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Interview with Quentin Blake

Quentin Blake lives and works in London, Hastings and the South West of France. He first had drawings published when he was still at school. He has worked on over 200 books, sometimes as illustrator and sometimes as the writer too. In 1999, with the help of children from over 24 schools all over Britain, Quentin was selected to be the first Children's Laureate. The children submitted a long list of questions for Quentin, here are his answers to a few of them.

Your illustrations are very recognisable. What made you illustrate the way you do?

I am not really quite sure why I draw the way I do. It may be because I didn’t go to an art school, except for part-time lessons when I was already over twenty. But I don’t think that can be the whole explanation. It’s a kind of handwriting, and it does actually look rather like my handwriting. Did you first start to like books because of the words or the pictures? Do you like writing as much as drawing and painting? In ‘Clown’ you didn’t use words at all. Do you think stories can be told as well without words?

I also enjoy writing words; though I think that sometimes it’s possible to tell a story entirely in pictures, as in Clown. One interesting thing about that is that it gives the reader the opportunity to invent words and I think it encourages you to think about, and perhaps discuss, what actually is going on and what the characters are thinking and feeling.

When we read we make up pictures in our heads. Do you think having lots of pictures in a book helps that or stops it happening?

This raises a very interesting question. With my pictures, what I hope is that it encourages the reader to imagine more pictures of his own. But sometimes what the writer is putting into your head is so rich and visual that much in the way of illustration is superfluous. Probably you know the answer to this question (though I don’t think there is only one answer) better than I do.

How did you feel when they announced the winner of the Children’s Laureate? Will it help your work or get in the way? What do you want to be able to do now that you are Children’s Laureate?

When I was told that I was winner of the Children’s Laureate I experienced quite a variety of thoughts and feelings. It was very gratifying to think that a lot of people (like you) really did like what I had done - it was an unmistakable sign of something that it is very difficult to imagine from inside yourself. At the same time I was aware of the problem (so are the organisers of the Laureateship) that, if I am not careful, it might distract me from the work of creating more books, which is what I do best. However, for a long time I was a teacher of illustration at The Royal College of Art, so I know something about how to do two jobs at once; and I hope that during my two years I shall be offered, or find, ways to encourage people to discuss words and pictures and the way they go together; and generally to rate children’s books at their true value.

Have you any advice you can give us?

Well, difficult; because everyone is different. But I do know that, whether it is writing or drawing, you have to do a lot of it, and keep on doing it - that is the way to improvement. And don’t wait for inspiration, just start. Inspiration is some mysterious blessing which happens when the wheels are turning smoothly.

At the moment I am at work on a book about my work and the way I do it. When it comes out - it won’t be before September 2000, I’m afraid - you may find in it more extended answers to your questions; I will try to make sure they are there!

Thank you very much Quentin Blake!

Read more interviews of leading authors by children.

YoungWriter was a magazine published from 1995 to 2003 by Kate Jones.
We here at Myst Ltd had the pleasure of producing the magazine for Kate.
Sadly, Kate passed away in 2010.