Who is Quentin Blake?
Quentin Blake (born 1932) is an artist, author and illustrator. He had his first illustration published in Punch magazine in 1949 when he was still at school. Since then, he has written and/or illustrated more than 500 books, been a teacher of illustrators and created murals for hospitals, galleries and community spaces. He still draws every day.
Quentin Blake illustrates
"I have been frequently told that my drawing is distinctive, recognisable; the marks are like a sort of handwriting."
Quentin works at his flat in London, where he has one table for drawing, and another for adding colour.
When writing books and illustrating picture books, Quentin creates characters. To do this rather than looking at images or drawing real life people or models, sometimes Quentin acts out positions or facial expressions himself, to help him decide how these figures should look.
He normally uses a scratchy dip pen with a Waverley nib, but sometimes he draws with crayons or feather quills to create unusual lines and textures.
Quentin tends to start with a rough drawing to help him plan the layout of a page and the positions of the characters. He then places this on a lightbox under a sheet of watercolour paper. His next drawing in ink uses the layout he has created but still has the energy of a drawing created spontaneously.
If colour is to be added, Quentin mostly uses watercolour – he says, "I like its lightness and fluidity… and there is an enormous amount that even a discreet use of colour can add by way of mood and atmosphere".
Quentin Blake exhibitions
Quentin is the founder of our organisation and we work closely with him to share material from his 40,000 work archive at museums and galleries across the UK.
Visit our Quentin Blake touring exhibitions and discover rare insights into Quentin’s design process for some of his most loved characters. Exhibitions include original artworks, first edition copies of books and some never seen before sketchbooks and rough drawings.
Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration - our future home
Quentin set up our organisation to create a place where illustration has a home and now we're making it a reality by transforming a fascinating but forgotten heritage site, New River Head, in Clerkenwell into the UK’s centre for illustration, opening 2025.
Here is what Quentin has said about this exciting next step:
“Illustration is a language that is both expressive and easily understood. Some form of it probably exists all over the world, and it’s an art in which our country has a great tradition. One also which I have practiced with joy and fascination for the 70 years of my working life. You will understand if I am enthusiastic that as many people may be able to share in the riches it offers.
"I am passionate in my enthusiasm for New River Head. One day I hope it will show some of my archive of several thousand original drawings—but, much more importantly, it will be an international centre for the display, discussion and celebration of the extraordinary wealth of what illustration has to offer."
A celebration of illustration on Quentin Blake's 90th birthday
In December 2022, Quentin turned 90. To celebrate, we invited 90 illustrators to draw a candle inspired by the original meaning of the word “illustration' – "to light up, make light and illuminate”, you can see some of these below or all of them here.
View all 90 candle illustrations
I got the Gruffalo to say ”Happy Birthday” and a big “Thank You” to Quentin and he put a red candle on his horns – I hope the wax won't drop on his fur and that he behaves.
This illustration is inspired by the picture book ‘Little Glow’. As the nights draw in, a small candle flame watches the many inspiring ways that a community celebrates light, including the festivals of Diwali, Hannukah, Ramadan and Chinese New Year. As a family gathers around Little Glow, it becomes clear that even the smallest of lights have an important purpose.
I've always thought the traditional birthday candle somehow looks like a solemn little Pierrot clown; the way it is a bit dressed up and has a little ruffle at the base. This is a drawing of what I imagine!
My illustration shows a child with a candle, tip toeing through a room. She is looking at us out of the corner of her eye as if she is going to show us something, but we have no idea what it could be.
There it is, a cake and a candle that can't be more ordinary, who will know inside my mind I have myself a bonfire party?