A Wairarapa artist hopes her debut book will help readers understand what it means to live with autism.

Izzy Joy, who grew up in Masterton and is now based in Wellington, self-published Strange Things, her first collection of digital illustrations, late last year.

The book, which Joy describes as a "visual diary" of her observations, explores her fascination with the natural world, botanical phenomena and scientific specimens.

Rendered with near-photographic levels of detail, her drawings range from the whimsical, to the surreal, to the unsettling -- birds resting in cupped hands, toadstools smoking like a volcano, unborn baby pigs, and human skulls with several layers of teeth.


Joy, 28, has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and turned to art when she struggled to express herself. She said some of the characteristics she experiences are reflected in Strange Things -- such as focus on minute detail and obsession with particular subjects.

"I wanted to give some idea of what it's like living with autism," Joy said.

"It's why I have a lot of detail in my drawings -- it's an almost obsessive compulsive thing, and something I find really meditative.

"Temple Grandin [an academic with autism] once said to focus on your portfolio and let it speak for you, so you don't have to focus on trying to fit in.

"This book speaks for me."

Growing up, Joy was homeschooled, but did art classes at Makoura College -- where she was encouraged to explore her own style by teacher Lisa Mrkusic.

She completed the Certificate in Art and Design at UCOL in Masterton, then studied computer graphics at the Whanganui School of Design.

She recently graduated with an Honours degree in graphic design from Massey University in Wellington.


Joy said her illustrations are influenced by the works of botanic artist Sydney Parkinson, who recorded thousands of specimens while on James Cook's voyage to the Pacific, and the playful drawings of Beatrix Potter.

Also inspired by her scientist father, many of Joy's drawings have a botanical or animalian theme -- such as fungi, crustacean shells, laboratory mice, prehistoric fish, hunting trophies, and animal foetuses in specimen jars.

She is also fascinated by human anatomy, drawing hands, skeletal formations and internal organs.

She said her style is inspired by the simplicity, clean lines and monochromatic schemes of traditional Japanese prints.

"I like the black and white, as you can appreciate the picture without being distracted by colour," Joy said.

"I approach it in quite a mechanical, geometric way."

Former UCOL tutor Linda Tilyard said Joy "oozes creativity".

"As part of her creative process, she would make worlds she could dip into to help bring her peace," Mrs Tilyard said.

"But she's really connected to the natural world, and expresses it with a sense of beauty and grace."

Izzy Joy's drawings can be found online at strangethings.nz, or www.facebook.com/izzyjoy