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Arthur Robins

As a child

I was born in Wigan, Lancashire, in 1944, which has just come as a bit of a shock to me. Cotton, clogs, cobbled streets, coal, canals, steam engines, Saturday morning flicks at the "Bug Hutch", the market hall, shopping arcades, the music hall at the Hippodrome – all gone – the borough architect and town planner surpassed themselves. My mother came from Co Leitrim in Eire and we lived there for a good while, until my father's work as a cabinet maker took us South ... no, not to Hollywood... "Feltham"! I've always drawn, my father drew his furniture before he made it, he also painted and sketched (bit of a William Morris) and he would take me to the Tate and National Galleries, where I saw an exhibition of William Blake, which had a big impact on me, also Toulouse Lautrec. Without realizing it my early influences would have been Walt Disney animated films, American and English comics (I subscribed to the Eagle comic and came across Quentin Blake (a hero) in Punch magazine), followed by Giles and Ronald Searle, The Push Pin, Maurice Sendak ... an endless list. Winnie the Pooh and Beatrix Potter passed Feltham by.

As an adult

Aged 13, I went to Twickenham Art School. I was there for five fabulous years, drawing, painting, metal-work sculpture, photography, typography, graphics and learning to play the banjo. My one regret was I never thanked Mr Osmond Caine, the head, for giving a no hoper a chance – there I've just put that right. After leaving I spent a year trying to find a job as a sculptor, metal worker, forger or banjo player, eventually I was taken on by an advertising agency, mainly to produce leaving cards, sort of whimsical p45s. It was there that I met John Gorham, a legendary designer who was given the 'Designers & Art Directors Lifetime Achievement Award'. John left the agency to set up his own studio, he had been asked to produce a comic for Esso and offered me a page to come and join him, we produced one copy and it folded and I have been looking for suitable employment ever since.

As an artist

As an artist ... well yes, Picasso and I have had several periods, he famously had his blue period from 1900–1904, me, my mistaken period from 1964–1970 followed by the embarrassing period 1970–1983. I had taken many wrong turnings as I drifted aimlessly in search of my 'Moose', until my good friend from art school Jim Bunker introduced me to Walker Books, where I was greeted by the smell of home cooking from the free canteen, where writers, poets and illustrators from the Royal College of Art dined and swapped philosophies. While soaking up the bonhomie and watching which knife and fork to use, there was talk of a "Moose" – the feted Irish author Martin Waddell had written What Use is a Moose? and to keep this story to 500 words I was asked to illustrate it. Over 60 books later and as many years on, pen in my steady hand, senior bus pass in the other, I still enthusiastically journey on in the hope of never arriving.

Things you didn't know about Arthur Robins

  1. I am colour blind but I can see rainbows.
  2. I like to draw, but I don't like to have to.
  3. I can cook without making a mess.
  4. I can't sleep if there's a full moon.
  5. I don't like going to bed and I don't like getting up.
  6. If I had a superhuman power it would be: I'd like to be able to spell".
  7. I love to visit gardens but find gardening too near the ground for me.
  8. At the end of the day Billy Jigs (my cat) and I have a dance.
  9. I no longer go to the cinema, as I usually get seated next to a family having their dinner.
  10. In my next life I would be like to be a photographer ... to leave the house and venture out more often.

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Art Robins



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