Updated: Apr 20, 2020
Like most of our childhoods, mine was one full of memories of my mom reading to me. Recently, I have been rediscovering a few of my favorite childhood stories, specifically Roald Dahl books and Shel Silverstien poems. It’s truly no surprise that these few authors have stuck with me through all these years. Quentin Saxby Blake, the illustrator for Roald Dahl’s stories, uses a simple line drawing paired with minimal watercolor to depict scenes within Dahl’s books. I can picture Blake reading The Witches by Roald Dahl and sketching the scenes in a chaotic notebook as he goes through the chapters, interpreting the novel with paint and ink for millions of readers. These quick illustrations helped to aid my imagination and better my understanding of the story.
As my mom read the words, I was a voyeur within the line and color that were the illustrations of the story. Now as an adult when I view these images, I can almost hear my mom’s voice recounting my favorite passages. Quentin Blake being the continuous illustrator for Dahl’s novels helped me to associate his illustration style with Dahl’s writing. This is the Dahl/Blake legacy: being able to pair illustrations with a story and associate the two in their reader’s minds. This encourages me as an artist and as a lover of language to consistently combine language with my illustrations; I see how memorable Dahl’s stories were to me because of the integration of Blake’s illustration. Isn't that the goal of all artists? To be memorable? To impact?
To continue this theme, I present you Shel Silverstien: author, poet, cartoonist, songwriter, playwright, and one of my earliest muses. Poetry is one of my favorite art forms to experience; I remember reading this poem as a child and interpreting it as is, and as I read this as an adult, it means something totally different to me.
And I’m sure it means something totally different to you, too. Similar to Quentin Blake, Silverstien offers these simple visuals to create an experience for his readers. There are so many more poems like Masks in Silverstien’s book, Where the Sidewalk Ends, another one of my favorite childhood reads.
In my own work, I try to pair illustrations with words or phrases, not really poetry, just thoughts. In my opinion, a creative continuation of thought through writing, illustration, sculpture, or music is the most genuine and interesting to experience. It is a primary source that queues you into the brain of the artist. To be able to see firsthand how an artist interprets his or her own thoughts…..that’s the closest we can get to truly understanding each other. It is the purest way to live in someone else’s shoes for a moment in time. And why are we here if we aren't trying to connect with each other?