The great Quentin Blake, workspace and workflow

Quentin Blake exhibition - London
Quentin Blake poses with some of his illustrations at the world’s first public gallery and education space dedicated to illustration the ‘House of Illustration’ in the heart of King’s Cross, which is to open on 2nd July with a exhibition of Blake’s work called Inside Stories. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 1, 2014. Photo credit should read: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

While researching art methodology I came across this great 10 minute video where Quentin Blake walks us through his typical workflow and introduces us to his work space. Blake is best known for illustrating books written by Roald Dahl.

I have never given work space a lot of thought, but I certainly recognize its importance in regards to process. When trying to nail down what makes a work space good, I’ve often felt that there are many intrinsic elements that are tough to put into words. However there are also a number of elements I have identified myself, some of which seem to be quite important.

First and foremost, the environment needs to stimulate creative expression. To a certain extent  personal preference is likely a factor here, and I would say there are also a number of elements involved that fall into the category of un-quantifiable. I’ve worked in a number of studios throughout my career and have tried in other spaces to emulate some of the work spaces that seemed to work best for me, but to no avail. It’s tough sometimes to recognize what makes a work space good, but generally pretty easy to recognize what makes a work space bad.

There are a lot of little details involved in setting up a good work space, and that translates over to your digital work space too. For example, being left handed, there are many little things I would change from a work space setup by some one who is right handed. I’ve found that these little preferences may seem like small things but over time when you are using certain techniques repetitively they make you more efficient.

For me though, I think the two most important elements of a great work space are good lighting (and ideally the ability to adjust it) and just having enough space to be properly organized. If you don’t have the luxury of a large space,  working in an organized environment often involves a fair bit of ingenuity and work.

I found some of the elements Quentin demonstrates in regards to keeping his work space organized inspiring, as organization is something that is easy to battle with as an artist. Its interesting to see some of the nuances he has setup in his work space and filing system.

Quentin and I share an affinity for the light box, so I found it noteworthy in an effort to define my process, that I too like to use paper where you can’t quite see the back image well enough to trace, but having drawn it previously can see it well enough to have the mind and hand replicate it loosely and freely.

Quentin’s demonstration includes a very clear example of how he uses pen and watercolor to create his illustrations. Coming from an animation background I’ve been partial to using the blue col-erase pencil for quite some time now. But watching Quentin work here makes me want to experiment with what I believe is a calligraphy pen, and watercolor paints, two mediums I have very little experience using.

He ends with a demonstration of the magic pencil, a medium I have experimented with a fair bit and have always found interesting, but have not used for some time. The magic pencil as Quentin points out is not in fact magical, but draws with random colors as the pencil is warn down. I’ve found that this effect and its busyness force you to simplify your line and subject matter which in some cases can be quite interesting.mrs_armitage

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