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Sir Quentin Blake Interview: The Big Draw Festival

Sir Quentin encouorages people of all ages to draw...

Sir Quentin Blake, the artist whose illustrations adorn Roald Dahl’s children’s books, has spent over a decade committed to The Big Draw, a worldwide project in which museums and galleries offer a space for people of all ages to try their hand at drawing.

“The thing about children is that they draw anyway,” Blake says. “But when they get to 12 or 13, children get inhibited about drawing and they start to feel, perhaps, that other people do it better than they do, or that there should be some standard of photographic realism.”

The Big Draw provides free artistic equipment at its events, and as far as Blake is concerned, “With older children and adults, in a sense we don’t encourage them to draw, but tell them they are allowed to draw.”

Blake is giving Londoners permission to draw at the many Big Draw events across the capital this October. What’s more, the artist also has advice to share when it comes to illustrating books, saying that the perfect drawing should both compliment the text and contrast with it.

Sometimes, when there aren’t many drawings in books, you’re a discreet decoration, but in books where there are a lot of illustrations you’re sort of a double act with the author.”

It may be a team effort, but Blake reminds us that as far as book collaborations are concerned, “The author is the main character so you have to play up to him or her. A lot of thought goes into choosing which the right moments to ‘do’ are.”

Blake’s working relationship with author Roald Dahl demonstrates this nicely.  

“There’s a point in Matilda where Bruce Bogtrotter has eaten some chocolate cake and he’s going to be punished for it by Mrs Trunchbull, by eating the whole cake. He does so quite successfully and the horrible teacher is so cross with him that she picks up the plate and smashes it over his head. There, you draw the moment before, when she’s lifted up the plate, you don’t draw the bit where she’s smashed it over his head - because that’s the writer’s moment.”

Roald Dahl in particular, “saw the drawings as being part of what the book was doing.” With this author, “You never knew what was going to come next, each book wasn’t the same as the one that came before…”

A world famous illustrator, Blake has been responsible for some of the most iconic children’s book covers of our times: It can be very difficult because you need to make the book look interesting and to give some feeling of the atmosphere and flavour, but at the same time you don’t want to tell too much. It needs to stimulate your appetite without satisfying it.”

Blake created the book covers of our childhoods. Now he’s encouraging us to fill in the pages.

The Big Draw festival takes place 1 Oct - 2 November for an event in your area please click here