We recently sat down with Simon Blake to discuss his new book with Dalt Wonk, his process, and more. When we first saw the extraordinary collages Simon prepared for Lonely Voyagers, we couldn’t wait to learn more about how they were made. Simon was kind enough to share some thoughts with us for the LUNAtics blog – we hope you enjoy!
Lonely Voyagers is your first collaboration with Luna Press. Can you tell us how this project came about? What was the process for the collaboration with Dalt Wonk and the text to accompany each image?
Dalt is a wonderful friend and I asked to meet up with him to chat about life and work. We were talking away and he suggested collaborating on a collage book. I was the cow that jumped over the moon! I sent him a selection of collage images and he started reacting to them, putting words to images. I love Dalt’s original and hilarious take on my work. It was a really wonderful and seamless collaboration and I am absolutely thrilled with the results.
We love the images in Lonely Voyagers. Can you describe your process for creating such fantastical and unique collages? Is all of the work done by hand?
Thank you so much. I love and collect all sorts of paper ephemera and have created collages for over 35 years. A few years ago I came across a wonderful collection of 19thCentury French encyclopedias, which sat around my studio for while. My wife Nadine kept pushing me to do something with them. I think I was afraid of cutting up the beautiful pages and having the ghosts of the Parisian publishers coming back to haunt me. But then I decided to jump right in. Browsing the books I chose and cut out anything that interested me.
The wonderful thing about collage is that you never quite know what you are going to end up with. Images that you thought would never put together are meant to be. There is no rhyme or reason. It is the magic of the process. I start loosely assembling a number of illustrations and lay them out in a rough form. Some days you create several unique pieces and other days it can be quite frustrating and there is no end in sight. But, there is that wonderful moment when the image comes together. The process is very Zen and I love that about it. You can’t hurry this kind of work. It is a methodical and illuminating process.
I cut everything by hand with fine carbon scissors and medical grade scalpel blades.
Once I am happy with an illustration I cut them out precisely and then glue them together on archival illustration board and hand roll them flat.
As an Englishman who has lived in New Orleans for over 15 years, what’s kept you in New Orleans?
My wife Nadine is originally from here and I have always been enchanted by it ever since I came here for Mardi Gras in 1992. New Orleans truly has a unique and magical spirit. There really is no other place like it. I don’t think there is much gray, you either get it or you don’t. People describe it as a ‘gumbo’, which is so true. It has so many different layers. Like life, it is multifaceted. Constantly on the move like the great Mississippi River, it is undulating and thriving, losing and gaining, and in a weird way, its quirkiness and eccentricities remind me a little of England. I never tire of it.
Are there any projects you have on the horizon that we can be on the lookout for? Is there a place where our readers could see this work in person?
‘The War Series’ – I have being working on a number of projects including a series of battle and war themed collage pieces that are large in scale, quite elaborate and layered. They are from a different series of books, “The History of France” published in London in the early 19thCentury. They are available as original pieces and printed works.
‘The Blake’s Progress’ – I have always been fascinated by the work of 18th-century English artist, printer, and satiristWilliam Hogarth, and in particular his painted series, ‘The Rake’s Progress’. Being a Blake, I love the idea of creating a series of works inspired by Hogarth under the title of ‘The Blake’s Progress’. A re-interpretation.
I also create large Scale Prints and applications: once a collage is completed I scan them at very high resolution to create prints, wallpapers, murals and other applications. The only digital work is color correction/grading and cleaning up edges if need be. All my prints are available at custom sizes for different applications.
All my work can be found on my website at simonblakestudio.com.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us about your work, Lonely Voyagers, or anything else?
I am extremely honored and grateful to Josephine and Dalt for their immense kindness and generosity in giving me the opportunity to publish my work. I am also very thankful to Jacqueline Miró, Jenny Bagert and everyone else at Luna Press who made this all possible. I would especially like to thank Nadine, my wife for always inspiring me to be forever curious. It really is a dream come true and I feel extremely fortunate that my work is out there in the universe, not just through a website, but in the form of a physical book.
I continue to create work that I hope inspires in some small way.