Robert Ingpen: he wore odd socks and had trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality

Growing up in Geelong in the 1940s, Robert Ingpen was so obsessed by stories that, for a time, he had trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality. At school, he continued to draw, tell stories and was sports mad. The 1950s academic education, however, “didn’t agree” with him. “I was totally lost,” Robert said. An art teacher came to his rescue and encouraged him to continue with his studies. At 17, he began studying art and design. He wore odd socks and says, quite happily, that he got away with masquerading as an artist. He wasn’t interested in a career in advertising or teaching art and a career in fine arts was out of question because he didn’t have the ego for it. He turned to illustrating. Now in his 80s, he is a world-renowned artist who has produced more than 100 works ranging from illustrations accompanying scientific texts to children’s books to a tapestry celebrating 150 years of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. In his prolific career he has also created sculptures, public murals, postage stamps and the Northern Territory flag.

In 1986, for his contribution to children’s books illustration he was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal (sometimes called “The Little Nobel Prize” in children’s literature). He is the only Australian illustrator so far to have been honoured by this award. In 1989, Robert Ingpen was awarded the Dromkeen Medal for significant contribution to the appreciation and development of children’s literature. In 2007 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to children’s literature and in 2016 was presented with the CBCA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Robert Ingpen is also one of the Australian nominees for the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, recognising career contributions which help increase interest in children’s and young people’s literature and to promote children’s rights to culture on a global level.

“If you take on a story and you try and put your own ego and brilliance into it, it always fails because you don’t engage your audience at all.”
Robert Ingpen

To read more about Robert Ingpen and see some of his fabulous books click here.

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