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?

More

Mr. Men and Little Miss have been given an hilarious adult update

Little Miss Shy is taking to Tinder...

by Amy Swales
19 Oct 2017

Philip Pullman interview: author finally reveals inspiration for Lyra

His Dark Materials author speaks to Stylist.co.uk about his new trilogy

by Francesca Brown
19 Oct 2017

Why Instagram poet Rupi Kaur credits her success to female friendship

“I want women to feel powerful in their own skin when they read my work.”

by Sarah Biddlecombe
13 Oct 2017

“Why the world doesn’t need a retelling of 50 Shades - especially now”

Is Fifty Shades empowering or dangerous?

12 Oct 2017

There’s a new Fifty Shades book on the way – with a twist

We'll finally learn what Christian was thinking in Fifty Shades Darker...

by Megan Murray
10 Oct 2017

Reese Witherspoon wants you to read these 5 brilliant books

Here are the five female writers she’s championed in recent months

by Susan Devaney
10 Oct 2017

Ladybird releases hilarious grown-up guide to dealing with a breakup

Heartbroken? You need this

by Sarah Biddlecombe
06 Oct 2017

The first look at Fantastic Beasts 2 has arrived

Muggles, assemble

by Susan Devaney
06 Oct 2017

10 must-read books for October

From short stories to epic journeys

by Sarah Shaffi
29 Sep 2017

Feminist publishers are binning manuscripts addressed to ‘Dear sirs’

"People have to stop thinking there are no consequences to being sexist."

by Moya Crockett
29 Sep 2017