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Robyn Belton

fellows event2015 robyn belton portrait-191Acclaimed Dunedin illustrator and tertiary lecturer Robyn Belton was the 2006 winner of the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal.
Robyn grew up on a farm in Whangaehu, near Whanganui, with three generations of her family. She was an outdoors child. 'The farm was central to everything we did. We fed the calves, fed out the hay, rode our horses and did the lambing beat with our grandfather.' Her grandmother saved the backs of letters for paper for her grandchildren to draw on and bought Robyn her first set of watercolour paints. At 12, Robyn left home to become a boarder at school in Whanganui and was given a hardcover book in which to draw. 'That book became a diary in a sense... I mercilessly drew every single matron, prefect, all the people in the dormitory...'
Robyn realised her future lay in art when her secondary school art teacher said, 'You are an illustrator. Specialise in illustration and do painting.' Robyn studied for her Diploma of Fine Arts at Canterbury University under Russell Clark.
She began her career as an illustrator in 1977, working freelance for the School Journal and other educational readers. During this time, she met and worked with both Margaret Mahy and Joy Cowley and became good friends with both. It was also during this time that the character of Greedy Cat was created for a story written by Joy Cowley.
 As well as being a professional illustrator, Robyn visits schools and talks to children about her work, teaches at polytechnics and has had her work exhibited in Australia, New Zealand and Japan. If there is one comment which encapsulates Robyn’s life as an illustrator, it is probably this one: ‘I think the task of an illustrator is to evoke an atmosphere…’
The Duck in the Gun, an anti-war picture book published in 1984 with text by Joy Cowley, won the Russell Clark Award and was one of 10 children's books selected for the Hiroshima Peace Museum. In 1993 Robyn's work was selected for exhibition at the Itabashi Art Museum in Japan and David's Dad was selected for the Bologna Children's Book Fair Exhibition in Italy. Her titles Donkey (1986), David's Dad (1991) and Marta and the Manger Straw (2005) have all been shortlisted for the Russell Clark Award for Illustration. The year 2008 saw the publication of Herbert: The Brave Sea Dog, the first book Robyn both wrote and illustrated.
Her work, which includes the iconic Greedy Cat image widely recognised throughout the United States – as well as New Zealand, of course – has featured regularly in the School Journal and school readers.
Robyn is internationally admired for her mastery of watercolour and her meticulous research, as well as for her teaching work in schools and colleges throughout the country.

Selected bibliography:
  • Greedy Cat text by Joy Cowley (School Publications Branch 1980).
  • The Duck in the Gun text by Joy Cowley (Shortland Educational 1984, Japan Peace Museum 1990, Walker Books 2009).
  • Donkey text by George Ciantar (Shortland 1986).
  • The Girl Who Washed in Moonlight text by Margaret Mahy (Heinemann 1987). 
  • The Choosing Day text by Jennifer Beck (Century Hutchinson 1988). 
  • David's Dad text by Jennifer Beck (Random Century 1990, Ashton Scholastic 1991). 
  • Bow Down Shadrach text by Joy Cowley (Hodder & Stoughton 1991).
  • I'm Glad the Sky is Painted Blue: Poems for the Very Young selected by Rosalyn Barnett (Mallinson Rendel 1993). 
  • The Bantam and the Soldier text by Jennifer Beck (Scholastic 1996).
  • Pigeon Princess: A Modern Fantasy text by Joy Cowley (Shortland Publications 2001). 
  • The Christmas Caravan text by Jennifer Beck (Scholastic 2002).
  • Greedy Cat and the Birthday Cake text by Joy Cowley (HarperCollins 2003).
  • Greedy Cat and the School Pet Show text by Joy Cowley (Scholastic 2004). 
  • Marta and the Manger Straw: A Christmas Tradition from Poland text by Virginia Kroll (Zonderkidz 2005).
  • Greedy Cat and the Sneeze text by Joy Cowley (Scholastic 2006). 
  • Herbert: The Brave Sea Dog (Craig Potton Publishing 2008).
  • Greedy Cat and the Goldfish text by Joy Cowley (Scholastic 2009). 
  • Farmer John's Tractor text by Sally Sutton (Walker Books 2012).
  • Russell Clark Award 1985 Winner for The Duck in the Gun.
  • Russell Clark Award 1991 Shortlist for David’s Dad.
  • New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards 1997 Book of the Year for The Bantam and the Soldier.
  • New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards 1997 Picture Book Winner for The Bantam and the Soldier.
  • Art Council Toi Aotearoa Award 1997.
  • Russell Clark Award 1997 Shortlist for The Bantam and the Soldier.
  • New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards 2003 Picture Book Shortlist for The Christmas Caravan.
  • Storylines Notable Book Awards 2003 Picture Books List for The Christmas Caravan.
  • Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal 2006.
  • Russell Clark Award 2006 Shortlist for Marta and the Manger Straw.
  • Storylines Notable Book Awards 2006 Picture Books List for Marta and the Manger Straw.
  • Russell Clark Award 2007 Shortlist for Greedy Cat and the Sneeze.
  • Storylines Notable Book Awards 2007 Picture Books List for Greedy Cat and the Sneeze.
  • Russell Clark Award 2009 Winner for Herbert: The Brave Sea Dog.
  • Storylines Notable Book Awards 2009 Picture Books List for Herbert: The Brave Sea Dog.
  • Storylines Notable Book Awards 2010 Picture Books list for Greedy Cat and the Goldfish.

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Page checked and updated February 2013.


Storylines Trust Te Whare Waituhi Tamariki and Friends of Storylines Te Pou o Te Whare Waituhi Tamariki together form New Zealand’s only national organisation working year-round to promote New Zealand children’s and young adult literature through activities that include a major national Story Tour to schools, early childhood centres and communities, and awards for writers, illustrators and those who work in the area of New Zealand children’s literature



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