Sunday, 28 June 2009

An Afternoon with Quentin Blake


OK, that's a half-truth - I didn't meet him in person, but visited the new exhibition of his work with Roald Dahl:
Snozzcumbers and Frobscottle at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green.

I went with Maria Knudson, the curator of Giddy Goats and Dippy Dinosaurs, to gather last minute inspiration for our show. We travelled down separately, so I did more people sketching on the train, as you can see from the drawings above and below.

Apart from a couple of pages of original manuscript, poor Roald didn't didn't much of a look-in: Quentin Blake's wonderful drawings dominated.

I am always awe-struck by his ability to capture the essence of a character so simply, and his expert use of body language.

But the real magic is the way he retains a free, sketchy quality, through to the final artwork.

Interestingly, I also realised how how much his drawing style reminds me of Ronald Searle (right). Searle was a massive childhood influence on me, along with the great Ralph Steadman (below). I just love the scratchy, anarchic pen and ink work.

I liked the way Blake's drawings were surface mounted, so you could see little notes in corners, where the paper was torn or thumbed, bits of masking tape etc.

My only criticism of the show, was that it wasn't that good for kids. Given how small the drawings are, work was framed too high on the walls, and there was lots of empty space that could have been more interactive. A big stuffed BFG was striking, but not much good to play with.

The museum's regular collection was fascinating. It was a baking hot day and we were melting, but couldn't tear ourselves away from the most extraordinary collection of dolls houses you ever saw...

Afterwards, with a couple of hours to kill, I pottered round Covent Garden and treated myself to a new dress and these shocking pink pumps. I sketched them on the train home when everyone else got off at Nottingham, and I was all there was left to draw!



SarahGaunt said...

Absolutely amazing drawings here! Totally love your work. I love Quentin Blake too he's a genious :D

Ira Robbins said...


I really enjoy these sketches with the text.
The tints really work too!

Kate MacRae said...

Do the people you sketch ever get in contact saying, 'Hey that's me!'????
Your sketches are just amazing.... do you never put your pencil down?

Jill said...

Thanks for this glimpse into your world - your sketch book work is inspiring...thank goodness you make mistakes too!

Faeblood said...

you need post a guide to drawing people spy style... is your sketch pad disuised as a newspaper? do you choose your targets by distance?
Im terrible i get caught or the people seem to sense my eyes and focus and figet and move like crazy...
p.s is it normal to feel like an alien body/soul snatcher when drawing people unaware.. trapping them in your books for all.. forever muhuhahahahahar..
well enougth of my silly side keep up to great blog!

Nicola said...

Wow your sketches on the train are amazing!!!!! I love Quentin Blake he's one of my favourite illustrators that would have been a fun interesting day!!!

Lynne Chapman said...

Thanks again guys.

No, nobody has ever spotted themselves retros[ectively, but that would be SO brilliant!

Faeboold - my trick is to sit at a seat with a table, put my bag on the table and my sketchbook just below. If people catch my eye while I'm drawing them, I pretend to be studiously drawing something else for a while to trick them into false reassurance - sneaky huh?

Jessie said...

Great tip Lynne! ;]
Ronald Searle is one of my favourites too and I nearly bought some shoes exactly like those but they didn't have my size so I bought the bright turquoise ones instead!x

Veronica said...

Mmmm, yup Ralph Steadman, me too, I'm currently coveting a Ralph Steadman screenprint of Hunter S. Thompson on the Peacock Printmakers website... a snip at £525 (if only I could justify it!).

Loving the sketches, wish I had the courage to do it. I'll have to wear my glasses though - peering at folk like a blinking mole might be a give away!

Lynne Chapman said...

I think glasses might help actually - maybe detract from your eyes a little? Unfortunately my glasses are bright pink, which doesn't help with the whole 'blending into the background' thing!