Quentin who? One illustrator’s late-in-life discovery of the great Quentin Blake
|From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory|
“Q-u-e-n-t-i-n B-l-a-k-e . . . He illustrates all of Roald Dahl’s books.”
“Who’s Roald Dahl?”
It was at that point the person I was speaking with rolled their eyes, walked over to their bookcase, and came back with Matilda.
“Oooooooh I love that film! I didn’t know it was a kid’s book.”
Shame on me, I know. I confess the horror of the situation.
How could an aspiring children’s illustrator not know the work, or even the name of Quentin Blake! It’s not that my mother deprived me of books growing up. She didn’t. Growing up in America, my room was littered with well-worn editions of Dr. Seuss, Babar the Elephant, The Berenstein Bears, Curious George and many more. It was a brilliant selection by anyone’s standards but, sadly, Dahl and Blake never made the cut.
Quentin Blake returned me to a child-like excitement - an “ecstasy of being”
I began flipping through Matilda and other works by Blake and I admit I was confused. Colours strayed outside the line, characters were scratchy ‘things’ thrown across the page and scenes resembled a nasty accident with several bottles of ink. How is this the work of such a great children’s illustrator? I can only blame the art student in me - trapped in anatomical proportions and sophisticated scenery.
|Matilda written by Roald Dahl|
Ah. I see.
Movement, action, expression, colour, voice, and style… the list was endless and I fell in love with the playful colours, individual characters and imaginative scenes. Quentin Blake returned me to a child-like excitement - an “ecstasy of being”.
|A scene from Patrick by Quentin Blake|
|Words and Pictures ©2013 cover by Quentin Blake|
What have I learned from discovering Quentin Blake? Relax and be yourself - this is fun. I’ve changed my style by closing my eyes and taking a pen to the page. Honest. And it was some of the best work
I leave you with my favourite quotes of wisdom from Words and Pictures :
So that’s how it’s done: “…that mime element which is an important part of illustration, as I understand it – of telling the story by acting it.”On illustrating for its own sake: “…curiously enough, if you are more relaxed you can concentrate better, you are able to focus your mind on exactly what is happening in front of you, the scene you are imagining in your mind and living through the pen you are holding in your hands.”Figure drawing classes are good: “Extending my range made me all the more conscious of my lack of experience of life drawing – I just didn’t have the knowledge to draw the things I needed to draw.”
|Painting in oil from the 1950’s (taken from Words and Pictures)|
Even Quentin Blake self-doubts: “…nothing seems right [and] you wonder if you have finally lost whatever grasp you had of drawing ability.”On selection of scene:“…the accuracy and idiosyncrasy of gesture and posture… noting and savouring what is not said in the words.”“…less a collection of verses to be illustrated than a collection of activities looking for words.”“The writer and the artist are not always trying to do exactly the same thing.”Finding your style is down to: “…who you are and how you see things.”
All images © Quentin Blake
Heather Chapman is an emerging illustrator and SCBWI member.
See her work at chapman-illustration.co.uk