When Roald Dahl agreed with his publisher, Tom Maschler, that Quentin Blake should be his collaborator for The Enormous Crocodile (1978),1 he found an artist who shared his vision that the author and illustrator could work together as a team to reflect and augment each other’s contribution, so that the ultimate work of art would embody a combination of the two. Prior to this time, his publishers had selected a variety of different illustrators,2 even using (and not always acknowledging) different artists for the UK and US editions. Dahl ‘wanted the drawings to do part of the work’,3 vociferously demanding more pictures when he thought there were not enough. And Blake’s approach to illustrating another’s text was to ‘bathe yourself in it, be immersed in it before you start to draw’ in order to ‘match the spirit of the book itself’, ‘the whole atmosphere’.4 The extent of Dahl’s repertoire, which covers an impressively wide range of styles and genres — from carnivalesque exaggeration, to vulgar and cruel misogyny, comic fantasy and relative realism — is a challenge to the illustrator. Blake adapted his graphics to respond to the style of the verbal text and further interpret the particular world that Dahl had created, visualising his role as a kind of ‘illustrator-as-theatredirector’,5 one who is presented with someone else’s words and not much in the way of stage directions.
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