Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

“I draw because it makes me feel better”: Quentin Blake on the importance of pictures

quentin.JPG

When it comes to career aspirations, becoming an illustrator sits pretty high on our list of dream jobs. We can just imagine ourselves taking a seat in our minimalist home office, a mug of warm coffee in hand, ready to settle down to a blissful day of nothing but sketching and colouring in.

But what is the life of an illustrator really like, and how can you build on a passion for drawing to develop it into your dream job?

If there is anyone who knows the answer to these questions it is surely Quentin Blake, an artist whose illustrations, such as those of Roald Dahl characters, defined our childhood.

Below, the beloved illustrator lets us inside his world of "scratchy" drawings and tells stylist.co.uk why putting pen (or quill) to paper can be so therapeutic. 

The cover of Roald Dahl's 'Matilda', illustrated by Quentin Blake

The cover of Roald Dahl's 'Matilda', illustrated by Quentin Blake


On the beginning of his career

An annotated page from a first edition of Roal Dahl's 'The BFG'

An annotated page from a first edition of Roal Dahl's 'The BFG'

"When I was starting out, I did tons of life drawing. You've got to do lots of drawing: you simply can't manage without it.

Over time, I've gotten to know my work better. When I was younger I spent all day doing drawings and thinking 'that won't do' before starting again the next day. Now my self-critical side is sharper, so I know sooner if it's not going to work. I still find it hard to make up my mind sometimes, and if it's wrong I'll tear it up.

All my drawings are personally researched and I draw everyday, even if only in my mind. "



On his drawing process

Quentin Blake in his workspace

Quentin Blake in his workspace

"I like to draw silently on my own, with nothing on the TV or radio. If someone comes into the room they’ll say, 'you know you’re making the drawing faces...'

I don’t know that I revisit my old drawings in my new ones, but I think that I probably do. I don’t mean to draw people I know, but bits of them get in anyway: there’s a character in Esio Trot who looks a bit like my father. Friends, and bits of my friends, get in too.

I’ve even been drawn in myself – people say to me, 'those are your elbows'. I always want to be the character I'm drawing at the moment. That's what it's all about.

I like the scratchiness of drawing so I haven't tried doing it on an iPad yet. I often draw with a primitive implement, like a quill, and then it's digitally enlarged. The combination of the two is fascinating. 

I never get drawer's block: that's just for writers."



On the importance of pictures

Blake reading a first edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, illustrated by himself

Blake reading a first edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, illustrated by himself

"When we're born we have two languages: visual and literary. A child needs to learn how to speak and write, but then the visual side generally gets neglected. Children read pictures better than adults who have unlearned how to read them. But pictures can bypass language and speak to you emotionally in a way that does not have to be defined.

I've drawn lots of pictures for hospitals over the past years and I've discovered how much they can speak directly to people. I've seen examples of people who have been profoundly depressed, but a drawing penetrates that and changes their view of things.

It can affect people that way. Sometimes I just draw because it makes me feel better."

Quentin Blake drawing his 'Life Under The Atlantic' series at J Sheekey's terrace and atlantic bar

Quentin Blake drawing his 'Life Under The Atlantic' series at J Sheekey's terrace and atlantic bar

Images: Rex Features/Getty

Related

LP42009t.jpg

The greatest wisdom from Roald Dahl books for grown-up life

iStock_76984333_MEDIUM.jpg

Author asks mourners to read to kids rather than throw her a funeral

Twits.jpg

Roald Dahl’s most beloved characters: where are they now?

Comments

More

JK Rowling invented Quidditch to ‘annoy men’ after row with her ex

The Harry Potter author is such a badass

by Kayleigh Dray
07 Dec 2016

Watch Emma Watson star in chilling new trailer for The Circle

We’re getting serious Black Mirror vibes from this social media thriller

by Kayleigh Dray
07 Dec 2016

Read an exclusive extract from 2017's most hotly anticipated novel

Devour the first three chapters of the psychological thriller here

by Sarah Biddlecombe
06 Dec 2016

Stylist's pick of the best new books for 2017

From family sagas to crime thrillers

by Sarah Shaffi
05 Dec 2016

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: First look at new TV series

Elisabeth Moss dons Offred’s famous red gown for the first time

by Kayleigh Dray
05 Dec 2016

The Girl on the Train author, Paula Hawkins, is back with second book

In a Stylist.co.uk exclusive, here's everything you need to know

by Sarah Biddlecombe
29 Nov 2016

You can now spend the night in the world's first library hotel

Why not cosy up in your own book nook?

by Sarah Biddlecombe
29 Nov 2016

You can now read Jane Eyre in Charlotte Brontë’s own handwriting

A luxury edition of Brontë’s original manuscript has been reprinted.

by Moya Crockett
28 Nov 2016

Mary Berry to meet with ‘civilised’ bookworms who shun #BlackFriday

Forget #BlackFriday; Mary Berry is all about #CivilisedSaturday

by Kayleigh Dray
25 Nov 2016

10 beautiful books to buy as Christmas presents this season

by Scarlett Cayford
24 Nov 2016