Dahl, the Champion of the World

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2016 marked 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl – the world’s number one storyteller.

Roald Dahl is one of the most popular children’s authors to have graced the earth in the 20th century. Originally from Norway, Dahl did not start off as an author, enlisting in the Royal Air Force at the beginning of the Second World War, aged only 23. He suffered severe injuries in a crash-landing, ending his fighting career, and beginning a journey as a spy for MI6. Despite these heroic experiences, Dahl’s early years are rarely talked about. A complete career change at the beginning of the 1960s brought Dahl’s name into the limelight.

From 1961 onwards, Roald Dahl produced works of literature virtually nonstop, right up until his death in 1990. His first book James and the Giant Peach, shortly followed by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, have remained his most popular to date. As well as writing 48 books, Dahl put his talent to use in the film industry, penning the screenplays for You Only Live Twice and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Since then, many of his children’s books have also been converted for the big screen, and, more recently, the stage.

But Dahl’s rise to fame was not only beneficial for himself, it resulted in the success of another famous name…

Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. – Roald Dahl, Matilda

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Recently exhibited at the British Library in honour of Dahl’s 100th birthday, Quentin Blake has become synonymous with the literary great. With a recognisable style, Blake provided illustrations for all Dahl’s children novels. Of the 300 illustrated books he has worked on, 89 of them belong to the esteemed author. So, it is no surprise that a Quentin Blake’s artwork instantly evokes fond memories of books from our childhoods.

Born in 1932, Quentin Blake cannot remember a time when he was not drawing. His illustration career began at age 16 when his drawings were published in an issue of Punch – a British weekly magazine of humour and satire. From here, Blake began to submit illustrations for many magazines, eventually receiving commissions to provide the imagery for a considerable number of authors.

Roald Dahl, as mentioned, was evidently the most famous of the authors Blake collaborated with, and was probably the highlight of his artistic career. Other well known names Blake has been associated with are: Joan Aiken, Michael Rosen and John Yeoman. However, being an illustrator was not the only career Blake had.

For over twenty years, Blake was a teacher – eight of which were spent as the Head of Illustration at the Royal College of Art. Balancing teaching and illustration must have been a challenge, but Blake undoubtedly rose to it, resulting in his success and fame. Since the death of the beloved Dahl – Blake’s biggest source of work – he changed direction yet again, becoming an exhibition curator for museums such as The National Gallery, Musée du Petit Palais, and, of course, the British Library.

Blake’s current exhibition at the British Library is titled The Roald Dahl Centenary Portraits, comprising ten never-seen-before portraits of famous characters from Dahl’s most famous stories. Each artwork remains true to form, remaining in the distinctive style that is inextricably linked with the all-time favourite author.

The Roald Dahl Centenary Project asks you to imagine that a number of Dahl’s characters have been invited to come and sit for their portrait … I hope you will be happy to see this group of well-known characters treated as though they are real people – which, of course, to many of us they are. – Quentin Blake

Quentin Blake has won numerous awards throughout his lifetime, including the Whitbread Award and the Kate Greenaway Medal. However Blake’s most prestigious award is his knighthood for ‘services to illustration’ in the New Year’s Honours for 2013 – so, that is SIR Blake to you!

Although we hope he will be around for many more years to come, Quentin Blake has definitely left us a legacy, not just with his illustrations, but his compassionate personality, which has lead to the development and support of many charities. Information about the charities he supports can be found in the following links: House of Illustration, The Campaign for Drawing, The Prince’s Foundation for Children and the Arts, The Nightingale Project, Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, The Book Bus, Farms for City Children and Survival International.

Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. – Roald Dahl, The Minpins

Ardizzone: A Retrospective

‘The supreme contemporary example of the genuine illustrator’
Maurice Sendak on Edward Ardizzone, 1967

At present, the House of Illustration, in London, is holding the first major exhibition in decades of the 20th century illustrator Edward Ardizzone (1900-79). From my own research, conducted when writing my dissertation in 2012, I was already aware of Ardizzone’s influence within children’s literature, however from attending the gallery, I soon learnt this was not his only area of authority.

Edward Ardizzone is known amongst children’s book illustrators as the creator of the Little Tim stories. These first appeared at the very end of the 1930s, however Ardizzone had already found success as an illustrator. Before turning to literature, Ardizzone’s art work featured in magazines such as Radio Times as well as a number of other publishers. Later in his career, Ardizzone was commissioned to produce cover art for a number of books published by Puffin. Books in this series included Stig of the Dump (1963) and The Otterbury Incident (1961).

Between 1940 and 1945, Ardizzone used the Second World War as a means of creating art. Using the same method as his book illustrations – pen and wash – Ardizzone continued to produce atmospheric illustrations, however with a more adult nature. Despite the subject matter, Ardizzone’s drawings look similar regardless of target audience. He got his inspiration from observing the world around him, closely looking at individuals and taking into account the changes current events inflicted on scenery (e.g. war).

