Book Launch/Exhibition: How to Make a Bird

How to make a bird cover image

How to make a bird“, Meg McKinlay’s sublime, poetic text has just been released into the world. Due to the closed WA borders I was unable to attend the launch at the Fremantle Literature Centre in October, but witnessed the thoughtful and entertaining event opened by fellow illustrator Frane Lessac.

“How to make a bird” continues its journey out into the world via an insightful exhibition at The Painted Word – Books & Art in the northern rivers, NSW. The exhibition includes original workings, editorial notes and correspondence by Meg, along with my original sketches, roughs and final artwork.

Local artists Lisa Tiffen, Katherine Castle and Tina Wilson have also created artworks inspired by the book.

The Uki Primary School, under the guidance of librarian Jo Spiller, responded to the book via their own art, creating a colourful, meaningful display that reflects upon the books inherent message of creativity. The exhibition runs until the end of December at the M|Arts Precinct, Murwillumbah. Limited edition prints are available in the store or online via the shop on my website.

Hong Kong Literature Festival

Performance of Teacup by composer Matt Ottley

In October I attended the Hong Kong International Literary Festival where pianist Alf Demasi and I performed the music I composed for “The Incredible Freedom Machines” (written by Kirli Saunders) and “Tree” (written by Danny Parker).

We also performed “Teacup” at the Asia Society, working with some very talented local musicians. I enjoyed making new connections and catching up with  friends in the world of literature.

A huge thank you to Jennie Orchard, friend and colleague, for helping to make this happen.

South Korea Tour

Nami Island_MattOttley

In November I was invited to showcase my musical works for some of my picture books in South Korea.

The trip included performances at the Suncheon Picture Book Library in Suncheon, Gususan Library in Daegu, and a collaborative musical workshop with the South Korean Picturebook Association in Seoul. I was also fortunate to present a workshop for families and future teachers in Seoul as part of the South Korea Teacher’s College.

The trip was rewarding in so many ways, in particular having the opportunity to collaborate with other multi-modal artists in South Korea, Hyunjung Jang & Yumi Shin as well as many other musicians who accompanied me in my performances. I was inspired by the creativity, artistry and sophistication of picture books being created in South Korea.

I also had the opportunity to spend a relaxing day with our incredible host and organiser, Bomsan, on Nami Island – where I had performed previously in 2013 as part of the Nami Island International Children’s Festival. The island was as stunning as I had remembered it with all of the trees in full autumn splendor.

A huge thank you to Bomsan, and each of the organisations and individuals who helped make this tour so special for me.


The Czech Republic – Orchestral Score

Recording at Besedni Dum with the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra

In October 2019 my partner, Tina, and I had the privilege to travel to Brno in the Czech Republic to record my 50 minute orchestral score with the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic Choir, Brno.

The recording will accompany my upcoming project: The Tree of Ecstasy and Unbearable Sadness, to be published by Dirt Lane Press.

It was an extraordinary honour to work with the orchestra and choir, under the superb conductorship of Mikel Toms, and to hear the music performed live for the first time.

I was joined by guest-composer Alf Demasi (Yamaha) and Ben Reynolds (Tenor), and was privileged to work with Jaroslav, the engineer.

This was all made possible through the generous support of the Gabby Arts Legacy Trust.

Prime Minister’s Literary Awards

Freedom Machines" by Matt Ottley and Kirli Saunders

I feel honoured that the The Incredible Freedom Machines, written by Kirli Saunders and Illustrated by me, was shortlisted for the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

It is a book that we hope encourages freedom…and the love of reading. Congratulations to all of the nominated authors and illustrators. For a list of the shortlisted and winning works please click here.

Judges’ comments

This beautiful picture book celebrates creativity and the ability of the imagination to transcend the boundaries of our everyday lives.

While searching for her very own freedom machine, a young girl encounters many visually stunning—and obviously powerful—space-age vehicles that are skilfully juxtaposed against the shabbiness of the caravan park where she lives, a place that is bleak and ‘sawn together by boundaries’. Many of these amazing freedom machines are not quite right for her but she persists and ultimately finds a vehicle ready to transport her (and the reader) to places of wonder and unlimited possibility. These ‘most abundant untouched places’ enable her to realise her dreams and help her return to her own world feeling whole. In a sense her journey mirrors the experience of many readers as they search for the most appropriate stories that will help them find their own identities and a sense of completeness.

A seamless collaboration between words and surreal, often whimsical images, this book is a work of art. From the outset the cover communicates the courage and determination of the young girl with her bold stance and outward gaze. While the words are minimalist, each is eloquent and thoughtfully chosen by first-time Indigenous author Kirli Saunders. Coupled with the vibrant images, many reaching across double pages, the story creates a sense of the vastness and beauty of the Australian landscape. Colour and light are used skilfully and each opening reveals additional layers and ambiguities that can and should be explored at length. Multiple readings are a must. The images are brilliantly rendered by award-winning illustrator Matt Ottley, who has embedded inter-pictorial references to his own work as well as to that of a number of other famous Australian artists including Russell Drysdale, Fred Williams and Shaun Tan.

Exhibition – Orange Regional Gallery

As part of mental health month, the Orange Regional Gallery exhibited the original artworks from Part 1 of my upcoming project, The Tree of Ecstasy and Unbearable Sadness.

