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Getting help from my Latin teacher Mrs Jackson and her husband

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Art at school
Quentin Blake Artist
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In fact art… wasn't very important, and art wasn't, I mean it wasn't an important thing in a… in a grammar school, anyway. I don't know what it's like now, but I mean it was one of those things that, you know, wasn't considered very important, and I did it for what was… what was it called then? General School Certificate, or something like that: the first exam, and… and I think, and I… I had to go and… I had to go and see the Headmaster, and see if I could, he said, ‘You have to give up something’. And I said, ‘Could I give up chemistry?’ Because chemistry I couldn't learn at all. And there was an… elderly, rather sort of vulture-like chemistry teacher, who was a perfectly nice man, but I mean sort of rather wizened, with thin hair, you know… and so I had to go and ask him if I could give up chemistry so that I could do art in the General School Certificate exams, and he said, ‘Oh, I suppose you'd better’. And then so I could do art in about two terms, or something like that, which was… which was… okay. I now muddle up the exam at 16 and the exam at 17 or 18. I can't remember which was which. I remember going into one of those exams and doing a still life drawing. A pencil still life drawing, and you could, one subject was 16 green apples, I think… I can't think how they thought of that, but fortunately there was also, I looked round, and you could… you could choose between one or two things, and there was a lobster, and then I was… then I was alright, you know, there was something to draw. But… I didn't get a great deal from… on the whole, from the art masters at school. In fact I remember one of them, he was quite a nice man, but was obviously used to teaching art to people who didn't really want to draw. And his idea was that you… you did sort of wandering lines, you know, across the page, like this… at random, and then you looked at them, and you saw… what… you know, what you could find in that to draw. And I could only ever find octopuses. There was nothing else you could make it into as far as I was concerned, and it was maddening, because I wanted to get on and draw something. And that was what I really wanted, to draw something.

Quentin Blake, well loved British writer and illustrator, is perhaps best known for bringing Roald Dahl's characters to life with his vibrant illustrations, and for becoming the first ever UK Children's Laureate. He has also written and illustrated his own books including Mr Magnolia which won the Kate Greenaway Medal.

Listeners: Ghislaine Kenyon

Ghislaine Kenyon is a freelance arts education consultant. She previously worked in gallery education including as Head of Learning at the Joint Education Department at Somerset House and Deputy Head of Education at the National Gallery’s Education Department. As well as directing the programme for schools there, she curated exhibitions such as the highly successful Tell Me a Picture with Quentin Blake, with whom she also co-curated an exhibition at the Petit Palais in Paris in 2005. At the National Gallery she was responsible for many initiatives such as Take Art, a programme working with 14 London hospitals, and the national Take One Picture scheme with primary schools. She has also put on several series of exhibition-related concerts. Ghislaine writes, broadcasts and lectures on the arts, arts education and the movement for arts in health. She is also a Board Member of the Museum of Illustration, the Handel House Museum and the Britten-Pears Foundation.

Tags: General School Certificate

Duration: 2 minutes, 41 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008