spotted: Quentin Blake in Cambridge

Quentin Blake is most definitely one of my alltime favourite illustrators. As a child I devoured all Roald Dahl’s books. I feel this is not only Dahl’s merit. Blake’s drawings are essential to Roald Dahl’s colourful stories. I truly admire how he is able to grasp a character with only a few strokes.

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A few years back I watched a documentary about him. I wish I hadn’t… It ruined the magic in a way. (If you’re a big Quentin Blake fan too and you don’t want to risk ruining the magic then don’t watch the video below and stop reading.)


I’d always loved the spontaneousness of his drawings, little did I know … Blake says to do ‘a freewheeling sort of drawing that looks as though it is done on the spur of the moment. However even a single drawing needs a certain amount of preparation and planning’. I have to admit his lightbox technique is really genius, and actually I often use a similar technique. In a way, I’m also glad he shared his working method. In my magic fairytale-version of reality I assumed that this genius drew his drawings with his eyes closed. Now I’ve learned that also a genius has to put time and effort into his illustrations for them to excel, which is a comfort to a hobbyist like me.


Anyway, I was in Cambridge in April and I couldn’t believe my luck. There was an exhibition titled ‘Drawn by Hand’ that looked at individual works he had produced in the past decade: book illustrations, etchings, lithographs, drawings and works done for hospitals in various and contrasting media. The work was accompanied by a display of pens, brochures, inks, watercolours, quills and other materials from the artists studio. Nele accompanied me, and I don’t know about her, but I had a field day.





Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

June 18, 2013 at 12:13 am

I visited the exhibition too, it was amazing! I’ve since bought some inks..I haven’t used them since a very brief dabble, 20 years ago, but I was inspired to have a go. Thanks to your lovely post, I’ve just remembered I have them! 🙂

June 21, 2013 at 9:16 am

Thanks! I love drawing with Daler & Rowney inks as well. I’d say: go for it!

Joe Nevin
September 9, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Great post, Jane (Jaane). I also admire Quentin Blake’s drawing style. I happen to do some pen and ink and have been trying recently to loosen up my drawing again.

One of the most interesting things I spotted – you may have too – is that in one of his videos he uses a watercolour brush that is slightly mop-like. I tried this and it has really helped loosen things up as well as speed them up for me.

PS really like your woodblock style logo on your site.

September 9, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Thanks, Joe! I see that you’ve been having a lot of fun with pen and ink. Looks really nice!
The stamp is actually carved out of a piece of rubber. Cuts like butter! You should try it. It’s really easy to do.

Joe Nevin
September 12, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Thanks for the tip about the logo – I would never have thought of that.

And thanks for looking at the website. I’ve been experimenting with different paper as well as pens and will put the results up soon.

It seems that for things to become effortless you really have to put in a lot of effort…but you knew that already.