The Dark

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Written by
Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler)
Author of the Series of Unfortunate Events books, each including some funny yet dark dedications, like this one;

For Beatrice
No one could extinguish my love,
Or your house.

Also, when asked to describe his personal philosophy replied ‘Never refuse a breath mint’.

Illustrated by
Jon Klassen
Illustrator, animator, writer, Candian, man. Most known for his award winning ‘This is not my hat’ (which is better than it sounds). He also digs Cormac McCarthy, which is always a strong sign in my book.

Summary
Laszlo is afraid of the dark. The dark lives in the basement. He thinks that if he visits the dark in the dark’s room then it won’t visit him in his. This doesn’t exactly happen but Lazlo nonetheless reaches resolve and understanding of the dark, so that living with it isn’t so bad.

What makes it shelf-worthy?

Without specific examples, I feel like I’ve seen several bad attempts at ‘fear of the dark’ remedies. Sometimes it’s a banished monster in the closet, sometimes a depiction of darkness as something completely trivial. Either way, it turns out as something unrelatable or proof that there was a monster in your room after all, and who’s to say it’s not coming back? Children aside, these books always have a grate of cliché which I just can’t hack.

The Dark is different from these. While it makes The Dark into a person, it otherwise refers to it in literal terms; as ‘at night…it spread itself against the windows and doors of Laszlo’s house’.
Instead of giving a story where darkness is something to be defeated, it concedes that darkness is a part of life and is ‘always close by’. Snicket doesn’t attempt to get rid of the darkness (because that’s impossible), but changes its character to something friendly, even reassuring. The Dark even goes on to explain that many things that we project fear onto are actually common and functional; without a wardrobe there’s nowhere to keep your clothes, without his creaky roof Laszlo would get rained on, without a shower curtain the floor gets wet.

As you might expect, the Jon Klassen makes the most of contrast between light and dark in his illustration. He uses the bursts of orange light from torch, or window, or lamp to frame the objects and text of the book.

Again, matte finish pages with beautifully composed and coloured images make for an excellent object to own. As well as this, the words serve as a great ‘fear of the dark’ remedy and could resonate with some bigger fears than darkness if you found yourself with the time and a philosophical enough frame of mind.

The voice of the dark was as creaky as the roof of the house, and as smooth and cold as the windows, and even though the dark was right next to Laszlo, the voice seemed very far away’

3 ways to draw like Quentin Blake (and to live a good life)

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Whether you’re teaching kids to draw, drawing for them, or for yourself, learning to draw like Quentin Blake is enjoyable, rewarding, and won’t cost you 10,000 hours.

 

 

I’m no illustrator by a long stretch.

I am however, a primary school teacher and therefore blow children’s minds on a regular basis by drawing things like stick men and apples with reasonable success.

Even with the over-inflated sense of drawing ability this gives me, I am often reminded of my limits any time I try something ambitious or realistic. It usually results in some obscure, offensive, only slightly resemblant portrait (something like those unnerving versions of Mickey Mouse you see on the sides of ice cream vans).
Now I, like most people confronted with modern art, have made the clichéd point that I could create the same result with a bucket of paint, a length of rope, and a lively cat, but the truth is that most of the time, the artists are fully able to do the impressive realism stuff, but choose not to.
Picasso for example, doesn’t generally appear as though he understands the layout of the human face but occasionally drops in a painting to remind us that he can…

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So the point is, you can’t expect to be able to make great simple art without having the depth of knowledge, commitment and skill behind it.
With that said, here’s how to create great simple art without depth of knowledge, commitment, or skill…

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In a world with more books, films, blogs, songs, games, and cat videos, than you could ever hope to experience, it is important to be selective.
All the worthwhile things you enjoy are improved by all wasteful things you avoid.
The memory of Lion King 1 is improved for never having watched Lion King 2.
The things I own are worth more for the fewer possessions I have.
And for Quentin Blake – each line he draws is all the more effective for the one’s he doesn’t.

Practically, this means going minimal with facial features.
Here are some that Quentin Blake seems to go with:

Eyes

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Dot eyes are Quentin Blake’s go-to, but eggs are expressive.

Noses

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Mouths

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Nose and mouth names also seem to make good insults if the need arises…

 

Now pick some features, then put them together.

like this:

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Also – other features like ears, eyebrows, and parts of facial outline are often unnecessary. Try to skip some out.

 

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Is this good life advice? debatably not, but you’re not really here for that.
Quentin Blake’s style is known and defined by its scrappiness, yet at the same time manages to contain feeling, humour, and information.
Drawing in a rushed way will help you get closer to Blake’s style and has the added benefit of allowing you loads of attempts without investing a lot of time in each one.

Quentin Blake has explained himself that he starts with the expression of a person, and keeps starting over until he gets this first part right.

Basically, once you have eyes, nose, and mouth/beard that you like, then you can move on to scribbling out the rest of the body…

The key here is to not labour over any sketch.

There’s always a point in drawing where it will only gets worse the more you add, that point comes pretty quick with this style.

 

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In drawing as in life, a multitude of iniquities can be covered by the presence of facial hair.
If your drawing doesn’t turn out quite right then just add on a beard…

Here’s an example:

Underwhelming sketch of woman + Mr Twit beard = generic member of ‘The Eagles’/Eurovision performer.

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Here are some facial hair options. Be scrappy. Go sparse or full, doesn’t really matter (in your drawing that is – don’t grow a patchy beard and go blaming me).

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Use the bank of features that Quentin Blake uses.

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Start with the facial expression

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Be scrappy (a messy fountain pen helps a little)

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Miss out features, you don’t need them all

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Don’t join everything up

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If you mess up, draw a big beard on it, start again.

 

Now leave a comment with your attempts you wonky witch lip sausage nose old chunky.