The Big Draw during October is the world’s biggest drawing festival for anyone who loves to draw, as well as those who think they can’t! With thousands of enjoyable, and mainly free, drawing activities.
Sir Quentin Blake is one of Britain’s best-loved and most successful illustrators and children’s authors. He has illustrated over 300 books with a range of writers, most famously of all, Roald Dahl. Here he gives any young illustrators some insights into how he draws.
Do you identify strongly with your characters as you draw them? What you really do when you start to draw is you imagine that you are that person and you go into the reactions you think you would be having. I find myself doing the faces as I’m drawing them.
What do you like drawing best? I like drawing anything that is doing something. I like activity. Dragons are good because you can arrange them in interesting ways across the page, get people to ride on them, that sort of thing. Most animals are interesting to draw. Cars are difficult unless they are a bit broken down.
Do you draw with anything except pencils and pen-nibs? I do drawings with quills sometimes, and several years ago I produced a set of drawings of birds and animals drawn with their quills: a picture of a turkey drawn with a turkey quill, a vulture with a vulture quill, and so on. ‘The porcupine’ was the most unusual one of the set! Possibly the strangest thing I’ve used is a plastic toothpick (which I used to draw an illustration for the cover of ‘Punch’ in 1957) but it achieved the effect I wanted.
How do you paint an effective sky in your pictures? Mostly I use watercolour. The way I do it is to get a big wet brush and make splodgy marks where I want the sky or clouds to go. Then I paint into that with either blue – for the sky – or some other dark colours for clouds; if you do that you can see that it goes soft and runny at the edges.
Which part of a drawing do you start with? I probably start with a nose, or a gestture – if someone is throwing something, for example. This is because facial expressions and gestures are the most difficult to get right; and I build the rest of the drawing around that. The studio is full of discarded pieces of paper with unfinished faces, or hands and arms, and nothing else!
Do you keep imagery around you to reference in your work? It’s important to me not to have any imagery in the studio. The walls are white. It is my job to imagine whatever it is I am drawing. In the same way, I have only ever drawn from live models during Life Classess when I studied part-time at Chelsea School of Art. Everything I draw now comes from my own imagination.
Find out more about Sir Quentin Blake on his website.