The Tree of Ecstasy and Unbearable Sadness is a large-scale multi-modal project weaving the worlds of literature, music, performance and visual art together in the story of one boy’s journey into mental illness. The final work consists of a book, designed for young adults and adults, featuring around 70 artworks, along with a 50 minute orchestral work.

The inaugural exhibition showcased the first 27 original oil paintings and mixed media works and was curated by Margrete Lamond of Dirt Lane Press. Audiences were also given a sneak preview of the music to accompany the book, soon to be recorded live with the Bro Philharmonic Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno in the Czech Republic in October, 2019.

Sound of Picture Books – 2019

The Sound of Picture Books returned to Perth for two weeks in September, 2019.

The first week featured the premier performance of my new composition in collaboration with Valanga Khoza, Dumazi and the Big Yellow Lion. This work, originally written for a small orchestra, was re-scored for a piano sextet to be performed live to Perth audiences as part of the Sound of Picture Books. The book itself contains a CD of the 30-minute musical work composed by me, with guest composition by Valanga (narration, lyrics and playing of traditional zulu instruments).

In the second week I worked with the wonderful author Kirli Saunders with my composition for The Incredible Freedom Machines.  All performances featured the West Australia Symphony Orchestra’s (WASO) superb string quintet, Yamaha’s Alf Demasi, my illustrations and music and Kirli’s narration.

We were fortunate to tour The Sound of Picture Books to Bunbury, where Home & Away (written by John Marsden) was also performed to help raise awareness around asylum seekers and refugee issues.

We look forward to the Sound of Picture Books being performed again in 2020, including a premier of a new work. If you or your school would like to see the performances please contact The Literature Centre for details.

Book Release: Dumazi & The Big Yellow Lion

Dumazi and the Big Yellow Lion book cover

Dumazi & The Big Yellow Lion is my collaboration with the amazing story teller Valanga Khoza. 

Scholastic will be publishing the book with the accompanying CD – featuring a 30 minute musical work. It is due for release in September 2019.

The musical work, originally written for a small orchestra, was re-scored for a piano sextet to be performed live to Perth audiences as part of the Sound of Picture Books. The book itself contains a CD of the 30-minute musical work composed by me, with guest composition by Valanga (narration, lyrics and playing of traditional zulu instruments).

Exhibition in Iran

Metamorphosis - oil painting by Matt Ottley

I was recently invited by the Iranian Illustrator’s Society and the Children’s Book Council of Iran to exhibit my work in Iran as part of an exhibition titled “Peace Should be learned in Childhood”. This exhibition is being held in Tehran on September 21, the International Day of Peace.

The artwork I have submitted is from my upcoming multi-modal project, The Tree of Ecstasy and Unbearable Sadness, to be published by Dirt Lane Press.

Book Release & Exhibition: Mrs Millie’s Painting

Mrs Millie's Painting - a classic children's picture book, written and illustrated by Matt Ottley

I am excited to re-release my newly designed classic children’s picture book Mrs Millie’s Painting through One Tentacle Publishing.

I have a very soft spot for Mrs Millie as her story reminds me of growing up in Papua New Guinea as a child.

An exhibition of the original artworks from the book are on display at The Literature Centre in Fremantle, WA, alongside these fabulous books: Jandamarra (Mark Greenwood & Terry Denton), The Dam (David Almond & Levi Pinfold), Missing Marvin (Sue de Gennaro) and Queen Celine (Matt Shanks).

Limited edition prints are also available from my website.

One Tentacle Publishing – Exhibition

Children's picture books and fine art books by One Tentacle Publishing

As part of the 2019 Murwillumbah Arts Trail One Tentacle Publishing was delighted to set up a pop-up exhibition at Carol’s Place.

Featuring original artworks, prints and books available from myself, Tina Wilson (illustrator/author) and Lisa Tiffen (illustrator/author), it was a fantastic week of making new connections and sharing our love of art and picture books.

A huge thank you to Carol Robinson for sharing her beautiful space with us.

One Tentacle Publishing: Frights Book Launch

One Tentacle Publishing recently launched author/illustrator Lisa Tiffen’s fourth book FRIGHTS.

It was an exciting four day event as we were part of the Murwillumbah Arts Trail. Our One Tentacle Pop-up Gallery at Carol’s Place was buzzing with visitors and we enjoyed talking about and selling books and art and meeting new people.

It was a pleasure to be part of the Murwillumbah Arts Trail event and a lot of fun exhibiting artworks alongside Carol Robinson from Carol’s Place. The gallery was filled with so much laughter, music and crazy dancing! (despite Frights hiding everywhere).

History of Harmony & The Shape of Music

As part of the Murwillumbah Arts Trail, we performed my stage show The History of Harmony, A Devilish Tale, (featuring Alf Demasi as the Mad Monk) followed by The Shape of Music; a directed improvisation of music from shape/image.

The live improvisation featured the superb musicianship of: Martha Baartz on saxophone, Marc Mittag on guitar, Alf Demasi (Yamaha) on keyboard, Ben Reynolds tenor voice, Julia Hill on violin, Sophie Ellis on viola (both from the QLD Conservatorium) and me conducting. A huge thanks to Yamaha for organising the keyboard and Christina Kay.