by Vicki Palmquist
I’ve been savoring Quentin Blake: Beyond the Page (Tate Publishing, 2012), a book that is replete with photos, illustrative art, and all the many ways Mr. Blake’s art has adorned many aspects of life “beyond the page.”
In his own voice, we hear of the places illustration has taken him. With something near a state of wonder, Mr. Blake reflects on all the ways illustrative art can be transformed. He talks about the manner in which illustrations are often dismissed by fine art connoisseurs because they merely serve the story. Yet his own art puts the lie to that pejorative thinking.
His art is everywhere: greeting cards, mugs, scarves, t‑shirts, wallpaper, fabric (his art has become toile!), linens, and even a book bus.
Mr. Blake talks about his thought process for creating wall-sized murals for hospitals, something he has done often. Reminiscing about his work at the Kershaw Ward for elderly residential patients, “they [trees] also indicated that we were in a not quite parallel real world where a certain vivacity of movement reflects, I hope, the mental enthusiasm of my spectators.” His older people engage in youthful activities, something every older person understands immediately.
Widely read, trained originally to be a professor of literature, Mr. Blake has traveled widely, accepted challenges that have broadened his life and art, and he shares his enthusiasm for living.
This is not a book to be relished by children, but rather adults. The selected art illustrates Mr. Blake’s musings, enriching our understanding of what it takes to be a world-famous illustrator.
When you see the art for Roald Dahl’s books, you most certainly know Quentin Blake’s work. I found it enlightening to read, “I have at one time or another illustrated all of Roald’s books, with one exception, and the canon is effectively closed. We know who the characters are, we are acquainted with the accepted image of each character — this is one of the advantages which was no doubt foreseen in Penguin Books’ initiative to get all the books illustrated by the same person.” (page 136)
There are many styles of art in these pages beyond those fine and sketchy line drawings, brightly colored, that we associate with the Dahl books. It is the depth of his work and his willingness to share his perception of what he creates that make this a Literary Madeleine. I will pull this off the shelf whenever I want to take a journey with a master. Lucky me! When you read this, lucky you! (My copy was a gift, but you can find this book in both hardcover and paperback.)