Quentin Blake imagines “real, portable” rainbows you can send as free e-cards
The legendary illustrator has created ten new artworks that see his unmistakeable hand-drawn characters using watercolour rainbows in brilliant ways.
- Jenny Brewer
- 20 April 2020
In our most challenging times, humour can be the best tonic. And that’s exactly what legendary illustrator Sir Quentin Blake is here to deliver. The 86-year-old artist has used his time in lockdown to create a series of ten new artworks employing rainbows in typically quirky comedic scenarios, which he is releasing for free as e-cards. So you can send a little slice of Quentin brilliance to the loved ones you are missing most during the crisis.
“It seems like a time when a few straightforward jokes might not come amiss,” Blake explains of his thinking behind the series, “so that as I know that people have been putting rainbows into their windows to express solidarity, I took the liberty of borrowing them.”
In the vignettes, Blake’s instantly recognisable hand-scrawled characters interact with the watercolour-painted rainbows in funny ways: pulling one along on a cart, sporting one as a new hairdo or a spiffing moustache, carrying one under an arm, sheltering underneath one to read, or on top to admire the vista. There’s a strongman holding one upside down proudly with one hand, and a gymnastic trio implementing another in their routine. “You will see that I have supposed that they are real and portable,” Blake quips. “I hope they are optimistic too.”
The illustrator aligns himself with one of the countless artists currently working on self-initiated projects, and how it caused him to reminisce about the beginnings of his career. “I can imagine myself submitting them to Punch magazine 60 years ago in the hope that I might get onto the colour pages. Perhaps I don’t need to add that they have much more meaning for me now than they would have had then.”
Blake has enjoyed one of the most enduring and successful careers of any illustrator, having famously brought to life the works of Roald Dahl in such a way they are synonymous with the words and characters, as well as Michael Rosen, Russell Hoban and others – illustrating more than 300 books. He taught at the RCA for over 20 years, was made the first Children’s Laureate in 1999, knighted in 2013 and given the Légion d’Honneur in 2014. Also in 2014, he founded the House of Illustration in London. In the past 15 years, he has worked on many projects for museums, hospitals and other public spaces in England and France.
House of Illustration curator Olivia Ahmad says of the e-card project that it “has all the wit and warmth that he so reliably musters, and at just the right time.” The gallery recently opened the country’s first permanent space dedicated to Blake’s work, an evolving display of projects from his studio including recent publications, new books, large-scale personal works and preparatory drawings. Due to closures, the gallery is planning to show the work online.
Click here to send one of Blake’s rainbow e-cards.