Artistic Family Tree

In his book ‘Steal like an Artist’  UK  US  Austin Kleon recommends creating your artistic family tree. What he means by this is looking at artists you admire you need to study their work and try to understand them and how they work. Then you start to develop your own family tree of where your influences come from.

As a child my favourite books were Roald Dahl’s, the stories always excited me and kept me reading, although I never really had any problems with not reading. When I passed my driving test I realised that I didn’t know my way to the major road because I had always read anywhere we went – including the car.

His stories were so different, with Oompa Loompas and my favourite the B.F.G. I also loved Matilda and particularly Miss Honey her teacher.

What made his stories extra special were Quentin Blake’s illustrations, they always seemed so full of life and captured the story so well, without impinging on my thoughts about the stories too.

So, when I first started on Sketchbook Skool I was delighted to realise that a lot of the style we were doing – pen with watercolour – was how Quentin did his work. So I immediatley googled and was delighted to find he had an excellent website, complete with videos of him working. Needless to say I have watched them all and noted his techniques, although I am not brave enough to work with a dip pen as yet.

I ordered some of his wonderful and richly illustrated books from the library and have spent ages – almost filling a dedicated sketchbook – creating my own versions of his work. As Austin says, I am essentially doing an apprenticeship with him, just working from the tools he has left around. I would love to do a workshop with him, although I am fairly sure he is too busy to run them and I could’t afford to anyway. But his website gives lots of help, so does studying all of his pictures.

Right now I am looking at his simpler images, I hope when I have got more confidence to start on his more complex ones – with many characters and overlaps.

Another artist who I have been studying is Chris Mould. I came across his work at the wonderful Pop Up Festival, I bought one of his books for my niece and then went away and looked at his website as we enjoyed it so much. I love his gothic style in some of his work, as well as all of the pirates! So again I ordered his books from the library and got to copying his work.

Whereas with Quentin I have learnt about using watercolour and using an economy of lines, Chris’s work is the opposite (or at least the work I have been looking at) mainly pen and ink and lots of cross hatching and detail.

Both of these are children’s illustrators and I really love this – mainly I think because I love the stories that accompany them too. Both Quentin and Chris are writers as well as illustrators.

I will continue to fill my Quentin Blake sketchbook and looking at Chris’ more Gothic work, and hopefully after studying these two very different styles my own will start to develop and come through and maybe I can start to create my own characters.


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