Robert Ingpen and May Gibbs--a blissfully artistic day

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Today, at the National Library of Australia, a gaggle of art-loving peeps flocked to hear the illustrious Robert Ingpen in conversation with 666ABCCanberra's Louise Maher.

Robert spoke about his life as an illustrator, and regaled us with his creative processes and inspiration. Just some of his memorable quotes (I have paraphrased):

'...what is the difference between artists and illustrators? You stand up to be an artist and you sit down to be an illustrator. To be an illustrator is to be in control of a craft...'

'...illustrators work in service of the story...'

' school tried to push me to be either a fine artist, advertising artist or teacher; I instead learned book-making...'

'...we must treat nature with respect...'

'...we have two brains - one to add and subtract, and one to take you into magical forests, where dreams reside...'

'...we would dearly love to go to the creative brain but are too frightened because people told us it wouldn't do us any good, and that we must get on with life and be responsible...'

And my personal fave:

'...with children's books, I like kids to find the spaces in my illustrations for their imaginations to occupy...'

It was a true joy to hear Robert speak, and at the end of the hour, his collaborator on Tea and Sugar Christmas, and the soon-to-be-released Radio Rescue!, author Jane Jolly, spoke about her amazing journey with one of our country's finest artist/illustrators.

After the talk, guests queued to have books signed, and enjoyed an afternoon tea and a bookish mingle. Robert was also celebrating his recent 80th birthday--the only thing missing was cake!

It was great to catch up with Leanne Barrett from the CBCA ACT branch, author Stephanie Owen Reeder, CBCA judge Rosemary Thomas, author Cate Whittle, and many more friends. It was also great to see Margaret and Max Hamilton, and to finally meet author/illustrator Dub Leffler!

Alas, I had to go pick up my daughter from work, and didn't have time to stand in the queue for a signing, but I did pick up these divine book copies. You simply can't miss this stunning book--Wonderlands: The Illustration of Robert Ingpen. Gasp. It's just too beautiful. If you're an art/illustration lover, snaffle a book online, post-haste.

The Wind in the Willows illustrated edition is one in a series of remarkable classic tales featuring Robert's work. I'm going to collect these in the coming years.

Oh--and another glorious thing happened this morning... I won a raffle. I never win raffles! This one is particularly special because it was for the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature, and the prize was a May Gibbs quilt, exquisitely crafted by Trish Milne, using the most divine official May Gibbs fabric. The quilt was made in celebration of 100 years of May Gibbs' books.

This quilt is extra special to me because I have a deep adoration for May Gibbs, and something of a connection ... you know those people who just keep popping up in your life, as though they're aligned in some way? Like they're whispering to you from heaven?

I've long admired and adored May's work, and while reading about her last year, I discovered we had actually worked in the very same building at 4 Bridge Street in Sydney. And from memory, I'm pretty sure we even worked on the same floor.

May had what she called her 'little studio' there, where she would produce beautiful handmade creations--calendars, pictures, postcards--from her art, along with her lifelong friend and suffragette Rene Eames. Later, May used the studio to produce work for publishers, including book covers and magazine covers and internal art.

Anyway--it was a joy--and yet another lovely coincidence to win this quilt--a little nod from on high that I kind of needed right now.

Learn more about May at

1 comment:

Jill Howard said...

Wow How lucky are you. Such a beautiful quilt.

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