November 16, 2009
Date of Birth:
Quentin Blake was born in Sidcup, Kent, England, on the 16 December 1932
Quentin Blake draws his inspiration from everyday life situations and objects. Most of his illustrations involve real world objects so drawing from the real world makes sense. He does have an amazing imagination, and this can be seen in his book The Life of Birds. In this book he transforms birds into human personalities, and illustrates them in such a way that is recognizable to us. For example, there are birds in suits and ties, birds at hairdressers and children birds playing in the street. The creativity behind these characters is amazing, and the fact that he can draw them in such a way and with such energy is outstanding.
Blake did not study art full time, but only part time for 2 years so as to improve his drawing and painting skills.
Works of Note:
He has been responsible for amazing characters such as the BFG, Matilda, Mister Magnolia and Mrs. Armitage. To date he has illustrated over 300 books with some extremely well known authors, most notably Roald Dahl. Although he is best known for illustrating children’s books, Blake was also a professor, and head of the Illustration department at the Royal College of Art.
His favorite bird is a heron, which appears a lot in his drawings, aside many other birds.
In April 1999, Quentin Blake was awarded the first ever Children’s Laureate , which is a British award given once every two years to an illustrator or writer to celebrate outstanding achievement.
His first Illustrations were published at the age of 16 in Punch.
Examination of Materials:
When illustrating a book Quentin Blake tries to stick as close to the text as possible, he believes that the text should lead the way, not the pictures. He tries to work as closely with the author as possible to create a set of good images to be used in the book. Quentin Blake is known for his quick, loose style, which can give the impression of him not taking long to do his illustrations at all, however, it is quite the opposite. There is a huge amount of planning that goes into each of his works, and many discarded roughs. Once he has a rough that he likes, and plans on using, he puts it on a light box, and over that he places a sheet of watercolor paper. It is important for him not to be able to see the rough drawing too clearly, as he does not want to trace it, but simply wants to draw it again, with the elements of the rough being in the same place on the finished drawing.
This is a career-defining image from Quentin Blake’s career. It is a picture of the Big Friendly Giant holding the little girl from the story. Here we can see his great use of watercolor, from choice of color to technique. In this particular drawing he uses the technique of the rough on a light box under watercolor paper, then waterproof black ink for the outlines, and from there he moves onto the color. The colors used in this piece are very friendly, and while not too bright, they are intense enough to grab the attention of any child. Here we can see his ability to create friendly characters that children adore, a huge, friendly giant, and a small, little girl in a night gown with large glasses. All in all, a very successful illustration for this book.
– Mike Lawrence, Spring 2009
Quentin Blake Official Website, “About Quentin Blake,” Quentin Blake Official Website,
Children’s Laureate, “About the Award”, Children’s Laureate Official Website,
Quentin Blake Official Website, “Interview,” Quentin Blake Official Website,