Acclaimed 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.
Storylines thanks zeald.com for their ongoing support of the Storylines website.
Page checked and updated February 2013.