Artist Sunday 6: Sir Quentin Blake

Quentin Blake was born in the suburbs of London in 1932 and has drawn ever since he can remember.

I think that the very first book I fully read in English was Roald Dahl’s “The Twits”, illustrated by Quentin Blake. Our class library was full of Dahl’s books, and by the end of my second year in that English school I had read all of them. And they were all illustrated in the same simple yet very expressive style. I didn’t appreciate it much back then, I was somewhere around ten at the time, but Dahl’s stories tied in so tightly with it for me, that when years later I saw a Roald Dahl’s book illustrated by another artist, it felt weird and just plain wrong.

quentin_blake1
Sir Quentin Blake illustration

Here’s Quentin Blake’s official site: https://www.quentinblake.com/
I strongly urge you to check it out, it’s a delightful treasure trove of his lovely drawings and information!  I especially liked his work process description, where he explains how he gets the hastily scribbled down look, and I kind of wish I had read it before attempting to copy his style for today’s exercise!

quentin_blake2
Sir Quentin Blake illustration

The complex simplicity of his drawings astonishes me. Looking at his work growing up I stupidly thought that if I ever felt like it, I could easily draw like that!
Interestingly enough, I wasn’t the only one who thought that.

A couple of years ago my mother gifted me one of the very few Terry Pratchett books that I haven’t already read called “Truckers”. Boy was I surprised when I noticed the illustrator’s name, after finishing the book. Not for a second did I doubt that it was indeed Sir Quentin Blake that did the quirky drawings throughout the book, and when I glanced at the back and saw that the cover illustration was done by Mark Beech, I scratched my head and went to clear things up in Google.

Here’s what some of Mark Beech’s work looks like:

Mark Beech illustrations
Mark Beech illustrations

Here’s his website: http://markbeechillustration.format.com/

I have somewhat mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, Mr. Beech’s illustrations are a joy to look at, and I’m sure that throughout the years of drawing in this style he brought his own additions and changes to it, it’s just that I’m unable to see any of that. All I see is a copy, albeit a very good one, of the artist I’ve grown to admire and cherish. It’s as if I was somehow tricked, although when I turn my brain back on, I struggle to understand why it makes me feel so negative. Logically, more people drawing in this style means that there are more wonderful pictures to look at and learn from.
Googling the issue further, I didn’t find any comments by Mark Beech on the issue, and I didn’t see him mention Quentin Blake as an inspiration or teacher, but maybe I didn’t look in the right places. The only mentions of Blake in connection to Beech’s work was in numerous reader reviews, where they expressed surprise (and sometimes shock) at the similarity between the two artists’ styles.

All of this gives me many a thing to ponder on while I continue to paint the nursery. At first I thought that I should just add the part about Mark Beech and end the post with some philosophical question about copying art, but then I decided that today shouldn’t be an exception to my Artist Sunday copy exercise, and here are a few sketches I did:

Untitled

I first drew Willy Wonka in pencil. Quickly realizing my mistake, I switched to my feather quill and ink and did the rest, and they turned out a little bit better. But my inner 10-year-old-self still got a lesson in humility: it is anything but easy to draw like Quentin Blake, which is only expected, considering his years and years of experience!

So I thought I should end the post here. My husband handed me a moody Eli who wanted things, it was getting late… So I very quickly scribbled today’s comic page, and I already regret doing it in such a hurry, as my homage to one of my favourite illustrators turned out rather horridly:

Untitled

I then wondered if sneaking Dish into the photo would improve it, and sadly, it didn’t 😦
Untitled

What do you guys think? Is it okay to completely copy and work in someone else’s style as long as you’re not directly copying already existing images? To the point where people mistake one for the other? Is it a lot more common and accepted in the industry than a noob like myself is aware of? What are your general feelings and thoughts on the issue?

10 thoughts on “Artist Sunday 6: Sir Quentin Blake

  • It did (improve!) Don’t be hard on yourself, the drawing itself is not that bad, but Dish fits into the picture!
    And – it’s heartwarming to see some Blake at your blog! I want to see more of those Blake-like sketches! (before I answer anything – plagiarism or not…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meh, the drawing isn’t any good, which is expected under the circumstances I drew it in, but is still a bummer. I’m thinking I’ll redo it at some point, it can only improve 😀 And Dish fits everywhere! She’s the ultimate fitting kitty 😀
      I’d love to know your opinion on the plagiarism related issues, I also feel another post incoming soon on a very similar subject 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  • Your sketches show exactly what I love about copying art – even when I try, I can’t exactly do it, but what I end up with gives me a little more information about what my true art is like.

    I know, though, that if everyone commented that my art looked like Josephina Fabulous Artist’s work, I’d feel I’d failed to get my personal message across.

    Great post. Great sketches. Great questions. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you!
      Copying someone else’s work is a wonderful learning experience as long as one approaches the process thoughtfully! I suppose you can also learn something even if you blatantly trace, but it’ll be considerably less effective.
      I suppose if someone told me that my art looks exactly like an artist’s that I admire I’d probably feel really flattered for the first few minutes, and then start analyzing where I went wrong!

      Like

  • Both of the artists are fantastic. I love the whimsy in their work!

    You pose an interesting question. Is it OK to emulate another artists style? I think it is, as long as you’re learning from it and/or making your own work out of it. A lot of artists will look back at Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Picasso, Van Gough, and countless other masters to emulate and learn from their work.

    I think it only becomes a problem if you’re stealing their work and calling it your own.

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Learning from the masters is an important part of any artist’s path, I totally agree with you there. I am curious to know what you mean by “stealing their work” though, because various artists see that very differently!

      Like

      • Yeah, you’re right not everyone views it the same. If you’re directly copying a specific piece of work ie. the colors, composition, characters, I don’t think that’s OK. If you admire their work and copy elements from it I think that’s totally fine.

        There are a lot of artists who copy the “Disney” style. There are some who directly copy the characters and sell their art. I don’t think is OK, but there are plenty who have are obviously influenced by the style, and make their own characters and compositions

        It can be hard to say. It’s not a black and white subject at all ^_^

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh isn’t it frustrating how many shades of different colours there seem to be on the subject? It seems that fanart and drawing established characters is the way to go to gain a fanbase/following (considering you draw it well, of course) and I see so many artists doing just that! And making a profit off it too… which confuses me because these same artists get super defensive and aggressive if someone else copies and draws THEIR characters, same way to draw Disney’s/Marvel’s/ect… And while the official, legal statement on all “fanart” like pictures is DON’T DO IT (to be on the safest side possible) thousands of artists are still trying to squeeze through that door.. but hey, I’m starting to ramble, and this is a whole different subject 🙂 Thank you for the detailed reply!

        Like

      • I agree it can be frustrating. It’s so tempting to make fanart because you know you’ll get a following, but I want to respect other people’s work.

        It can also be frustrating as a consumer. I want awesome t-shirts and pictures from shows and movies I like, but I don’t want to support copyright infringement. But on the other hand the companies who make those shows and movies make very generic looking merchandise!

        Anyway, I’m starting to rant. That’s a whole ‘nother discussion. ^_^ haha. and no problem! Thanks for the chat!

        Liked by 1 person

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