November 13, 2008

MAGIC INK - Quentin Blake: Every Picture Tells a Story

Quentin Blake's book illustrations are some of the most recognizable in the world. He has illustrated nearly 300 books for writers; his most famous partnership is with Roald Dahl.

He's illustrated classic books for adults and created his own characters such as Clown and Mrs. Armitage. He has been drawing ever since he can remember.

Quentin Blake was born in 1932 in Kent. At the age of five he remembers a visitor saying, "He draws a lot, but he won't speak!"
Quentin used to draw for the school magazine and for Punch, an established English magazine containing satirical cartoons. Quentin said,
" I knew someone who drew for Punch and I started submitting drawings. I did get some little ones accepted when I was about sixteen or seventeen. That was a start. They paid me seven guineas each. I didn't know what to do with the cheque; I didn't have a bank account! "

He illustrated his first children's book in 1960 and his own book "Patrick" was published in 1968. His successful collaboration with Roald Dahl began in 1975. The classics they produced included The BFG, The Witches and Esio Trot.

"I suppose the first proper book I ever illustrated was while I was on National Service, before university. I spent three weeks illustrating a booklet - English Parade - used in teaching those soldiers who hadn't yet mastered reading. There was no alteration to my weekly pay-packet, but I was able to live at home and I was allowed to wear shoes instead of boots. "

Quentin has many favourites among the books he's illustrated. He likes the BFG, in part because it was quite difficult and he was pleased with the result; and in part because of the interesting relationship between the BFG and Sophie and its importance to Roald Dahl. He likes Clown best of his own books, because he feels close to the main character, and because it was an interesting task to tell a story entirely in pictures.

Blake's John-Cassidy/dp/1570543208">relaxed-looking drawings look as if they've been done on the spur of the moment, although in reality it's not quite like that. He starts with lots of rough copies, some of which turn out to be quite close to the finished drawing, and some of which are thrown out. And for a book there's lots of planning: what goes on which page?; do the actions carry on from one picture to another?; do the characters still look the same on each page?

Always an illustrator, he taught at the Royal College of Art, where he was head of the Illustration Department from 1978 to 1986.

His books have won numerous prizes and awards, including the Whitbread Award and the Kate Greenaway Medal for distinguished illustration in children's books. Quentin recently won the 2002 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration, the highest international award given to creators of children's books.

In 1999 he was appointed England's first ever Children's Laureate, a post designed to raise the profile of children's literature. For two years his job was to do everything he could to promote children's literature. He gave lots of talks and interviews and wrote lots of articles. The Children's Laureate is now awarded every other year to an eminent British children's book writer or illustrator to celebrate a lifetime's achievement and to focus on the importance of children's book's on future readers.

A bilingual school in Berlin, Germany, has been renamed the Quentin Blake Europe School (or the Quentin-Blake-Grundschule). Quentin spent the day at the school in October 2002, where his specially drawn logo was unveiled at a special ceremony to mark the occasion.

Quentin has become a Patron of the Prince of Wales’ new charity, the Arts & Kids Foundation. Arts & Kids works to give as many children as possible the opportunity to get involved with the arts. Seeing a great piece of theatre, learning how to play the saxophone, direct a film, draw a monster or write a poem, appreciating the skill of a dancer or a painting in the a gallery. "All these things," Quentin says, " help us to understand the world we live in and to flourish, both as individuals and as members of society".

1 comment:

Hermes said...

What a genius. I look at them and still can't figure out why he is so different (you can recognise his work immediately) but gets to the heart of a story.