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Showcasing Aussie legends one letter at a time

Bob Hawke, INXS and Adam Goodes feature in Beck Feiner's Aussie Legends Alphabet.
Bob Hawke, INXS and Adam Goodes are three of the 26 characters featured in Beck Feiner's Aussie Legends Alphabet.

Illustrations by Beck Feiner

When Sydney-based illustrator Beck Feiner was searching for an alphabet poster to hang in her four-year-old son's room and help him learn his ABCs, she was left disappointed by the bland or boring choices available.

Beck Feiner with her two children Levi and Esme.
Beck Feiner with her two children Levi and Esme.

Supplied by Beck Feiner.

So being a creative person, she took on the challenge herself to create the Aussie Legends Alphabet.

Beginning at A for Adam Goodes, Australian football legend, onto B for Bob Hawke, Beck spent each night sketching her way through each letter.

“I set myself a challenge basically. Every night I was going to do a new letter of the alphabet. It was the only way to be able to get it done,” says Beck.

“It was super easy for some of them but then when I started getting into the X, Y, Zs, that’s when it became this huge challenge.”

Beck used some artistic license to interpret some of the letters, using G for former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and X for one of Australia's most successful rock bands of all time, INXS.

Some choices were slightly controversial. Danish architect Jørn Utzon for example, was chosen to represent U.

"He’s not an Australian, but he gave us the Opera House so I kind of feel like he’s an honorary Australian. He worked really beautifully in the sketch, I was really pleased with that one," says Beck.

T for Aussie legend Tim Flannery.
T for Aussie legend Tim Flannery.

Illustration by Beck Feiner

Leaving cricketing legend Donald Bradman out of the final choices caused quite a stir among some die hard sports fans.

“Some people have gone ‘Where’s Don Bradman?!’”

“That made people really upset that Don wasn’t in there.”

Beck made her choices for each letter to show the wide diversity of Australian culture.

“I feel that Australia is so sport focussed that I wanted to put in [environmentalist] Tim Flannery for climate change for example," Beck explains.

“I feel like it’s really important to show that diversity makes Australia such a great country. Not just one side of things.

“Some people are really popular that I put in there. Olivia Newton-John is still an icon in Australia and I still felt she deserved a mention. And then I tried to show some Aboriginal artists that people weren’t necessarily aware of, but I also felt like [they] make such a huge contribution.”

Beck is well aware that some of the characters in her alphabet might be a bit over her son Levi's head at the moment, but there are some that are universally popular.

“He loves the horse one [Pharlap], he loves Ned Kelly cos he’s holding a gun,” laughs Beck.

N for Aussie legend Ned Kelly.
N for Aussie legend Ned Kelly.

Illustration by Beck Feiner

“Oh, and he loves Steve Irwin because he has a crocodile and a snake.”

Her own personal favourites include E for Aboriginal activist Eddie Mabo, K for satirical television characters Kath and Kim, and F for pioneering eye doctor Fred Hollows.

After publishing F on social media, she was contacted by The Fred Hollows Foundation and is now collaborating with them to donate a portion of the profits from her poster to the charity.

“I really believe in that charity. I’ve been working with those guys to hopefully bring it to the world.”

The biggest compliment she has received so far however, is when she found out that famous Indonesian-born Australian television presenter and journalist Lee Lin Chin made Beck’s L illustration her Twitter profile picture.

L for Aussie legend Lee Lin Chin.
L for Aussie legend Lee Lin Chin.

Illustration by Beck Feiner

Requests for the complete alphabet poster have been coming from far and wide across the globe, including from an international school in Mongolia.

Beck believes the alphabet is a great way to open a dialogue Australian life and culture.

“What people are responding to are all those different people. So you can see that you need all these different areas of life to make Australia. You cannot just have the anglicized Australia to make it great. I feel like sometimes we’re very aware of all those people in the media from different countries, but sometimes we don’t look enough to the great people of our country.”

So how did Beck decide on the final 26 legends?

“You know what it is? I thought about this long and hard, and I had to try and imagine Australia without that person.

“And if that feels disappointing, then that person’s an Aussie legend.”

F for Aussie legend Fred Hollows.
F for Aussie legend Fred Hollows.

Illustration by Beck Feiner

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