The Great Barrier Thief!

SO DREAMS DO COME TRUE! Here is my first children’s picture book, “The Great Barrier Thief“, written and illustrated by my alter ego Dr Suzie Starfish! This book illustrates the impacts of climate change on our Great Barrier Reef. The story is based on marine science and includes solutions and the hope that each one of us can do our part to help protect and save the Reef. You can ‘sea’ more about my Great Barrier Reef story.

PRE-SALES of my book are now open in Australia at with International orders and shipping information available once the books arrive in Australia next month (September 2018). SAVE THE DATE for my book launch in Brisbane which I hope to hold on the afternoon of Sunday 21st October 2018 in Brisbane, details here soon!

As a marine scientist, artist and now children’s author/illustrator I also want to carry out a regional book tour, in this the International Year of the Reef , so I can spread the important message about the challenges facing our reef and what we can do to ‘cool things down’ in the face of climate change. As our children are our future Reef stewards I believe every child deserves to ‘sea’ the living colours of the Reef.

What a journey it has been to bring this story to life through my words and pictures. It was six years ago that I came up with the idea of the “thief on the Reef” due to the devastating coral bleaching events I was sea-ing in North Queensland. I have worked tirelessly to write, re-write, rhyme, don’t rhyme, draw, paint and think about the solutions to the global issue of climate change suitable for children. I am so very proud of my book and cannot wait for everyone to ‘sea’ it! A BIG thank you to my friend and storytelling mentor Michelle Worthington and Little Steps Publishing who helped to bring this story to life.

AND I was delighted that my book and I were featured in the ABC News recently, in “My beloved Great Barrier Reef: Four tales of love, loss and hope“, based on my interview for ABC Radio National as part of National Science Week. You can ‘sea’ the story behind my reef story here:

More details coming here soon about the books arrival next month and my book launch. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at if you have any questions about my book and school visits. You can also follow my storytelling journey as Dr Suzie Starfish on Facebook and @suepillans on Twitter and Instagram. Best fishes  ><((((º>.¸.·´¯`·.¸><((((º>  .·´¯`·.¸

Colourful & Creative Communications!

What a creative time I have been having lately helping people, teams and organisations to communicate their important messages and stories. In the past month alone I have been drawing out diverse discussions from creative teaching and learning to bullying and international education from Brisbane to Cairns! The more I see how visuals can engage, educate and excite audiences, the more I see the power of visuals and creative communications for people.

It was a privilege and pleasure to visually capture the important discussions of the very first Ministerial Student Advisory Council held by the Queensland Education Minister, Grace Grace MP.  It was an honour to hear the students stories and see them have a voice with the Minister.

I was excited as an alumni of Griffith University to be invited to visually capture the Queensland Creativity Summit for Initial Teacher Education. Teaching for creativity and teaching creatively were the key themes of the Summit and as someone who runs their own creative business and who is passionate about creative education these discussions and stories were very close to my heART!

And I have just returned from Cairns where I was visually capturing the discussions of the Study Queensland Pop-Up at the International Education and Training Summit. I was very busy listening to the excited attendees talk about what the new brand #StartHereGoAnywhere means to them; on the biggest drawing I have done to date!!

It’s so great putting people in the picture as I live my life in colour! You can see more of my creative communications via my Graphic Recording, as my alter ego Dr Suzie Starfish and @suepillans on Twitter and Instagram.

Making a splash on World Oceans Day!

On World Oceans Day I wanted to make a BIG splash about the importance and beauty of our oceans. As a marine scientist and artist I have always been drawn to the ocean and now as a storyteller I love sharing my deep devotion for the ocean with kids of all ages. I do this through the art of marine science and storytelling in the hope that people will ‘sea’ the beauty in nature and fall in love with the wonders of our Blue Planet.

I have been visiting schools as my alter ego Dr Suzie Starfish for the past four years and I get to ‘sea’ first hand how creative education engages, excites and educates kids about our oceans. Our children are our future ocean stewards so it is important for them to learn about, live with and love the oceans, so as they grow up they are moved to protect and save our Blue Planet. And WE can all love and look after our oceans with a BIG splash of #OceanOptimism!

For me World Oceans Day is all about celebrating our oceans, the people that study and protect them and the special stories we create from enjoying them. So I’m VERY excited to share that my first kids picture book about the Great Barrier Reef is now at the printers and should be arriving on our shores very soon! In the photos you can ‘sea’ a sneak peak of one of the larger than life characters in my picture book, Stan, the Commander and Chief of the reef. Always #haveGBRhope.