What is perhaps most interesting about the exhibition, Ardizzone: A Retrospective, is perceiving the development of Ardizzone’s artistic skill and career path throughout his lifetime. The House of Illustration displays previously unseen original illustrations that Ardizzone composed toward the beginning of his art journey, as well as hundreds of other examples that reflect the diversity of his work. Amongst copies of well known posters and book covers, arranged around the gallery are initial sketches, caricatures and, rather surprisingly, the odd ceramic.

Edward Ardizzone appealed to me as an artist due to my love of 20th century picture books. After viewing the exhibition, I am even more impressed with his artwork as he proves that illustrations are not only for children. A clever drawing evokes more emotion than any photograph could.

Ardizzone: A Retrospective will be held at the House of Illustration until 22nd January 2017.

The Life of a Sketchbook

Sketchbook ˈskɛtʃbʊk/ noun a pad of drawing paper for sketching on.
I lost count the amount of times throughout school and college people asked if they could look through my sketchbook. I felt uncomfortable letting people flick through the pages for two reasons. 1. I did not believe I was any good at drawing. 2. I knew the contents of my sketchbooks were not what they were expecting to see. There seems to be a misunderstanding among non-artists that sketchbooks are full of perfect works of art, but this is not the case at all.
The purpose of a sketchbook, particularly when studying, is to document creative ideas. It is a private place for artists to record their thoughts and experiments before developing various versions of a particular concept. It is only after these stages have been completed that the final artwork is put together.
There is no right or wrong way to keep a sketchbook. Everyone works differently and find some methods more helpful than others. Some books may not contain any drawings at all but be filled with collage and inspiration from a number of resources, whereas others may be packed with rough illustrations and scribbled notes.
Steven Heller, an author of art and design books, has compiled together snapshots from professional artists’ and designers’ sketchbooks. It is interesting to see the methods they have taken to move their thoughts from brain to paper. Two books I particularly enjoyed looking through are Graphic and Typography Sketchbooks.
Inspired by these books I have taken photographs of a few of my own sketchbooks that I kept whilst studying for a degree in Graphic Design. As you can see below I did not stick to one method, instead I experimented with drawings, collage, paint, colour, rough thumbnail sketches etc.

Next time you ask to look at someone’s sketchbook remember you are not going to see perfect artwork. What you are really requesting is to take a peak into someone’s brain. So don’t be surprised if they hesitate to show you!

Who Says Pandas are All Black and White?

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Anne Belov is a satirical cartoonist with an obsession for pandas. She has published several books in The Panda Chronicles and has now produced a colouring book to go with the series. Pandas may seem like a peculiar subject for a colouring book since they are, as Belov puts it, “chromatically challenged,” however the world around them is bursting with different tints and shades.

The pandas featured in The Panda Chronicles are not the typical bears you might see in a zoo, or endangered in the wild. Anne Belov’s pandas get up to all sorts of mischief. In this colouring book you can expect to find pandas in all sorts of locations, wearing a variety of odd outfits, taking part in highly suspicious activities. So despite monochromatic fur, there is so much to add colour to.

The Panda Chronicles Colouring Book contains approximately 60 single sided illustrations. Although the paper feels quite thin, the lack of anything on the reverse means that it is safe to use any medium you wish to fill the drawing with colour.

Belov’s drawing approach is not the typical style of the hundreds of colouring books you see in stores – i.e. thick, precise lines and patterns. Belov sticks to her sketchy manner that she has used in all the chronicles thus far. In fact there is reason to believe (although do not quote this) that many of the illustrations are from the original books. While standing out in such a niche market, these particular pages may be more difficult to colour in. Some contain many scribbles rather than clear objects, however that does not detract from the overall fun guaranteed with this book.

Pandas in unconventional settings are a great cause for hilarity and satire. Not only is it funny that these bears are parodying human life, but the things they are up to are highly amusing. One particularly comical scene contains a mother panda telling her child off for being the cause of the LEANING Tower of Pisa, to which the youngster protests, “I didn’t do it! It was leaning when we got here!” The wittiness continues throughout the remainder of the book.

I bought this book hoping it would be suitable for my “pandamaniac” friend, who on occasion tells farcical stories about her (imaginary) friend Miss Panda. Anne Belov’s colouring book is the absolutely perfect present for her. It is almost as if the scenes are written/drawn about Miss Panda herself, despite the artist and my friend having never met… Unless… oh the horror! Maybe Miss Panda IS real!

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Where’s Wally? The Colouring Book

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                                              The ultimate colouring challenge!

Everyone knows who Wally is. Created by Martin Handford, Wally first appeared in the book Where’s Wally? in 1987, and has since become famous throughout the world. The aim of the book is to locate Wally and all of his friends in numerous crowded, hand-drawn scenes.

