Tom McLaughlin

The Boy Who Painted The World
Tom McLaughlin

About Author

Tom McLaughlin introduces The Boy Who Painted the World, his new picture book that encourages children to embrace creativity!

Before becoming a writer and illustrator, Tom worked as political cartoonist.  Since then he has written and illustrated picture books and fiction as well as working on animated TV shows for Disney and Cartoon Network.

Tom lives in Devon and his hobbies include drinking tea, looking out of the window, and biscuits. His hates include spiders, running out of biscuits, and writing biographies.

Find Tom on his website;   and on X @_TomMcLaughlin



The Boy Who Painted the World  (OUP Children's Books)

July 2024

A blank sheet of paper can be a daunting prospect, and worrying about making mistakes can mean it's hard to get started. 
 The Boy Who Painted the World, author and illustrator Tom McLaughlin shows us that when you're creating something, there are no mistakes - everything can be turned into something - and encourages children to embrace their creative selves.

We find out more from Tom McLaughlin - including ideas for getting children started on their own creations.

Tom McLaughlin introduces The Boy Who Painted the World

"I wanted to show that drawing can be freeing by showing what you can do with just a circle or a splodge of paint.
How almost anything can be turned into something."

1.   Hi Tom, Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of work you do?

Hello there! I've had a strange career from being a cartoonist on a newspaper where it was my job to drawing funny cartoons about politicians and Prime Ministers whenever they did anything bad, or daft to writing and drawing kids' books.

They may seem like two different worlds, but actually they're pretty similar. They both involve using pictures and words to tell stories and that's what I love to do. I have written and illustrated nearly 30 books that have been all around the world. I'm so, so lucky to be able to write picture books for younger kids and chapter books for older ones.

2.   What's your new picture book, The Boy Who Painted the World, about?

My new book is all about how anyone can make art, that even a square, a triangle, a splat can become something new and wonderful. I wanted to show children and adults too that anyone can draw, that there aren't any rules, there aren't any rights or wrongs when it comes to painting. It's just about having fun! The story takes place in a sketchbook where a paintbrush comes to life to show a little boy that anyone can be an artist.

3.   What inspired the story, encouraging children to keep being creative? 

I do a lot of school events and one of the things I love doing in my workshops is taking simple shapes and messing around and seeing what I can come up with. I think when kids are very young they throw themselves into drawing, but as they get older the drawings become smaller, and children get too worried about making mistakes. I wanted to show that drawing can be freeing by showing what you can do with just a circle or a splodge of paint. How almost anything can be turned into something.

4.    How do you create your illustrations - and do you like making a mess when you draw and paint, like the boy in your story?

I draw all my work with an iPad these days so the only mess I make lives in a screen. But that doesn't mean I don't get to play and mess when I draw, I'm still trying new things all the time. I still get have lots of fun, I still make messy mistakes that get turned into something unexpected.  At the end of the day it's still an empty piece of paper, just this way I don't ruin the carpets where I'm working!

5.   Do you have a favourite moment or spread in the picture book?

The spread I love the most, that's tricky....  I have to say where he's sliding down a rainbow, I loved drawing that spread, I mean who wouldn't want to slide down a rainbow into a puddle of paint!

6.    Can you suggest some creative activities to do with children after sharing this book to boost their creative confidence?

Of course, in the book, the little boy draws a square, the paint brush shows him all the things that you can make with a square - a robot, a train, a car! It's the same with all shapes, a triangle can be turned into a bird, or a fish. Then you can start to stitch these shapes together, add some circles and see what you can create. Then you have a character that can be turned into a story, a picture leads to words and words lead to more pictures.

7.    Do you ever worry about making mistakes? What helps you to be creative and to keep going even when things go wrong?

Mistakes no, not when it comes to drawing, any accidents are happy accidents. Things that can make my drawings better. More so with writing, but that's more recognising that the text isn't working or you're suffering from writer's block. But that tends to happen when there is something fundamentally wrong with the story, a bit that isn't working. Being able to see what's wrong means that you're in a good place to be able to fix it. I never panic, just roll up my sleeves and get cracking.

8.    If you could paint your ideal artist's studio, what would it look like - and where would you put it? And back in the real world, where do you prefer to work?

My perfect artist's studio is the one I have now. Having my iPad means that I can work anywhere, around people, coffee shops or in shared offices. I love drawing but it can be isolating being stuck at home, so having my studio with me, where I get to observe people and get inspiration all round, is perfect for me. And if I want to zone out, then the earphones go and the music starts pumping!

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