You can dive in and make a splash with me and my creative ocean storytelling via Facebook at and @suepillans on Twitter and Instagram and best fishes this World Oceans Day!  ><((((º>.¸.·´¯`·.¸><((((º> .·´¯`·.¸><((((º>.¸

The Power of Words & Pictures!

What a year it has already been for me as an artist, illustrator and visual storyteller! I started the year locked away in my art studio to finish the illustrations for my first kids picture book, about our Great Barrier Reef. This meant not taking on any paid work, which was a difficult decision to make but one I needed to in order to follow my heART! I’m delighted to say that in making this hard decision I now have my book at the printers and I have been inundated with drawing and graphic recording work since finishing my book illustrations. So sometimes you just have to make the big sacrifices to make your dreams come true!

I have also been working on some new and exciting drawing projects this year with people who really value my science-art background and visual creativity. It never ceases to amaze me the power of words and pictures as through my visual storytelling people can engage, empower and educate others and share their stories. My work is never the same and never ever boring, for example I have recently finished drawings about Denitrification Bioreactors for Queensland banana and cane farmers, created unique workshop templates for an International Ports Conference and graphically recorded the Australian Sugar Cane Industry Futures Forum. Highlights for me have been working with passionate people, receiving positive feedback on my visuals AND seeing my graphic recording headlining an article on ABC News! You can see more of the power of words and pictures via

During World Creativity and Innovation Week I was also excited and super proud to be part of a panel of Author/Illustrators at the ‘Words and Pictures‘ Workshop for Share your Story. I had such a great time learning about the creative journey of my fellow Author/Illustrators and sharing my journey as a ‘storyboard’ as my alter ego (and pen name) Dr Suzie Starfish. As an Author/Illustrator words and pictures make the story and I love creating them for kids of all ages!

I’m now off to get some ‘Vitamin Sea’ and catch up on my writing and reading time by the beach. You can follow my creative journey via my alter ego Dr Suzie Starfish on Facebook and @suepillans on Twitter and Instagram. Best fishes  ><((((º>.¸.·´¯`·.¸><((((º> .·´¯`·.¸><((((º>.¸

My Passion, Purpose & Pictures!

I’m VERY excited and VERY proud to share that my creative business “Picture your ideas” turns THREE today! As a “womenentrepreneur” I have grown my small business into a livelihood that helps people to see the big picture through visual storytelling. This year also ‘seas’ my alter ego, Dr Suzie Starfish, celebrating her third birthday of making a comm-ocean in schools by bringing the Living Oceans into classrooms (#bestjobever)! I am thrilled that I now live my life with ESTEAM (Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Maths) and help people, schools and organisations to picture their ideas.

I was going to list all the amazing projects and pictures I have created with people over the past three years but you can see this from the photos I have posted. Instead, I wanted to take this opportunity to honour and celebrate the person that helped me to follow my heART, my youngest sister Jodie. My sister taught me the true meaning of courage, that you always have to believe in yourself and that life is precious. She is my hero, and a hero to me is someone who gets up when they can’t. Today she would have celebrated her 40th birthday so my gift to her is living my life in colour and taking her memory with me on this creative journey.

If you had told me five years ago I would be running my own business I would have laughed and used my hands a lot saying something like, “You’re kidding!”. After reading an article in a magazine about a career that I didn’t even know existed (Graphic Recording) I left my ‘secure’ 9-5 job to start my own creative business. Three years later I have worked consistently and happily drawing out ideas for people, teams and organisations all over the world, visited schools as Dr Suzie Starfish to share my deep love of the ocean and will be releasing my first kids picture book later this year! So I am so forever grateful that I have now turned something I love into something I live.

Running your own creative business though can be quite challenging at times and I’m learning every day how to grow as a person and womenentrepreneur. But I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else now….oh apart from being a guest on the Ellen Show to meet the real-life Dory and live by the beach to get my daily dose of Vitamin Sea! We all have dreams and sometimes they DO come true!! So today I celebrate my passion, purpose and pictures and thank my hubby, fur babies, family, friends and my Tribe for all of their support and the great people I get to picture ideas for!

You can also follow my creative journey @suepillans on Twitter and Instagram or contact me via email to see how I can help you to “Picture your ideas” at

Best fishes, Sue  ><((((º>.¸.·´¯`·.¸><((((º> .·´¯`·.¸><((((º>.¸

Pens, paper & paints for the Reef!

