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Writing about the death of Michael Rosen's son


Michael Rosen
Quentin Blake Artist
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There was also the collaboration with Michael Rosen, and… that was interesting in a… in a different way. I illustrated his first book of poems, which was called Mind Your Own Business. And… it was edited… it was published by Andre Deutsch, and it was edited by Pamela Royds. And it seemed to me, particularly in retrospect, the right way to set about something like that, because we had a meeting, or one or two meetings, with Pam Royds, Michael Rosen, and me, and we started from a pile of manuscript, which were his poems. And they said, you can… you can look at these, and there are certain poems, which we've got to have, and there are others, there's a… there’s an option. So if there are some you would like to illustrate, and so on. And we started talking about it like that. And… this was in '75 or something like that and… also we were… at that time, most books of poetry for children were intended to improve you in some way. And they tended to be a sort of poem down the middle of the page, with a title, and maybe a little vignette of something rural going on at the bottom, something like that, you know, they were… there was… they were… they were beautifully produced, but rather formal in a way. And, we didn't want it to be like that, we wanted it to be informal, so, I mean I actually sort of changed the format of the book a bit, so it was slightly broader, and Mike Rosen wrote these rather sort of… the poems were a funny shape, because they were very conversational. They were… they were… a lot of them were kind of reminiscence of boyhood, and we decided… well actually we did them without titles, and instead of their floating down from the… being hung from the top of the page and running down, they started at a point which would bring them to the bottom of the page, so they always arrived at the bottom of the page. And we tried to make it like a sketch book, in a way, really, and so there were some pages, there were some poems, which you didn't want to illustrate, because they were very, sort of, intimate and personal, or happening at night, and so… that you… you know, there was one about… he's lying in bed, hearing his heart beating… you don't want to illustrate that one really, you know, kind of thing. So there were some pages just with poems on, and there were some pages that just had drawings on. And he… he told me one or two things that he might have written poems about, but hadn't, like… having a… he and his brother used to do the washing up in the kitchen, and they used to have, sort of, fights with squirting the washing up liquid and fighting with the brushes from the… the washing up brushes and so on. And, so there… there are pages where there are… where there is that going on, without a poem. So that it, sort of, moves from one thing to the other, and here the drawing takes the emphasis, and there the poetry takes the emphasis and so on. And that was… that was very interesting to do, and we did one or two… two others like that. The other thing that I liked about it is that he… he has extraordinary sort of recall of… of boyhood, and… it meant that there is an element of fantasy there, but it's much more like drawing from life, and so you draw it with a different thing, with a… with a, sort of, I think a soft… sort of, fibre tip pen, that looks a little bit as though you might have been drawing it from life. It's not… it hasn't got the sort of definition… I mean in a sense you can be more definite about fantasy, because you're inventing it. Whereas these had to look a bit as though they came immediately from life, and so that began that sequence. And then… we did two or three or four books, and then we both got into doing too much of our own things, and… and didn't do much… we… we've done books on and off.

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: Mind Your Own Business, 1975, Michael Rosen, André Deutsch, Pamela Royds

Duration: 4 minutes, 21 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008