Home Kent News The Kent illustrator that brought Roald Dahl’s books to life

The Kent illustrator that brought Roald Dahl’s books to life

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Original article from Kent Live

Sir Quentin Blake may well be one of the greatest illustrators in British literary history, and though the name likely rings a bell, it might take you a little while to remember where you know his name from.

Bringing the imaginations of kids up and down the country to life is no small task, yet Blake's unique style captured that very sense of childish wonder, making him a nostalgic yet often-forgotten part of our childhoods.

He has received some of the highest accolades an illustrator can earn, including the Hans Christian Andersen award, given to artists and authors who's works have "made an important, lasting contribution to children's literature."

According to The Bookseller, long-time collaborator with Blake, Roald Dahl, has sold an estimated 200 million copies of his work, most if not all of which were illustrated by the Sidcup-born artist, from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory to the BFG.

Blake's depiction of Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is amongst his most iconic works.

As Blake was a Kent man born and bred, it is a genuine surprise that he isn't one of our better known public figures, and his life is more than deserving of a recap for those who recognise his art, but never knew the man behind the magic.

Now 88, Blake was born in 1932 in Sidcup, attending Holy Trinity Lamorbey primary school, before attending Chislehurst & Sidcup grammar school, where he found his love of literature through his English teacher.


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Curiously, however, there's not all that much in the town commemorating his seismic impact on British children's literature.

In fact, the handful of mentions Blake gets around Sidcup are predominantly restricted to the schools he attended, which makes sense but is hardly befitting of the man who illustrated for Roald Dahl, who's books have sold over 200 million copies.

Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar school, which Blake attended in his teens, has an art building named in his honour, and has previously exhibited some of his work at The Curve art gallery.

Beyond illustrating books, Blake has contributed to murals, TV shows and has donated several works to hospitals in support of the NHS.

Holy Trinity Lamorbey have really captured the whimsy of Blake's drawing, moving a double decker bus on to their playing fields, and converting it into the "QB" library and reading garden.

The reading space, installed in 2017, features entirely new pieces of Blake's art, which he donated as a way of giving back to the school he attended over 80 years ago.

He has also since returned to Sidcup in 2015, making a speech about his childhood and memories of the town in conjunction with the nearby Rose Bruford College drama school, where he is an honorary fellow.

He described the experience as "a pleasure," though it appears this may have been his last in-person visit to Kent.

His legacy as an artist speaks for itself.

His ties to Roald Dahl are well known, giving form to James and the Giant Peach, The Witches and Matilda, his basic vision laying the groundwork for the litany of adaptations of Dahl's work that would grace the silver screen and stages across the world.

A sketch Blake produced for Matilda, a book that went on to receive feature film and stage adaptations, both of which were clearly visually inspired by Blake's illustrations.

Less well known though, are his ties to other iconic literary minds like Dr. Seuss, poet Sylvia Plath and even David Walliams, for whom Blake illustrated a number of titles.

The Kent-born illustrator received a knighthood in 2013 for his services to art and literature, as well as in recognition of the art he has donated and contributed to museums, hospitals and art galleries across the country.

Truly one of Kent's most oft-forgotten greats, Quentin Blake is a really remarkable man, both as a person and an artist.

The next time you pick up a Roald Dahl book, remember the person who filled it's pages with scruffy, colourful drawings that have become so dear to so many.

Original Article