In this interview, Matt Robertson shows us that it can be done!
Matt Robertson has burst into my focus and I can’t shake off the joy! His vibrant colours and cheeky characters swim through an all-encompassing array of emotions. His stories are marvelously adventurous; appealing to both adult and child alike. He has been drawing all his life and it is inspiring to see what hard work and commitment can do for someone.
Hi Matt, thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed by me for my What Katy Loved's blog. I adore your characters and the spaces they live.
How would you describe your illustration process – are you an avid tea drinker? Do you have a favourite place to draw?
My illustration process is fairly traditional apart from the scanning and Photoshop elements!
I normally begin an illustration with a sketch which I’ve produced on loose sheets of paper. I use to use sketchbooks all the time but recently have found it easier to use loose sheets of paper to sketch out ideas. Once I’m pleased with how the sketch is looking I use a light box to trace and paint the sketch onto a separate sheet of paper.
Currently my colour work consists of a mixture of gauche paint and colour pencil but sometimes I like to use coloured inks. Each medium has their strengths and weaknesses!
Once the illustration is coloured, I scan the image into Photoshop. I then tweak and clean the image until I think the illustration is finished.
When working I enjoy drinking many cups of tea and love a nice slice of cake. My favourite tea at the moment is Mint Green Tea.
My favourite place to draw, in the summer, is in the garden by the pond but in the winter I have to hide away in my studio upstairs in my house.
Can you tell us, how do you go about creating your characters?
My favourite part of a project is coming up with all the initial characters. For me, the personality and look of the characters determines the feel for the book and so I spend hours upon hours sketching out characters at the beginning of each project. I sometimes base the characters on people I know and I try to include myself within most projects (the Dad in Under the Bed is loosely based on myself and my late Father).
Most characters are conceived by doodling uncontrollably whilst watching TV or listening to music.
How long have you known you wanted to be an illustrator and do you have to pinch yourself now because you’ve achieved it?
I’ve always known I wanted to do something arty ever since I was old enough to pick up a pencil/paint brush. My father was a graphic artist for the local newspaper and my mother use to be a photographer for an agricultural company. My parents always taught myself and my older brother to think outside the box and it’s something that’s stuck with me ever since. I don’t think I ever had the choice not to do something creative with my life. When I was doing mundane ‘normal’ jobs in my early twenties it was always drawing that made me feel happy and ‘normal’. From time to time I have to remind myself that I’m extremely lucky to be doing what I love but it hasn’t been an easy road. I owe a lot to the support of my family and especially to my wife, Amy.
My favourite project to date must be the project that got me noticed by the illustration world, Super Stan, my first finished picture book. I produced this book as part of my final piece for my Masters degree in Children’s Book Illustration, which I studied in Cambridge. I learnt so much making this book and I’m so excited to see it in shops when it’s published in April next year.
I have so many stories that I would love to be turned into picture books one day.
Can you describe your studio space?
Currently my studio is a bit grotty as we’re currently in the process of getting ready to move house. I am very lucky though as I do have a whole room to myself and it’s a great haven for creativity although a bit empty and boring at present!
Are there any new skills would you like to learn?
I’m always interested in learning new skills and new techniques. Next year I hope to take a screen-printing class at a local print collective.
What was the best piece of advice you have been given?
Don’t be afraid to re-do something you’re not completely happy with. Sometimes when trying to meet a tight deadline it’s sometimes all too easy to just accept the first thing you draw. On the odd occasion the first scribble can be the one you go with but from my experience drawing something over and over again does benefit the final result.
If you could change anything about how you got here today, what would it be?
We all make mistakes and life sometimes takes you on routes which aren’t necessarily clear at the time. I was 30 years old when my first paid book illustration job came in and even then I didn’t feel quite ready for this world. I could say I wished I tried a bit harder to get published straight after graduating from my BA but to be honest I’m glad I did the mundane jobs and lived a little before I became a professional illustrator.
Who are your muses and inspirations?
There are so many!
I have an extensive children’s book collection which contains many people that I’ve admired over the years. I’ve selected 3 of my favs;
Can we see a work in progress of yours? This is one of my all-time favourite things to see from another artist!
Here is a character I’m working on the moment for a picture book that I’ve written called ‘The Fastest Pirate’. This is HOT OFF THE PRESS and is still in the very early stages of development.
Bonus round **ding ding ding**
These are just some quick fire questions.
A place you love to be: Anywhere hot! I’m a bit cold writing this!
A favourite book from your childhood:
The Jolly Postman
A colour combination you love to use:
Red and yellow
Something you do in your spare time:
Making bread, helping with my wife’s allotment
What’s your favourite dream?
I can never remember my dreams unfortunately!
What new experience would you like to try?
What would you never like to experience again?
Losing both parents
Something you love:
Amy (my wife)
Something you hate:
Where do you want to travel? Canada – going next year!What do you have in your pockets?
20p, a tissue and an empty chewing gum rapper
Where can we find you?
My website: www.matttheillustrator.com
His Books ‘Under the Bed’
and ‘The Two Finlay Herberts’
can be purchased online. I highly recommend, if you haven’t already, that you add them to your library.
And coming March 2016 – Anna Liza and the Happy Practice