This year has started with me ‘drawing out’ the final stages of my kids picture book about our Great Barrier Reef! I have spent almost everyday this year in my art studio finalising the illustrations for my first picture book, which has been both a challenging and incredible experience as I have never undertaken such a complex, time-consuming and brain-draining activity in all of my life (…and I have a 7-year old Great Dane!). Writing and illustrating a kids picture book is no walk in the park, or in my case, no quick dip in the ocean. I am loving the experience though and sea-ing what I can achieve with my pens, paper and paints for the Reef! All this creativity is done from my little art studio, which happens to be our laundry so is only a small space (1.5m x 1.8m) for a 6-foot tall creative such as myself. But I get a few visits from my creative companions as I create, and as you can see Mr Fergus doesn’t mind the view from the art studio!

My picture book by Dr Suzie Starfish uses the art of marine science to illustrate the challenges facing our Great Barrier Reef during this the International Year of the Reef #IYOR2018. The story is told through the eyes of a feisty fish named Anthia, which you can ‘sea’ being outlined in the photos. Anthia takes us through her beautiful and colourful underwater home on the Great Barrier Reef and through her eyes we ‘sea’ what happens to the Reef when we are not looking! Along with the colourful underwater gardens there are many other underwater wonders to meet on the Reef, colourful characters I will soon share with you. This story is also about solutions and messages of hope and encourages kids and readers to always have a BIG splash of ocean optimism. I will be sharing the progress of my story here over the next few months and you can ‘sea’ more detail over at the The Great Barrier Reef and by following the books hashtag #haveGBRhope.

You can dive in and follow my creative journey and ocean storytelling as Dr Suzie Starfish on Facebook and @suepillans on Twitter and Instagram. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you are interested in engaging me in school visits or science-art and storytelling activities.

Best fishes, Suzie   ><((((º>.¸.·´¯`·.¸><((((º> .·´¯`·.¸


Picturing my Goals for 2018!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! My year has started swimmingly as I was able to ‘sea’ in the New Year by being in my happy place, which is anywhere on, in or near the ocean. I got a big dose of Vitamin Sea from the wonderful waters of Moreton Bay, my Bay backyard. I then spent some time  listing my creative goals for 2018 and quickly found myself editing them into my BIG PICTURE goals which include to:

  • Live my life in colour
  • Think outside the lines
  • Follow my heART

My BIG goal for 2018, which is also a lifetime goal of mine, is to be a published author/illustrator. AND I have some exciting news to share – my publisher recently provided me with very positive feedback on my “Roughs” drawings for my kids picture book which means I am one step closer to reaching my dream! The process for illustrating a picture book is: Storyboard (done) – Roughs (done!) – Finals (now doing!!). So I am now in creative ‘lock down’ in my art studio in Brisbane to paint the 32+ pages of my kids picture book on the challenges facing the Great Barrier Reef.

My book illustrates the impacts of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef with messages of hope and ocean optimism #haveGBRhope. AND the release of my story in 2018 also aligns to the International Year of the Reef!! So I will be celebrating #IYOR2018 by sharing my visual Reef stories throughout the year. You can ‘sea’ more about my Reef story and the illustration process and progress via The Great Barrier Reef.

I am very much looking forward to another creative year of illustrations, infographics and idea shaping! I can’t wait to publish my first picture book, keep visiting schools and centres as my alter ego Dr Suzie Starfish, create new creative collaborations and help to “Picture your ideas“! You can also follow my creative journey as Dr Suzie Starfish on Facebook and at @suepillans on Twitter and Instagram.

Best fishes for a GREAT 2018!!

Picturing your ideas in 2017!

What a year it has been “Picturing your ideas” in 2017!! With so much colour and creativity and ideas, illustrations and infographics! As this year draws to an end I just wanted to share some of my highlights as a small creative business owner who in two short years has turned something I love into something I live! I am so very grateful for the all the opportunities that have come my way, the support of the special people in my lives and the courage and belief I have to follow my heART.

I have SOOOO many highlights from my visual work this year which has included graphically recording events, workshops, conferences and stakeholder meetings across Australia on important issues and topics from marine and coastal management to health, lived experience, nursing, integrated care and superbugs through to education and teaching, science and technology, research commercialisation, wine development and indigenous cultural heritage. One of my favourite feedbacks from this year has been, “Sue, you make the complex simple and the simple compelling“. FAB!! It’s wonderful to get the opportunity to work with so many new people and teams and I’m always very honoured to be invited back to ‘draw out’ the ideas of my amazing existing clients. I have also had a number of my illustrations and infographics appear in ocean text books this year, which is always great to ‘sea’! You can see how I “Picture your ideas” at my Graphic Recording.

