Dahl, the Champion of the World

16423_image_09600394x222109600788x444296099990674x3801960999901348x7602_7190_

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

clown

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

Advertisements

So you think you can’t draw?

“I can’t draw” is the biggest lie I have ever heard. I believe everyone can draw. To draw simply means (according to dictionary.com) to sketch in lines or words. Can you hold a pencil? Can you make a mark on a piece of paper with said pencil? Can you write your name? Congratulations, you can draw.

What many people actually mean when they claim “I can’t draw” is: “I cannot produce a 100% accurate representation of an object as precisely as a camera can.” I admit that some artists amaze me with their photographic-like drawings, but that does not mean that those who cannot achieve the same standard are unable to draw.

Think of the picture books or cartoons from your childhood. Did you look at them and say “those do not look realistic – the artist cannot draw”? Some illustrators earn money for producing scribbles or messy artwork that, although may not be accurate in terms of proportion, scale and so forth, are perfect in their own unique way.

Let’s take Sir Quentin Blake as an example of illustration. Nearly everyone must be familiar with Blake’s artwork thanks to the numerous book written by Roald Dahl. Blake, now 84, has been drawing for as long as he can remember and was the head of the Illustration department at the Royal College of Art for over two decades.

Blake creates simple pen drawings and adds colour with water based paints. None of his finished creations resemble photographs; none of them are perfectly proportional and anatomically correct. Does that mean he can’t draw?

Another illustrator, Lauren Child has won the Kate Greenaway Medal for her creation of children’s characters Charlie and Lola. As well as using aspects of collage and photography, Child also produces simple pen drawings and colours them in. Her characters do not have necks and have incorrectly placed facial features. So that means, despite her awards, she can’t draw either, right?

There are numerous other illustrators who have similar drawing styles. Are you going to accuse them of not being “real” artists?

Beatrice Alemagna, Yann Kebbi, Claudia Boldt, David Mckee, David Hughes, John Burningham, Satoshi Kitamura, Edward Bawden, André François, Susan Einzig, Kathleen Hale…

Now, some of you are probably thinking “but these are children’s illustrators; they are meant to look like that.” However there are “adult” illustrators who are not producing “perfect” drawings either:

Jasper Goodall, Andrew Zbihlyj, Lucinda Rogers, Gary Taxali, Astrid Chesney, Spencer Wilson, Simone Lia, Sara Finelli…

So, you might not have the skill to make a career as a portrait painter, but it is not your ability that is the problem here. The only thing stopping you from believing you can draw is your constant comparison to perfectionistic art styles. That stickman you’ve drawn? He could become a £1000 cartoon. Believe in yourself. You CAN draw!