I love the work of Roald Dahl. I can’t say I’ve read all his books; just Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Twits. Oh, and a brilliant short story about Henry Sugar.
I am currently dipping in and out of his biography and keep flicking to the end to read more about his writing of children’s books. That’s what interests me and that’s what I want to do. They appear so original, so effortless, and so complete. If only I could write like that; come up with such satisfying ideas, just one would do. Mr Dahl, like everyone else, I revere you.
I have just set my students a project asking them to choose a Dahl book, select any chapter, character, or sentence, and allow it to inspire an illustration. They’ve had to look at Quentin Blake’s illustrations first, then get on with their own. The results are stupendous: exciting, fresh and lively. I’m proud of them, if not everso slightly envious.
Having spent six months extolling the virtues of twig and ink to everyone I know, and filling sketchbook after sketch book with my drawings, I read somewhere that Quentin actually uses reed pens; so I’ve just bought my first (very expensive) set from Shepherd’s, (previously Faulkeners) in London. They arrived yesterday, by next day delivery in a cardboard tube, wrapped in an old fashioned green and white striped paper bag, complete with reservoir. This is a brass reservoir, just like the long bit on a paper fastener, but without the head bit. The pens look like cheap ends of bamboo that have been chiselled and drilled a bit but I shall try them out tomorrow in the life room; spend all day dip dip dipping my new pens into inky egg cups of black ink. If the results are promising it will be a worthwhile investment. I’ll let you know!
Funny to think I used to rub shoulders with Quentin Blake and Dan Fern as they wandered around the illustration department at the Royal College of Art; I actually tried to change from printmaking to illustration but they wouldn’t have me. Never mind. I did however exhibit with them in the 1988 Folio Society exhibition with my illustrations of Evelyn Waugh’s “The Loved Ones”. I was into collages in those days; different graph papers, tracing papers, and oh! lots of staples. Ah! Happy memories.