One of my absolute highlights though is visiting schools across Australia as my alter ego Dr Suzie Starfish. I have so much fun bringing our Living Oceans into classrooms using the art of marine science and storytelling to engage with students (…and their teachers!). I use a creative education approach to teach students how to learn, live and love our oceans through interactive activities such as Shark Art, Drawing out how we tag along with the biggest shark in the sea through to learning how to Sketchnote your Science (using visual thinking). I have the #bestjobever and you can ‘tag’ along with my Creative Education.

I am also ending 2017 on a HIGH NOTE as I have just submitted my ‘Roughs’ illustrations to my Publisher for my debut kids picture book about the challenges facing our Great Barrier Reef! Illustrating 32+ pages of a kids picture book has been a GREAT BIG challenge for me, but I have loved every minute of it! So I am SUPER excited to start painting the pages for my picture book in the new year! Stay tuned here for the 2018 book launch, follow the #haveGBRhope on your social media and you can also keep updated with the progress of The Great Barrier Reef.

Best fishes to you and your families over Christmas and the New Year and I look forward to sharing my stories with you in 2018! You can also follow my creative journey via Dr Suzie Starfish on Facebook and @suepillans on Twitter and Instagram. ><((((º>.¸.·´¯`·.¸><((((º> .·´¯`·.¸><((((º>.¸.·´¯`·.¸.><((((º>

Our GREAT Barrier Reef!

I have just returned from a GREAT trip to our Great Barrier Reef with my Dad and Coral Expeditions! The cruise departed Cairns and headed North where we stopped and explored Cooktown, Lizard Island, Ribbon Reef # 9, Ribbon Reef #3 and Escape Reef! What a fantastic crew, scrumptious food and breath taking seascapes! It was great to meet so many new “Friends of the Reef” on our cruise too, from six countries! This is a GREAT way to ‘sea’ our Great Barrier Reef (GBR) where you certainly see the beauty in nature everyday.

There was SO much to see and do on this trip with some GREAT illustration inspiration for me on the Reef as I progress to the final stages of illustrating my kids picture book about the Great Barrier Reef. I got to see my first octopus on this trip which was very exciting and I was absolutely amazed at the colour, life and noise of the outer barrier reef. Remembering that “colours are the smiles of nature”, so the GBR was beaming!

It was also GREAT to see how the crew and passengers were ‘on board’ with my kids picture book about the Reef, as everyone was keen to have their photos taken with the hashtag (and key message) of my book #haveGBRhope. Being with these global citizens of the Great Barrier Reef reminded me how much sea-ing the Reef and learning about the Reef leads to loving it! SO GREAT!!

A special thanks to my Dad (and Coral Expeditions) for a GREAT trip to the Reef!!

You can keep updated on the progress of my kids picture book about The Great Barrier Reef and dive in with me and follow my creative journey via my alter ego Dr Suzie Starfish and @suepillans on Twitter and Instagram.

The Art of Visual Storytelling

I am delighted to share my latest creative collaboration which is with an Indigenous business, Markwell and Associates, to illustrate a series of visuals to accompany the ‘Safeguarding Indigenous Heritage and Knowledge’ project for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). My role as a creative and visual communicator is to ‘draw out’ the key messages of projects to suit the content, audience and delivery mechanisms. In this case I was asked to incorporate both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elements into the drawings which will be  shared with a diverse audience including GBRMPA staff, GBR Traditional Owner groups and other Reef stakeholders (in person, online and in documentation). And I’ve had such a wonderful response to my visuals from both my clients and Reef Traditional Owners including the appreciation of my creative energy in the process! You can see more of my visual storytelling with Indigenous Communities.

I use my background as a marine scientist, experience in public policy and my creative skills as an artist to help people to communicate their stories visually — through hand-drawn infographics and illustrations. The creative process is an iterative one so it takes some time to create visual products that are tailored to both the project and the audience. My process starts with reviewing the project information and interpreting the key messages, discussing my visual ideas with client(s) followed by sharing ‘mock ups’ of how I picture the project’s visual needs. Everybody has a story and I love to help people and organisations to “picture their ideas” through storytelling. In this digital age of technology, data and visual ‘noise’ I find that people are looking for a unique and different way to share their stories — and through the art of visual storytelling I can provide that point of difference as “When you see it, you get it!

You can ‘sea’ more of my creative collaborations via Infographics & Illustrations. You can also dive in with me and follow my creative journey via my alter ego Dr Suzie Starfish and @suepillans on Twitter and Instagram.