Artist draws on his experiences

20th July 2007 at 01:00
he is one of the country's best-loved illustrators of children's books and his lively drawings are often as memorable as the stories they accompany.

Quentin Blake, whose pictures decorate and enhance books such as Roald Dahl's BFG and The Twits, has revealed how completing a PGCE half a century ago affected his artistic career.

Professor Blake, who was made the first children's laureate in 1989, said the course at London University's Institute of Education had set the way he thinks about his books. "When I illustrate books, I don't do it as a parent, but as a teacher," he told an alumni association talk at the institute last week.

He said pictures in books were more accessible than words, but they also encouraged children to want to know what the text was all about.

The idea of simple fables that talk about larger aspects of life was vital to a lot of the work he had written and illustrated, he said.

Professor Blake said he had particularly enjoyed illustrating Russell Hoban's How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen, as it could be seen as a metaphor of how people learn by "fooling around".

He eventually decided against teaching, not because it did not appeal, but because he feared he might never do anything else. "I felt I escaped from education like an escape from the arms of a fascinating and demanding mistress," he said.

He also described his delight at being asked to help illustrate the Sailing Boat in the Sky project for a group of pupils recently. Around 1,800 French schoolchildren were invited to contribute work to the book which tackles issues such as pollution, war and bullying.

His passion for books and their ability to help children think and learn was also vital when he was called to illustrate The Rights of the Reader by Daniel Pennac.

Quentin Blake has written and illustrated around 25 books, including Angelo, and provided the illustrations in about 300 for other authors, including Roald Dahl, Joan Aitken and Michael Rosen, today's children's laureate.

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