Elaine Forrestal

Vale Greg Rogers

I was shocked and deeply saddened by the news that Greg Rogers, one of the best illustrators Australia has produced, has died at the age of 56 years.

My career as an author has been enhanced immeasurably by Greg’s illustrations on the covers of four of my novels, Someone Like Me, Graffiti on the Fence, Leaving no Footprints and Winning. These books were released over a period of twelve years. During that time Greg and I became friends, but we also became something of a team. His cover for Someone Like Me was so stunning that, as each new book came out, my publisher, Julie Watts at Penguin Books Australia, dispensed with the usual formalities and went straight to Greg for the cover illustrations. My husband, Peter, and I loved Greg’s work so much that we bought all of the original covers. When the image from Someone Like Me arrived, beautifully packaged by Greg, there was a note inside which said, ‘For Elaine, I hope you enjoy the picture as much as I enjoyed reading the book.’

I was absolutely thrilled.

Elaine Forrestal posing in front of her portrait painted by Greg Rogers

Then in 2001 Peter organised, by devious means, a surprise for my birthday. I was speaking at the Somerset Literature Festival in Queensland and met up with Greg for coffee. After a very pleasant catch-up Greg said, ‘Now, Penguin is doing an Elaine Forrestal poster and they’ve asked me to take some photos of you.’ I said ‘Fine,’ and we proceeded to fool around, striking silly poses and generally having a good laugh. I only found out on the day of my birthday that, although Penguin was actually doing a poster, the photos that Greg took were really reference points for a portrait of me that Peter had commissioned him to paint. Even now, ten years later, I sometimes walk past that portrait and think that it looks more like me than I do. It seems to glow with an inner life of its own.The skin, in particular, looks so real that when people first see the picture they find it hard to resist touching it.

Greg won many awards for his art. He was also a remarkable musician. But most importantly for me, he was my friend.