Shaun Tan, the son of a Malaysian-Chinese father and an Anglo-Irish mother, is a multi-award winning artist and writer who currently lives and works in Melbourne . As a child growing up in Perth, Shaun enjoyed reading, writing and illustrating poems and stories; and spent a lot of time drawing dinosaurs, robots and space ships.He was impressed by a book of horror poems called The Headless Horseman Rides Tonight, written by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated 'in these creepy but also amusing pen and ink drawings by Arnold Lobel. I can still recall the images quite vividly, and borrowed that book many times from the library.' He was attracted by anything about monsters, outer space or robots. Tan also remembers Chris Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick which he still admires as an adult as an ideal picture book experiment - a whole series of fragmentary sentences and singular strange drawings never fully explained. He also liked Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs, but only discovered many of his other books (and acknowledges their influence) as an adult. Quentin Blake and Roald Dahl were also 'favourites'.
As a teenager Tan was mostly influenced by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, which seemed to him like strange dreams or adult fairy tales. Visually, Tan was probably influenced more by movies and television; the first Star Wars films, for example, are remembered for their designs much more than for the storyline. He participated in a special art program at secondary school but since then he has undertaken to teach himself the art of book illustration. In 1992 he won the International Illustrators of the Future Contest, the first Australian to achieve this award. He has been illustrating young adult fiction and picture books since 1996. At the University of WA he completed an honours degree in English literature and art history, theory and criticism. In 2002, Tan painted a much commended mural titled The Tea Party in the children's section of the Subiaco Library. Typical of his style, it portrays a surreal landscape with strange objects and a character who features in The Red Tree. More recently, the Subiaco library has commissioned a new mural, called The Hundred Year Picnic, now on display.