Shaun Tan (born 1974) is an Australian illustrator and author of children's books and speculative fiction cover artist. He won an Academy Award for the The Lost Thing, a 2011 animated film adaptation of a 2000 picture book he wrote and illustrated. Beside The Lost Thing, The Red Tree and The Arrival are chapterbooks he has written and illustrated.
Tan was born in Fremantle, Western Australia in 1974 and, after freelancing for some years from a studio at Mount Lawley, relocated to Melbourne, Victoria in 2007. In 2006, his wordless graphic novelThe Arrival won the "Book of the Year" prize as part of the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards. The same book won the Children's Book Council of Australia "Picture Book of the Year" award in 2007. and the Western Australian Premier's Book Awards Premier's Prize in 2006.
Tan was the University of Melbourne's Department of Language Literacy and Arts Education Illustrator In Residence for two weeks through an annual Fellowship offered by the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust.
In 2010, Shaun Tan was the Artist Guest of Honour at the 68th World Science Fiction Convention held in Melbourne, Australia.
For his career contribution to "children's and young adult literature in the broadest sense" Tan won the 2011 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award from the Swedish Arts Council, the biggest prize in children's literature.
As a boy, Tan spent time illustrating poems and stories and drawing dinosaurs, robots and spaceships. At school he was known as a talented artist. At the age of eleven, he became a fan of The Twilight Zone television series as well as books that bore similar themes. Tan cites Ray Bradbury as a favorite at this time. These stories led to Tan writing his own short stories. Of his effort at writing as a youth, Tan tells, "I have a small pile of rejection letters as testament to this ambition!"
Eventually he gained success with his illustrations. At the age of sixteen, Tan's first illustration appeared in the Australian magazine Aurealis in 1990.
Tan almost studied to become a geneticist, and enjoyed chemistry, physics, history and English when in high school as well as art and claimed that he did not really know what he wanted to do, even at university. University studies were taking him along an academic route until he "decided to stop studying and try working as an artist."
Illustration was something Tan enjoyed. The decision to choose it as a career simply allowed him to make a living from drawing and painting. Drawing was something he had never stopped doing, claiming "...it was one thing I could do better than anyone else when I was in school."
Tan claims that he had little formal training in the field of book illustration.
Tan attended Balcatta Senior High School in the northern suburbs of Perth where he was enrolled in a special art program for gifted and talented students. "The main advantage," cites Tan, "was that students came to be taught by a wide range of practising artists, not just art teachers." He completed the program in 1991 and he "credits the...Program [for] providing him the fundamental skills of art making." 
Tan continued his education at the University of Western Australia where he studied Fine Arts, English Literature and History. While this was of interest to him, there was little studio practice involved. In 1995, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts.
Of his actual works he has said: ‘‘I don’t think I’ve ever painted an image as a reproduction of what I’m seeing, even when I’m working in front of it. I’m always trying to create some kind of parallel equivalent."
Originally, Tan worked in black and white because the final reproductions would be printed that way and this preference extended to The Stray Cat. Some black and white mediums he used included pens, inks, acrylics, charcoal, scraperboard, photocopies and linocuts.
Tan's current colour works still begin as monochromatic. He uses a graphite pencil to make sketches on ordinary copy paper. The sketches are then reproduced numerous times with different versions varying with parts added or removed. Sometimes scissors are used for this purpose. The cut and paste collage idea in these early stages often extend to the finished production with many of his illustrations using such materials as "glass, metal, cuttings from other books and dead insects."
Tan describes himself as a slow worker who revises his work many times along the way. He is interested in loss and alienation, and believes that children in particular react well to issues of natural justice. He feels he is "like a translator" of ideas, and is happy and flattered to see his work adapted and interpreted in film and music (such as by the Australian Chamber Orchestra).
Tan draws from a large source of inspiration and cites many influences on his work. His comment on the subject is: "I’m pretty omnivorous when it comes to influences, and I like to admit this openly." Some influences are very direct. The Lost Thing is a strong example where Tan makes visual references to famous artworks. Many of his influences are a lot more subtle visually, some of the influences are ideological. Below are some influences he has named in various interviews:
The Shaun Tan Award for Young Artists is sponsored by the City of Subiaco and open to all Perth school children between 5 and 17 years. The award is aimed at encouraging creativity in two-dimensional works. It is held annually with award winners announced in May and finalists' works exhibited at the Subiaco Library (crn Rokeby and Bagot Road, Subiaco) throughout June.
Mural in the Children's Section of the Subiaco Public Library (Perth, Western Australia). Size: 20 square metres