Quick questions with Toby Morris – WORD Christchurch

We are asking quick questions of writers and thinkers coming to the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival on from 24 to 28 August.

Toby Morris is an Auckland-based illustrator, cartoonist and comic artist. You might know him from The Pencilsword and his drawings (with Toby Manhire’s words) for RNZ’s That is the Question.

Toby Morris. Image supplied.
Toby Morris. Image supplied.

What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?

It’s been a while! I used to come to Christchurch when I was touring in a band, and by that point in the tour everything was always a bit hectic and exhausting. I’m looking forward to being in Christchurch without being stressed and tired! The programme looks great, I’ll probably check out a few talks and park myself up with a sketchbook somewhere to do some drawing – seems like there are lots of beautiful spots of park up.

What do you think about libraries?

I love libraries, one of my favourite places. So many of my favourite memories have happened in libraries – whether it’s finding something mind blowing in a strange book that called out from a shelf, or finding a new favourite band in a CD with a curious cover, or even just flirting with girls on the top floor of Wellington Central when I’m supposed to be studying for exams. I love writing and drawing in libraries. Now that I’ve got kids I’m reminded of the power of libraries all over again – such amazing safe spaces to lose yourself.

What would be your “desert island book”?

CoverMy go-to comfort read is Tintin in Tibet. It’s such a simple story that I find it kind of pure and clean, it’s quite perfect. All the white space of the swirling snow is quite calming.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

I have no sense of smell.

Toby Morris appears in:
Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?, Sat 27 Aug, 12.30pm
Sunday Fringe – Writing to Make a Change, Sun 28 Aug, 11.30am
Giving Them Hell: Political Cartoons, Sun 28 Aug, 2pm


Toby Morris. Image supplied.
Toby Morris. Image supplied.

A Life in Pictures – the work of Michael Foreman

I fell in love with Michael Foreman’s illustrations many years ago when I first discovered Michael Morpurgo’s books. I soon found out that he also wrote and illustrated his own stories, including War Boy and War Game which were stories about his experience of World War II. I found out a lot more about Michael Foreman and his huge body of work when I borrowed a fascinating new book from the library called A Life in Pictures.

Pages from A life in pictures
A glimpse inside A life in pictures by Michael Foreman

A Life in Pictures is written by Michael Foreman himself, and looks back over his long career in the creation of books for children. It is a beautiful book that is packed with Michael’s illustrations and stories about the books that he has worked on and the people he has worked with. You can read about Michael’s war childhood, the importance of location and landscape in his illustrations, the people that have influenced him and the people that he has collaborated with.

If you’ve read a Michael Morpurgo book you’ve probably seen Michael Foreman’s illustrations. The M-Team have been collaborating for over 20 years (their first book together being Arthur, High King of Britain, published in 1994).

I’ve always felt that Michael Foreman’s illustrations are the perfect match for Michael Morpurgo’s stories. Michael Foreman mentions in A Life in Pictures that ‘Michael Morpurgo not only writes good stories, he writes good pictures. His stories are full of them.’ His illustrations for Morpurgo’s stories are usually in black and white, but it’s the smaller, shorter stories, like Little Manfred, where his full-colour illustrations shine.

Over the years Michael Foreman has worked with many other authors, both living and dead.  He has brought the stories of Shakespeare, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens and Kenneth Grahame to life, bringing the ‘classics’ to a new generation of children.

My favourite edition of Michael Foreman’s classics is Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows.  The colours are so vibrant and the characters leap off the page. Michael also travelled to New Zealand in 1987 to visit Kiri Te Kanawa to research a book based on legends told to her by her grandmother. This book became The Land of the Long White Cloud.

A Life in Pictures is a fascinating read for anyone who loves books for children and would be a valuable resource for artists or those wanting to become illustrators.

The quest for clarity – Riduan Tomkins

Book cover Riduan Tomkins painter, teacher and ardent traveller died recently after a prolonged illness. Tomkins, born in Dorset in 1941, studied at The Royal College of Art in London and was visiting Senior Lecturer, then permanent Senior Lecturer in Painting at the University of Canterbury’s School of Fine Arts between 1986-1996. He is credited with influencing a generation of New Zealand artists including Séraphine Pick currently exhibiting at the Christchurch Art Gallery and Shane Cotton.

His work is characterised by fresh, clean colours and often featured tiny figures overlaid with paint and engaged in a variety of actions: flying or falling, juggling and hanging etc. These figures anchor the lines, shapes and colours and deliver paintings that successfully fuse abstract and figurative elements. His work is held in numerous private and public collections in North America, South America, Europe, South East Asia and New Zealand.

On leaving New Zealand, Tomkins taught in Ontario, Canada and at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London before relocating to Jakarta, Indonesia. After a period as guest artist at Jakarta Institute of Art, Riduan founded the Central Kalimantan Cultural Collective a non-profit organisation aiming to establish a Fine Arts programme at the University of Palangka Raya.