House of Illustration and Reportage workshop

After waiting several years in excited anticipation for the House of Illustration to open it’s doors, an exhibition of Quentin Blake‘s work seemed to be an appropriate way to open the new site. I couldn’t wait to visit and see the original ink drawings and watercolours which I have seen so often in his books and I wasn’t disappointed! The exhibition wasn’t huge, but I thought it was brilliant.
The first display case looks at how Quentin Blake works as an illustrator, while the rest shows various highlights from his long career. These include two of his collaborations with Roald Dahl, Danny the Champion of the World and The Twits. Since I had a black and white copy of The Twits when I was younger it was fabulous to see Blake’s disgusting drawings in colour. They seemed to be even more gruesome – if that is possible; especially Mr Twits beard and it’s collection of rotting food! I loved the way the work was displayed in long cases with the the title of the book standing proud above it.

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Quentin Blake’s effortless mastery of line is obvious across all the exhibits, as is his versatility as an illustrator. The exhibition covered a wide variety of subjects from the crazy story ‘The Wild Washerwomen’ by John Yeoman when the washerwomen go out on the rampage, to
Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen which deals with grief and the sadness he felt upon the death of his 18 year old son Eddie.
The exhibition was a fantastic opportunity to see roughs and storyboards alongside the finished artwork giving a unique insight into the development of each illustration project.
I throughly enjoyed it and as usual left with a couple of books to read and add to my collection!

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Having visited the Inside Stories exhibition in the morning I was back at the House of Illustration in the afternoon for the Reportage Illustration Masterclass with illustrator in residence Rachel Lillie. It was great to meet and learn from other people interested in reportage illustration and I thought it would be a challenging and thought provoking experience.

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We walked along Regents Canal- thankfully missing the torrential showers and focused on trying to engage with our surroundings through completing this list of drawing and recording tasks:

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We used the water as a symbol for the idea of a journey, engaged with members of the public as well as listening to the sounds of the canal and scraps of overheard conversations. Here are several very small sketches that I made whilst walking along:

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Once we were back in the educational suite we explored the idea of memory through several different challenges. In choosing one moment during that afternoons walk that truly stood out to us we tried to recreate it, to draw what we thought we remembered and what we actually remembered. In looking back through the photographs that I had taken, it was clear that my imagination had filled in a lot of blanks. This has prompted me to start a memory sketchbook which I intend to draw in each day where I try to draw an object or an occurrence from memory – so we’ll see how that goes!

I took a photograph in the educational suite of some of Rachel’s original drawings, which I love and thought I would share them here.

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Before we left we had a sneaky peek into the studio of Rachel Lillie so that we could see drawings from her residency at the House of Illustration so far. I love the fluidity and feeling of transition that they convey.

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One of the books that I bought from the House of Illustration was Quentin Blake by Joanna Carey and I wanted to share this paragraph as it provides an insight into the way in which Blake draws with such credibility and something which I think we can all learn a lot from:

“Constant observation plays a major part in his illustrations and he has a keen eye for the subtle, telling gesture, an idiosyncratic mannerism or an unusual stance. But you’ll never find Blake behind a tree, surreptitiously sketching people as they go about their business. That’s not his way at all. Instead the key to his approach is that, having observed and understood the reality of what you are drawing, what’s important is not to try slavishly to copy what you see, but rather to look away and capture for yourself the balance between what’s seen and what’s imagined. The essence of the drawing lies in imagining what it is you are drawing, and this involves identifying personally with the physical aspects of the gestures, even acting them out as you draw”

The final words that Rachel left us with were those of Ansel Adams:

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What an inspiring day!!!

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