Tuesday, 13 March 2012

"I didn't think I'd ever recover"

In February 1964, Angela Patrick was a happy, carefree 19 year-old living outside London, working in the city, and having fun with her girlfriends. One Saturday night in Essex, she did what most teenagers that age do – went to a party, got a bit merry, and slept with her new boyfriend.

The consequences of that night are still being felt by Angela and her loved-ones nearly 50 years later. She found herself pregnant, and was forced to do something almost unimaginable – give up her baby son for adoption.

We met a few weeks ago over coffee in the National Gallery and she told me her story, published in yesterday's Guardian. Nearly 50 years on, re-telling it still makes her cry. She was beautiful – less polished than above, pictured left with her daughter – intelligent and warm.

What impressed me most is how she survived her ordeal and went on to live a happy life. And how one tiny event can affect you for life. For once, the platitude "what doesn't kill us..." seems apt.

Photograph: Sarah Lee

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Drawing inspiration

Quentin Blake was ten minutes into a chirpy monologue about who inspires him as an illustrator when something occurred to me: with his small, bird-like features, wispy hair and lively eyebrows, he looked not a little like the people he draws (self-portrait, above; portrait, below by Eamonn McCabe).

I cast my eyes across the rest of the panel taking part in the talk at the British Library –illustrators and cartoonists, Posy Simmonds, Martin Rowson and Jamie Hewlett. Simmonds had the soft, open features and grace of her Tamara Drewe and Gemma Bovary characters; Hewlett, the cheeky, boyish grin of the Gorillaz crew, below (and see him speak briefly here).

Do people who spend their lives creating other people turn to the most obvious person for inspiration – themselves – even if it's subconscious?

My theory, of course, ended with Rowson, a brilliant "visual journalist" whose intricate, political cartoons resemble modern-day Hogarth but look nothing like him. Hey ho.

I adored Blake as a child, never sure if it was his drawings, or Roald Dahl's words, that I loved best. So it was fascinating to discover who inspired him: turns out, he was not alone in his idolatry of Ronald Searle, who died last December (below). "The Godfather," said Blake. "He had the best line," said Rowson (it's a drawing thing). "The greatest illustrator of all time," said Hewlett. "He has completely inspired me all my life."

Hewlett, Blake, Simmonds and Rowson were intelligent, funny and generous, and gave the impression that being an illustrator is an extremely rewarding way to spend your life. It worked for Searle, too: he lived in France, with the woman he loved, and drank champagne every day. As Hewlett said: "What's not to admire?"