On a sunny afternoon in London, Quentin Jones meets her hero, the legendary Sir Quentin Blake, and a very chic face-off ensues.
Sir Quentin Blake, the premier British Children’s Laureate and recipient of the Anderson Award, “Nobel Prize” of children’s books, has been knighted not once but twice: In France, as a Knight of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in England, where he was awarded the insignia of “Chevalier” of the Legion d’Honneur. He has illustrated over three hundred books and collaborated with such luminaries as Doctor Seuss and Roald Dahl. His baroque and immutable style is no less than absolutely iconic. On the other end of the spectrum, at the helm of a burgeoning career, Quentin Jones’s own willfully disobedient artworks place her in the pantheon of London’s young artists who bestride the ever-diminishing boundaries (in our post-Internet age) between illustration, animation, fashion, film, collage, and model. Swinging from the same hinge of inky praxis, the two Quentin’s produce what is at once a luscious visual panacea and a surreal escape from the quotidian.
Quentin Blake: My earliest artistic memory is drawing for Punch Magazine when I was a schoolboy. They were terrible little drawings, but seeing them in print was important.
Quentin Jones: I remember face painting myself as an early form of artistic expression. My brother and I painted our faces with mud from the garden when we lived in Rome. My father taught at a university there.
Left: Quentin Jones sketch book | Right: Quentin Blake’s Matilda, and Miss Trunchbull, from ‘Matilda’ by Roald Dahl, published in 1988
QB: If I weren’t an artist I would be a teacher. But I never had a job. I thought that if I got a job I might enjoy it too much.
QJ: I did philosophy at Cambridge before becoming an artist. Then I did an internship at Vogue. It turned out that I sucked at being an intern. I thought that I’d better start my own practice because I didn’t handle authority very well.
QB: I went to Cambridge, too. Another thing we both have in common is that we don’t go into the studio and think but rather react to some prompt or situation.
QJ: Here’s a prompt: What are five words you’d use to describe your artistic practice? Mine would be: quick, cut, paste, faces, accidental.
Left: Quentin Blake’s ‘The Golden Ass’ by Apuleius – published by The Folio Society, London in May 2015 | Right: Quentin Jones, Almost Human 2013, mixed media, courtesy of the artist
QB: Scratchy. Spontaneous, Gestural. Sometimes theatrical. Quills and bamboos. There you go.
QJ: What if you could have any piece of art you wanted? What would you have? I think I would just buy the biggest Picasso I could find.
QB: I would love to have the triptych by Francis Bacon. I can’t remember which one it is. It’s the one with the mouths and tangles of orange.
QJ: I’m rather envious of Picasso and Bacon, of the freedom to create a world from scratch. My career has always existed largely within the Internet. In this medium you have to grab people and hold onto them for as long as you can. I work with a brand or a pop star to create an artwork.
Left: Quentin Blake from a series of drawings for the Rosie Birth Centre (the maternity unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge), 2012 | Right: Quentin Jones sketch book
QB: I’m technology illiterate. I love to draw. After Cambridge, I went to Chelsea Art School. I did an awful lot of drawing there. It all went to my head and I’ve been doing it ever since. But still, people make assumptions about my work. They tell me that I make children’s books, and yet I have no children myself. But that’s not the point. The point is that I identify with children.
QJ: People think that your books are for children, but it’s actually the adults enjoying the pictures. The parents have to perform the mundane task of reading the books every night, and they end up choosing books that they like. So, people often assume that your work is for children, but I think it’s just as much for adults as it is for children.
Left: Quentin Blake from a series of drawings for the Rosie Birth Centre (the maternity unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge), 2012 | Right: Quentin Jones, originally published by i-D Magazine, mixed media, courtesy of the artist
QB: Yes, that might be true. Not to go off on a tangent, but to state the obvious—we’re both Quentin’s. I actually don’t know why my parents named me that. It’s quite an uncommon name. I was my Dad’s fifth child, which was why I was allowed to be named Quentin. It’s unusual for a girl to have my name. As a child, every day I had to endure the question, “Isn’t that a boy’s name?” It was a pain in the ass.
Left: Quentin Jones Self Portrait series, 2014, photography, acrylic and ink, courtesy of the artist first published in iD Magazine | Right: Quentin Blake’s Matilda, and Miss Trunchbull, from ‘Matilda’ by Roald Dahl, published in 1988.
Left: Quentin Jones sketch book | Right: Quentin Blake’s The Grand High Witch, from ‘The Witches’ by Roald Dahl, published in 1983
Left: Quentin Blake’s ‘The Shopper’ from the series ‘Life under Water’ for the Gordon Hospital, London, 2009 | Right: Quentin Jones, originally published by Flair Magazine, mixed media, courtesy of the artist
Left: Quentin Jones, originally published by i-D Magazine, mixed media, courtesy of the artist | Right: from Quentin Blake’s collection of fne art drawings in ‘Nos Compagnons’ (2014)
Left: Quentin Blake’s Mrs Twit, from the colour version of ‘The Twits’ by Roald Dahl, published in 2010 | Right: Quentin Jones, Bone Deep, 2010, courtesy of the artist