Gavin Bishop -NZ illustrator and writer

Picture books inhabit that beautiful collaboration of the text being incomplete without the illustration and the illustration relying on the text for the fullness of comprehension. Gavin Bishop is an illustrator and writer whose contribution to New Zealand literature has been recognised by naming an award after him. In 2009 Storylines created the Gavin Bishop Award and it is given to a previously unpublished illustrator.

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Gavin Bishop. Screenshot from the Sapling interview

Gavin Bishop lives and works in Canterbury, New Zealand and has created more than 70 books; nonfiction and fiction including the retelling of beloved Maori Myths. He has won many awards for his work including, the Russell Clark Award, in 1982 for Mrs McGinty and the Bizarre Plant (Oxford University Press, 1981) and in the same year the Esther Glen Medal,  for his illustrations in Katherine O’Brien’s The Year of the Yelvertons (Oxford University Press, 1981).  He was awarded The New Zealand Order of Merit in 2013 for his contribution to literature and most recently he was awarded the Prime Minister’s Literary Achievement Award for non-fiction in 2019.

Bishop taught art for 30 years and worked on his books in the evenings and his vacation time. Clare de Lore’s article for the Listener in November 2019, highlights Bishop’s family background and the impact that has had on his work.

In a conversation with illustrator Selina Tusitala Marsh published in the online magazine Sapling last week,  Bishop says, “When you tell a story, you pause, you take gaps, you pace yourself. They’re all devices to help the story to progress. And that’s what I like to think I’m doing in a picture book: I’m telling a story using the words, the pictures and the spaces.” 

Gavin Bishop’s website lists his books. Below is a short film from Creative NZ and how he wrote his book “Aotearoa: A New Zealand Story.” His latest book is “Wildlife of New Zealand” and I for one cannot wait to read it.

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Amanda Bond is a New Zealand ex-pat currently working as Teacher Librarian in an international school in Istanbul, Turkey. Her twitter handle is @kiwionthego

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