The Big Adventure of a Little Line – book review

By Serge Bloch

Published by Thames & Hudson ISBN 9780500650585

Review by Derek Brazell

The Big Adventure_cover

Discovering a little red line on the ground one day while out on a walk, a young boy takes it home, coaxes it to life, and after playing around with it for a while, the two gradually become amicably “inseparable”. The line helps him face difficult situations and also assists creating lots of fun. As they grow up together a few complications arise between them (“sometimes the line wouldn’t do what I wanted), but as we all know, life doesn’t become simpler with time.

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The line, who has become an integral part of the boy’s life, can be seen as a metaphor for the Spirit, supporting an inner life and facing the various challenges and delights of the outer world. It is also a tribute to drawing, with Bloch’s free form line, sometimes scribbly and always apparently spontaneous, delighting in the space it’s given on the board white pages.

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A long list of illustrators and fine artists, from Charles Addams and Semour Chwast to Ralph Steadman and Joan Miro appear at the end of the book. Some of their legacy can be seen in Bloch’s approach, with Jean-Jacques Sempé and Saul Steinberg’s own lines being a touch point. Steinberg even makes a guest appearance as one of the “famous people” our hero and his line meet through life.

Not to give too much away, but “the line”, this spirit, is clearly something to be passed on, a life-force, perhaps, giving another character the chance for a fulfilling life (and a Big Adventure).

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Little kids, while loving Bloch’s expressive characterisation and lively drawing, may not consciously see the inner self which the line represents, but older readers will recognise with equal delight the line that “wasn’t always easy to live with”.

The Big Adventure of a Little Line ends on the image of the red line emanating from a blue dip pen: the spirit of illustration and life combined. A truly superb book.

Our reviewer asked Serge Bloch a few question on The Big Adventure of a Little Line:

Your drawing appears very spontaneous. Do you do many preparatory drawings?

It took me a long time to find the best way of expressing myself. Bit by bit, I eliminated the laborious elements of my method. I have a style now where I don’t need to do many preparatory drawings; I just draw with the aim of staying as close as possible to the idea I have in mind. This free-flowing style of expression allows me to tell all kinds of different stories and to cross any number of boundaries.

I read ‘the line’ as a representation of the human spirit. How did you connect this inner life line with the line of the artist?

The line as human spirit is an ancient metaphor. In Greek and Roman mythology, humans had a lifeline in the palm of their hands that the Fates untangled. Ten years ago, I published a book with the theme of the lifeline called Moi, J’attends, or I Can’t Wait in English, and it was very successful.

I revisited this theme with The Big Adventure of A Little Line. I wanted to show how central drawing is to my life, to show the pleasure that a single line gives me. I have made my living by drawing, but it’s also an everyday happiness.

It’s great to see a visual book referencing, and dedicated to, amazing illustrators and artists. How have all these creators impacted on your own artwork and thinking?

The dedicatees of this book are my masters. I owe them everything I know. They wrote the history of drawing, and I can only hope to have a small impact.

You may also be interested in these book reviews:

The Promise

Understanding Illustration

Serge’s book video


16th October 2015
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