2024 NZCYA Russell Clark Illustration Finalists

The Sapling is excited to continue its tradition of sharing drafts, sketches and process work from the NZCYA illustration award finalists. Thanks to the Book Awards Trust for the book descriptions, the publishers for organising the images and the artists for generously sharing their behind-the-scenes work. What a privilege to get an insight into what goes into illustrating a book. See our coverage of the full list of finalists from all categories here, and stay tuned for a closer look into another category next week!

Dazzlehands, illustrated by Josh Morgan (Huia Publishers)

A farmer attempts to direct a farmyard production with a firm, creative vision for the animal players—but Pig has other ideas. Josh Morgan’s technicolour illustrations burst and fizz with rhythm and comedic flair, and the result is a glittery explosion that is hard to put down. Every page is a fabulous, oversaturated visual delight.

Read Annelies Judson’s review here.

Pig concepts for Dazzlehands
Pig and Farmer concepts for Dazzlehands
Composition ideas for Dazzlehands
Roughs from Dazzlehands
Final spread of previous image of roughs from Dazzlehands
Kōwhaiwhai trials for Dazzlehands
Colour roughs from Dazzlehands
Final spread from above roughs for Dazzlehands


By Sacha Cotter

Illustrated by Josh Morgan

Published by Huia Publishers

RRP: $22.00

Buy now

Paku Manu Ariki Whakatakapōkai, illustrated by Tokerau Brown (Gecko Press)

Paku Manu Ariki’s ideas about himself and his world wheel and dance like a flock of birds, and he wants to share them. Crackling with the same free-ranging childlike energy, Tokerau Brown’s bold and vibrant illustrations take readers on their own playful and imaginative yet deeply serious journey, and add layers of meaning to the text.

Read Maraea Henare’s review here.

Storyboard from Paku Manu Ariki Whakatakapōkai
Line art from Paku Manu Ariki Whakatakapōkai
Pencil and watercolour in progress from Paku Manu Ariki Whakatakapōkai
Pencil and watercolour in progress from Paku Manu Ariki Whakatakapōkai
How the pencil and watercolour in the previous image appears in the final art in Paku Manu Ariki Whakatakapōkai

Paku Manu Ariki Whakatakapōkai

By Michaela Keeble

Illustrated by Tokerau Brown

Published by Gecko Press

RRP: $29.99

Buy now

Patu: The New Zealand Wars, by Gavin Bishop (Penguin Random House NZ)

This concise and accessible history of the New Zealand Wars is given power and structure by Gavin Bishop’s ambitious, masterful illustrated treatment. The wide-screen, mixed-media artwork makes full use of the book’s large format to deliver its information clearly, while always remembering the people and the human cost involved.

Read Frank Wilson’s review here, and Simie Simpson’s interview with Gavin Bishop here.

Patu: The New Zealand Wars

By Gavin Bishop

Published by Penguin NZ

RRP: $40.00

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Samples from the Lab, by Rob Foote (Creativity Unleashed)

Follow the results of Professor Fictitious Karacter’s absurd and ultimately doomed experiments in genetic modification via this lavish reproduction of his lab notes. Packed with visual puns and ever-so-slightly queasy cuteness, the detailed and technically accomplished illustrations take the lead in this beautifully produced book.

Dummy copy of Samples from the Lab
Mangorilla sketches from Samples from the Lab
Catfish sketches from Samples from the Lab
Extra artwork from the making of Samples from the Lab
Unused artwork from the making of Samples from the Lab
Process video and animation of the Pencil Sharkener in Samples from the Lab (has sound effects!)

Samples From The Lab

By Rob Foote

Published by Creativity Unleashed Studio

RRP: $30.00

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The Dream Factory, illustrated by Zak Ātea (Huia Publishers)

What happens to the dreamers when the source of their fantastic nightly visions, the dream factory, breaks down? With their deep blues and glowing pinks, Zak Ātea’s whimsical and gorgeous illustrations work in glorious harmony with Steph Matuku’s words to invite readers into a magical world packed with lush visual detail.

Read Lady Kataraina Pōkai’s review of Te Wheketere Moemoea | The Dream Factory in Māori and English.

Cover concept for The Dream Factory
Roughs from The Dream Factory
Final spread from The Dream Factory
Roughs from The Dream Factory
A final spread from The Dream Factory

The Dream Factory

By Steph Matuku

Illustrated by Zak Ātea

Published by Huia Publishers

RRP: $22.00

Buy now