Shhh…if we’re quiet, perhaps we’ll see how he does it…
By amy, Nov 11 2014 02:10PM
It was a sunny Saturday morning and there was much excitement in the house. An Adventure. And not just An Adventure but a Brilliant Adventure which was going to involve our dear friends, trains, one of the most inspiring cities in the world, and ACTUAL OLIVER JEFFERS AND QUENTIN BLAKE.
I’ll spare you the comprehensive details of the tube ride (smallest boy exceptionally excited), the lunch (international food market), the meal after (lemonade with mint, nice) and my own reaction whenever I go back to London (wide-eyed and instantly inspired) and concentrate on the important stuff. Our wonderful friends had bought us tickets to @southbankcentre ‘s event: a talk by Oliver Jeffers, followed by a conversation between himself and Quentin Blake. As soon as we entered the Southbank Centre, the mural that Oliver Jeffers and Jon Burgerman were painting greeted us. A smash of bright pink with a white alphabet stated its case and served as backdrop for the two artists at work. To watch the two of them (both at this early stage, and later, after the talks) was fascinating – to try and work out how planned the details were, or to see which characters appeared in the letters.
12:00. Oliver Jeffers talked, drew, answered and explained. He told us stories and described how he made them, he drew us pictures and showed us how he’d come to that point, and he answered lots of our questions. He gave us hints (if ever you are stuck, draw an elephant. Which is flying. And has laser eyes. And is on fire.) and he let us take a peek into what it is like to be an author-illustrator, and a very successful one at that. And he did it with such charm and good humour, and a brilliant understanding of his very varied audience.
We queued for book signing and grabbed a bite to eat and then went back in to see Oliver Jeffers talk with the legendary Quentin Blake. It was fascinating to see the two of them together – they were genuinely interested in each other’s craft, and I got the impression that their conversation would continue back stage for some time, until they had managed to sort out which pens work best for which jobs. The real eye-opener was glimpses of both artists’ fine art. Obviously we know they are hugely talented artists and that they produce a range of work but I loved the fizz in the audience when the seen-less-often pieces were put up on the screen.
There is something about seeing/hearing/watching an artist/writer at work, or discussing their work. It is usually such a private pursuit that it feels like you are peeking from behind their studio or office door, trying to lean round and see their pen or brush in action. But, instead of being shooed away like irritating children in a Victorian novel, Oliver Jeffers and Quentin Blake beckoned us in, told us to pull up a chair, and talked us through their process. A glimpse inside the creative quietness. A privilege and a treat.