Sunday, 18 July 2010

Biographical Background on Quentin Blake (Podcast)

Quentin Blake was born in 1932 in Sidcup in Kent and started drawing when he was a young child as most of us did (Blake, 2008, Meet Quentin Blake, ¶ 1 & 9 ). As a young teen, Blake was inspired to submit drawings to the publication Punch by his Latin teacher’s husband, who was also an artist and a man he looked up to (Jefferies, 2007). When Quentin Blake was 16 years old one of his illustrations was accepted by Punch and he became a published illustrator. Later, although he loved drawing and was making a meagre living at it, he decided to attend Downing College at Cambridge to study English rather than study art. “I knew I wanted to be an artist and that I would have to train, but I thought that if I went to art school I would never go to a university, whereas if I did go to university I would still have the option of doing art," Blake notes to interviewer Stuart Jefferies in an article that appeared in the Guardian in 2008. After he finished at Cambridge he went to London University where he studied Education for a year. It was only after this that he enrolled at Chelsea school of Art and began to study art.

Quentin Blake has managed to keep his private life private and all that is really know about his personal life is that he never married and never had children of his own. He says, “I tend to approach the subject of children's books as a teacher rather than a parent. In other words, I try to identify with the children in the books rather than look upon them as a benevolent adult,” (Jefferies, 2007)

He began illustrating children’s books when he convinced his friend John Yeoman to write a book so that he could illustrate it (Blake, 2008, Meet Quentin Blake, ¶ 14). Throughout his career as an illustrator Blake also taught at the Royal College of Art and was head of the Illustration Department from 1978 to 1986 (Blake, 2008, Biography, ¶ 2). In 1968, Patrick was published, which was Quentin Blake’s first children’s book that he both wrote and illustrated. He wrote this book so that he could incorporate colour into his illustrations because prior to that he was seen as a black and white illustrator (Blake, 2008, Meet Quentin Blake, ¶ 15).

Quentin Blake has written or illustrated over 300 books, 323 to be exact, for adults and children and has formed lasting and memorable partnerships with, authors such as John Yeoman, Joan Aiken, Russell Hoban, Michael Rosen and of course Roald Dahl (Blake, 2008, Biography ¶ 3) . Blake first met Roald Dahl in 1975 when he was commissioned to work on the Enormous Crocodile, leading to many other famous collaborations including The BFG. To see a complete bibliography of works illustrated or written by Quentin Blake go to .

In his work as an illustrator he has received many awards and honours including the “Kate Greenaway Medal (1980) and the Red House Children's Book Award (1981) for Mister Magnolia; the Kurt Maschler Award (1990) for All Join In; the Bologna Ragazzi Prize (Italy) and the Nestl√© Smarties Book Prize (Bronze Award) (both 1996) for Clown; and the Kurt Maschler Award and Nestl√© Smarties Book Prize (Bronze Award) (both 1998) for The Green Ship,” (The Children’s Laureate, 2008, ¶ 5). In 2002 he was awarded the Hans Christian Anderson Award for Illustration. Blake has also been recognized by both Great Britain and France. He was awarded the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1988 and the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2005 (Children’s Laureate, 2008, ¶ 7 & 13). He also received “the 'Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres' [from] the French Government for services to literature and in 2007 he was made Officier in the same order,” (Blake, 2008, Biography, ¶ 5). In 1999 Blake was chosen as the first Children’s Laureate and has since been employed as an exhibition curator for many museums including the National Gallery and the British Library (Blake, 2008, Biography, ¶ 4). He still illustrates children’s books, his most recent collaboration being Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy by Michael Rosen, which was published in 2006.

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