The picture that took me 43 years to draw

20 August 2019

UQ alumnus Dr Sue Pillans, also known by her alter ego “Dr Suzie Starfish”, has designed the cover of the 2020 QTAC Guide to Further Study. Over 50 000 copies of the guide have been sent out to schools across Queensland and northern New South Wales.

The 2020 QTAC cover artwork is very close to Sue’s heart, and represents the culmination of her life-long journey of learning.

“It has literally taken me 43 years to draw this picture!” Dr Pillans said. 

Sue Pillans
Dr Sue Pillans with the 2020 QTAC Guide 

Dr Pillans is not your average graphic recorder. She is a marine scientist holding a Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Science and has been an adjunct research scholar with The Possingham Lab in the Faculty of Science at The University of Queensland for over 10 years, and she is also a science communicator, artist and children’s author/illustrator.

But the path to success hasn’t always been smooth, with Dr Pillans’ own tertiary aspirations being challenged along the way.

“I was told at high school that I wasn’t smart enough to go to university and that I would probably have to repeat Grade 12,” Dr Pillans said.

“This was not good for my self-esteem! But I went on to spend over ten years at university, received my PhD in marine science and today I combine my science experience and artistic skills to run my own creative and visual communications business.”

Dr Pillans’ personal educational journey sparked plenty of design ideas until she reached the final cover design.

Sue Pillans
Dr Sue Pillans 

“I’m really proud of this particular artwork. Until four years ago I didn’t even know my current job of a graphic recorder even existed. My journey just shows the advantages of gaining a tertiary education along with thinking outside the box,” Dr Pillans said.

“I just love that my work makes the complex simple and the simple compelling. And my journey shows that YOU CAN create your own career and turn something you love into something you live.”