Q&AWhat's New

An interview with Matt Sewell

singleWith pop-art watercolors and whimsical descriptions, Matt Sewell express the individual characters of 50 seabirds in his new book Penguins and Other Seabirds. His illustrations are so inviting, we had to learn more.


Longitude. Are penguins fish or birds? …Just kidding. The idea for your book came this autocorrect question on Google. What, besides educating the general public, were your goals in producing this book?

Sewell. Penguins are ace but it was also a really good chance for me to focus on seabirds in general there are so many around the world it was great way to get them in my canon.

Longitude. How did your interest in ornithology begin?

Sewell. It’s probably a lot to do with where I grew up and also to do with me being into illustrated bird books. I’m from out in the sticks originally, growing up in an ex mining town surrounded by fields and woodland at the foot of the dales there was always plenty of bird life around or passing through to keep me excited and interested to find out what I just saw. I used to paw over bird books, especially Sketches of Birdlife by Charles Tunnicliffe which was a birthday present to me from my Aunty Val. It had the right mix of fantastically accurate but loosely drawn mixed with the right amount of macabre and brutal scenes to entice my young mind.

Longitude. Did you travel to see the birds you depict? What is your favorite birding destination?

Sewell. Not just specially for this book, but I did spend time with quite a few of the seabirds and two of the penguins from a year spent travelling in Australia and New Zealand in 2007.

Longitude. Window seat or aisle?

Sewell. Window… ALWAYS! It’s extra points for spotting birds from public transport. Makes the journey go so much quicker too!

emperorLongitude. What bird fact surprised or excited you as you conducted your research for the book? 

Sewell. That crested auklets smelt like tangerines! Who would have guessed that, bonkers!

Longitude. Is there a bird you wanted to include in this list of fifty but didn’t?

Sewell. There were so many different kinds of albatrosses the I would like to of squeezed in but couldn’t. I managed to get all my favourites in though so I can’t complain.

Longitude. What, in your mind, sets the Smew above all other seabirds?

Sewell. What a great bird! First off the name Smew itself is just so cute and a joy to say aloud. But not only that it looks great and has a design on its back of cracked ice, cool as a cucumber… Cool as ice!

Longitude. What other books would you recommend to the lover of flightless birds?

Sewell. Just get any book on New Zealand birds as they seem to have the whole flightless bird thing sewn up!

BRD147Longitude. Do you have any new books or birding projects in the works?

Sewell. Yes, I have my first children’s book out in the UK in Spring called The Big Bird Spot on Pavilion. I have illustrated lots of lush, detailed landscapes and environments and hidden my favourite birds to be spotted and counted throughout. It’s quite a departure from my simple watercolours, but I am super chuffed with how it has turned out and worked so hard on it that I just can’t wait to see how it goes down when it comes out.

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