'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 21 February 2014

Review: Beyond the Page

One of my favourite illustrators is Quentin Blake. His work is colourful, quirky, expressive, and distinctively unique. His pen and ink artworks, which are sometimes black and white, but more often brightly coloured, appeals to something in me that I can’t quite put my finger on. His observation and pictorial commentary of animals and people at work and play, often depicts unusual or surprisingly juxtaposed characters and situations.

This book complements another called Words and Pictures, which was first published in 2001, and more recently in paperback for the first time. Although perhaps best known as a book illustrator, Quentin Blake has had a broad-ranging career and been featured in numerous exhibitions. He was Britain’s first Children’s Laureate, has been awarded much international recognition for his work (the Kate Greenaway Award, Whitbread Medal, Hans Christian Andersen Award and others), and in 2013 received a knighthood.

Words and Pictures, looked at Blake’s work over his first 50 years as an artist. Beyond the Page looks at his work since then, including that displayed in public spaces. There are copious visual examples of artwork, including some which are perhaps not so obviously ‘Quentin Blake’ because they use different techniques. There is also a heap of commentary from Blake himself, explaining approaches and development. It’s just like Quentin Blake is sitting down talking to you about what he does, and giving his opinion on topics like being an artist and storytelling. Art students will surely find plenty of advice and lots to inspire them.

Working relationships and friendships with people like Michael Morpurgo, Russell Hoban, Daniel Pennac and others are covered, as is the “re-enhancement” of Roald Dahl books and associated items like a set of stamps. Blake also discusses the creation - and curation - of exhibitions, and public art projects like a set of illustrated deck chairs for Royal Parks, The Book Bus in Zambia and Ecuador, and a large panorama for the 800th anniversary of Cambridge University. The book concludes with two chapters dedicated to his hospital projects - illustrated walls - about which he says it’s impossible not to hope that the pictures will have some kind of therapeutic effect.

In reading Beyond the Page I discovered many facets of Quentin Blake which I wasn’t aware of, and lots about how the art world works. It gives anyone - be they lovers of picture books, illustration, or art in general - a fascinating insight into the work of one of England’s, and the world’s, most beloved artists.

Make sure to visit Quentin Blake’s website for more information and fun stuff, too.

Title: Beyond the Page
Author/Illustrator: Quentin Blake
Publisher: Tate Publishing, $35 RRP
Publication Date: December 2013
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781849761505
For ages: 15+
Type: Non-fiction