Matt Ottley began with the painting “A maid asleep” by Renaissance artist, Vermeer. He pointed out many things about the painting, such as, her clothes show she is upper middle class, and how because her eyes are closed, we are invited to look through the door and see a mirror on the wall, which represented the subconscious to Renaissance viewers. Leaning on an elbow also implies deep thought. It was this painting that inspired him to build extra layers into his picture book illustrations.
He told us how he placed objects within “Tree” to represent life cycles of mice, human, trees, and the larger landscape. Now and then there is a change in perspective to refresh the reader. He described how our eyes move across the page and that affects what you notice, and therefore where you put the most important images. He likes to use a motive that appears on many pages such as the mice in “Tree” and the ball in “No kind of Superman”.
For his latest book, “Teacup,” he created huge oil paintings, with a lot of white to represent transition as the boy journeys to a new country with his precious teacup. To avoid showing a specific country, he used a “confusion of cultures” for the boy’s clothing, and used no buildings – just a wide, empty shoreline.
Matt lives in Northern NSW. As well as illustrating dozens of picture books, he is a musician, and volunteer wildlife rescuer. http://mattottley.com/home