Whilst the colouring book franchise is taking the world by storm, what better time to release a Where’s Wally? colouring book? The idea is the same as the previous Handford publications, in that the ultimate aim is to find Wally; however in this instance it is also left up to you to add the colour to the scenes.

Where’s Wally? fans will recognize many of the drawings from the original books, and therefore will already know where Wally is hiding – but it is much harder to spot him without his traditional red and white stripes being shaded in.

There are twenty-seven double-paged scenes to colour in and keep you entertained for hours. Those familiar with Handford’s illustrations will be aware of the detail he includes; and yes, you are meant to colour ALL of it! This colouring book will definitely take you a while to complete. The downside to such detailed pages is that there are so many tiny elements to add colour to. You will need to keep your pencils sharpened and sit in a well-lit area.

The pages are quite thick, but as they are double sided I would be wary of using felt-tip pens. Perhaps test them on the title page first to make sure they do not bleed through to the other side. Also, only fine tipped pens will be suitable in order to stay within the lines.

Many people believe that colouring is childish, but this book proves otherwise. You will need lots of control and patience in order to finish this book. Good luck.

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Addicted to colouring as I am, I needed a book I could easily pack in my hand luggage when I went abroad. It needed to be light weight, paper back, and full of easy relaxing patterns.

colouring-book-resized3 In Tiger I came across this beautiful book for only £2. It contains 80 pages, double sided, which is more than enough to keep you occupied, but is still a thin, easily packable colouring book. It is approximately 22.2 x 22.2cm, still quite large, but a good size for my on-flight bag.

Pictured above are nine, completed, examples of the patterns and images included in this book. It does not reveal who the artist is, but presumably it has been put together by one person as the style remains consistent throughout.

I have to admit that a few of the designs are rather peculiar. Some have completely black backgrounds with a limited amount of sections to colour, whereas others have large white spaces. There are a few that contain actual images, for instance, animals, flowers, feathers, but most are patterns, some more random than others. I like colouring in patterns as I enjoy making my own rules when adding colours, however I have come across a couple that are rather uninspiring. The 8th image pictured above is an example of this. I am unsure of the artist’s intention.

What I like most about this book is the thick lines that help prevent smudges. They are a great guide to help you keep within the lines. This makes it a suitable book for children as well as adults, although whether a child would cope with the intricate patterns is a different issue.

Whether you are looking for a lightweight colouring book, or something cheap, I suggest you take a look in your local Tiger store and see what they have to offer. You are guaranteed a bargain. However, be aware that they change their stock often, so once they are gone they are gone!

 

 

Start Where You Are

A journal for self-exploration

Start Where You Are is a “self-help” journal put together by an American artist, Meera Lee Patel.It is a book that causes you to think and contemplate about your day, behaviour, life and dreams.

91i5z-42velMeera Lee has used her self-taught artistic talents to produce beautiful, hand-rendered typographic compositions for every page of the book. She has selected appropriate quotations that relate to a task she has set the reader on the facing page.

Most of the tasks throughout the book require the reader to think carefully and write down their answers. Each instruction is to help people sort through their true feelings and put their thoughts into some kind of order. For example: “What is something you wish you could leave behind?”

Although Start Where You Are has not (yet) be medically approved by mental health professionals, it contains a lot of deep, meaningful, assignments that can help you to learn more about your own insecurities, anxieties and depression. Meera Lee admits in her introduction that it took her a long time to be comfortable with her own life and spent a lot of time waiting for the future to arrive, but not really knowing how to get there. She discovered that in order to move forward she needed to find out who she really was, what was important to her, and what she wanted out of life. Meera Lee confesses that this is no easy task and warns that some questions within the book will be harder than others – but ultimately Start Where You Are will reveal your true personality, hopes and dreams, and convince you that life is not all doom and gloom.

There is no right or wrong way to complete this book. It is not a course or a linear activity, therefore there is no need to complete the pages in order. Some pages may feel too difficult, which is not a problem – the book’s purpose is not to cause stress – you can skip that task and come back to it when you are ready.

I have found Start Where You Are very interesting so far. I particularly enjoy reading the quotes included in the fantastic artwork. They are all positive and inspiring, showing the brighter side of life. As an artist, I have decided to also use this book as a way of practising my art skills. Recently art journal photographs that have appeared on Pinterest have been inspiring me to make my own. Instead of starting with a blank book I am using Meera Lee’s publication instead. On each page I complete the task given, but instead of merely writing my answers down, I display them in some sort of typographic or illustrative composition. So not only is Start Where You Are benefitting my mental health and thought processes, it is helping to improve my art skills too.

I highly recommend Start Where You Are for everyone feeling a little lost and unsure about the future. Whether you have been diagnosed with a mental disorder or are going through a low period of your life, this book is perfect for you to help pick yourself up again. But please remember this is not a form of therapy and is not going to “fix” you. It will either be a bit of fun or something insightful depending on how you approach it.