolours and inks to create the illustrations for this story as I think these mediums really bring the underwater characters to life, as you can ‘sea’ below! These artworks are just some of the ideas I have for the book, which I hope you can ‘sea’ soon as page-turning paintings! So stay tuned below for more updates as I create the Great Barrier Reef story for our future ocean stewards, our kids.


My Timeline – Creating the WORDS & PICTURES!

April 2017 – Edits back already from my amazing Editor Bonnie! Writing, writing, writing!

May 2017 – Just taking in some Vitamin Sea as I continue writing and editing the manuscript!







June 2017 – Putting the final touches on the manuscript whilst floating around my Bay backyard!







July 2017 – Manuscript completed! Thanks Katie!!

August 2017 – Sea-ing the beauty in nature whilst I start the illustrations for my Storyboard! 


September 2017 – From pencil to paper the Storyboard process is in full swing back in my studio!


This is my Illustration-INSPIRATION right from the outer Barrier Reef thanks to my hubby Dr Richo and Lee Hodgetts from Weipa Sports Fishing Thanks boys for showings us how GREAT the Barrier Reef is!

November 2017 – Drawing upon the paradise of Tropical North Queensland where I’m chilling out at Chilli Beach.

December 2017 – Diving into the Great Barrier Reef where the colours are endless and there is SO MUCH illustration inspiration! Always #haveGBRhope


December 2017 – Ending the year on a high note by submitting my ‘Roughs’ illustrations to my Publisher for review with GREAT feedback! This is what drawing out a 32+ page kids picture book looks like!

January 2018 – 2018 is the International Year of the Reef and the year I release my book!!

January 2018 – Let the pen work for the 32+ pages begin! You can ‘sea’ some of the stories characters coming to life here and I’m starting to outline the impacts on the Great Barrier Reef which are black and white!

My art studio (…and laundry!) and my happy place (most of the time!), where my creativity is right at home.

January 2018 – The pencils, pens, paper and paints to start the final process of painting!!

January 2018 – Let the painting begin!! A sneak peak at some of the stories characters!


January 2018 – There is nothing like watercolours on paper, I just love their movement (…most of the time!)

January 2018 – Meet Anthia, one of the characters from the book!


February 2018 – is my deadline so you will ‘sea’ sneak peaks here of some of the illustrations! Here are the “Living colours of the Reef“, a mock-up painting for the first page of the book!!

March 2018 – illustrating some of the sea creatures’ movement and magic that happens on our Great Barrier Reef, capturing the splash and dash!

March 2018 – My creative companions are always there to ‘help’ me with my paintings! Meet our big boy Jack the Great Dane and his bestie the Westie Mr Fergus. What a pawsome pair!


March 2018 – Final paint to paper to bring the living colours of the Reef to life! I’m SO EXCITED!!

March 2018 – SNEAK PEAK at the illustrations for the 1st page of the book, a busy underwater city!

March 2018 – FINISHED my 32+ illustrations! SO EXCITED!! Now they are off to the Publisher!


April 2018 – Proofs of the book have now been reviewed and reviewed and approved, so my book is off to the printers!!! Here are some sneak peaks of some of my favourite scenes in the book!


April 2018 – I was honoured and proud to be on the Panel as an Author/Illustrator for the ‘Words & Pictures’ workshop to share my story of the Great Barrier Reef with this talented bunch!


STAY TUNED here for further updates on my Author/Illustrator journey, some sneak peaks of some of the characters and illustrations from The Great Barrier Reef and book launch dates and school visits in 2018 (…the International Year of the Reef!!).

If you would like to know more about my ocean storytelling.

All artworks, stories and images are Copyright © 2018 Dr Sue Pillans