Is lockdown bugging you? Children’s author has some ideas to beat the boredom
PUBLISHED: 18:00 07 April 2020 | UPDATED: 18:42 07 April 2020
Don’t let lockdown get you down, take a leaf out of author and illustrator Matt Robertson’s book and pick up a pencil, or head out into the garden for a bug adventure.
While the lockdown may be hard on us all – limiting our movement, our contact with friends and family, and our livelihoods – it’s also an opportunity to think outside the box, and maybe try something new – like drawing!
For Norwich-based children’s author and illustrator Matt Robertson, the lockdown coincided with the launch of his new book “Do you love bugs?”. But how do you promote a book when you can’t leave the house?
“Normally when a book comes out I would have a launch at a local bookshop,” explains Matt, “but as all the bookshops are on lockdown I decided to decorate my studio (spare bedroom) window to let Norwich know my book’s out!”
Here we find out more about Matt and why drawing and bug hunts are great lockdown activities for the whole family.
How did your love of drawing come about?
I’ve always loved drawing. I grew up in Suffolk and my Dad used to be a designer at the Evening Star in Ipswich. He would always encourage me to draw and paint. My older brother Andy and I would spend hours on the dining room table drawing and painting the world around us.
Everyone dreams of turning their passion into a career, how did you make that happen?
Through a lot of hard work and determination. I’ve had quite a few ’normal’ jobs over the years but something inside always made me pursue my passion of creating images, but it wasn’t until doing the MA in Children’s Book Illustration in Cambridge that my love of picture books and illustration really grew.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Everywhere! From people I see in the street to a pet or an animal on TV or something one of my friends’ children say. New story ideas can come to me in really unusual places, so it’s important to always carry a note pad or a phone to quickly take note.
As an illustrator, did it come naturally to start writing the books as well?
When I create a drawing of a character there’s always a little story developing behind the pencil marks. I’ve struggled with writing in the past but the more I’ve done of it the easier it’s become.
Why a book about bugs?
Bugs are amazing creatures and they are so important in keeping a balance to our food chain. Without bugs there would be no food on our tables! I love the secret mini worlds they create in our gardens and woodlands and it’s reassuring to know there’s a whole community of bugs working hard somewhere.
How did you discover all of the amazing facts about bugs which appear in the book, and which is your favourite?
For this book I had to do a lot of research in the library and online. There are a lot of conflicting facts out there so, along with the team at Bloomsbury, we had to be careful about what we included.
My favourite fact is: If you weighed all the ants in the world they would out-weigh all the humans! Crazy!
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Why do you think it’s so important for children to draw?
Drawing enables children to interpret the world around them in a way that lets us into their worlds. Sometimes it’s hard to gauge how a child is thinking, but with a drawing we can see and understand how they feel. Using imaginations to draw up imaginary worlds really makes children think outside the box and can only be beneficial to their development.
My niece, Kitty, and our friend’s children always love to see what I’ve been drawing in my studio and usually they like to copy what I’ve just drawn. Recently, with Kitty, I drew a few animals for her to copy and by following what I was doing she managed to create some wonderful drawings – to her parents’ amazement!
I’ve dedicated Do You Love Bugs to my Godson Fionn, his brother Cillian and our friend’s bug-mad boy Nat. They are all huge fans of the book which is great!
What’s your favourite thing to draw?
This is always changing but currently I love drawing DINOSAURS! I’m currently working on the follow up to Do You Love Bugs. This time it’s dinosaur themed – RAAAAA!
Any tips for people who are picking up a pencil – maybe for the first time since leaving school – as a way to be creative during the lockdown?
Don’t be afraid! At school we were always judged by how well we could draw and in a lot of ways this is why older children and adults are put off from picking up a pencil. We always have an idea of how something should look when drawn but usually it doesn’t quite translate onto paper.
The key is to just practice, practice and practice! Everyone CAN draw, but everyone is different so don’t expect one person’s drawing to look like another.
Other than drawing, what else interests you?
I love gardening and growing vegetables with my wife Amy, and I also love going on long country walks.
Matt’s top tips for bug hunters
1. Always be kind to bugs as they are very delicate and can easily be squished!
2. Look under stones and logs and you might just see a bug sleeping.
3. Look closely at leaves to see if you can spot a caterpillar having its lunch!
4. Poke your nose through long grass and look for ants going for a walk.
5. Have a look in the shed for spiders dangling from their silky webs.
REMEMBER: Always put bugs back where you found them!
Do You Love Bugs is available to buy from all good bookshops, including Norwich’s own Bookbugs and Dragon Tales by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, Book Hive by emailing email@example.com and online at Waterstones. Jarrold will also be selling it once its stores and online service resumes.
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