Rose Blake is an illustrator, artist, and visiting lecturer at her alma mater, Kensington University. She has illustrated several picture books, including David Hockney and Martin Gayford; A History of Pictures for Children, which won the Bologna Ragazzi ‘New Horizons’ award 2018, We’re All Works of Art (written by Mark Sperring), and Going to School . As a commercial artist, Rose’s work has graced the likes of The New Yorker, Disney, BBC, Snapchat, Volkswagen, and more. She studied at Kingston University and the Royal College of Art.
We couldn’t wait to talk to Rose about her creative process, her recent solo show, and memories of picture books that are good enough to eat.
You’ve said in past interviews that music is a huge part of your life. What are listening to these days?
I spend most of my time listening to it. Some thing’s I’m listening to at the moment are: Misuko Uchida, Ella Fitzgerald singing the Gershwin songbook, James Maloney, and lots of mixtapes.
Growing up with a parent who is a well-known artist (pop-artist Sir Peter Blake), what was it like finding your own artistic voice?
My parents have had a big influence on my life and outlook, but I don’t think it was any harder to find a ‘voice’ because of my dad. If anything it was easier, as I was brought up in such a supportive atmosphere, and with a father who was/is totally invested and passionate about his job. I also had some brilliant lecturers at Kingston university who definitely helped me along the way too.
What, in your opinion, is the work of a picture book?
Ali Smith says it better than me: “Books mean all possibilities.”
What books did you read as a child that had a lasting impact on you?
Lulu and the Chocolate Wedding, by Posy Simmonds, about a girl who eats too much chocolate the night before she is meant to be a bridesmaid at a wedding, and ends up going into a sort of psychedelic chocolate dreamworld. I remember the drawings being so vivid, and really wanting to eat the chocolates!
In your solo show, Sing Swim OK Moon (2018), you used glass beads and colorful thread to create words within pictures. Did you find a change in media taught you something new?
I always want to be pushing the ways of making and producing my work, going both forwards… and sideways! Working with hand embroidery in Mumbai was an incredible experience, and I would love to work on a new mixed media project soon.
If you could illustrate any classic tale, what would it be?
I would love to do a re-work of The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton.
What advice would you offer to a young aspiring illustrator?
Keep your eyes open and always be on the lookout for ideas. Illustration is as much about seeing as it is about drawing: Think about the edges of your pictures. Color is a serious business. Don’t forget to enjoy it — how lucky we are to do this as a job!
What can you tell us about what you’re working on next?
Lots of fun stuff. I’m doing a collaboration with Tokyobike at the moment, which is exciting.