Sunday, 26 October 2014

Quentin Blake at The House of Illustration

Not content with just having an Illustration Cupboard, London went one step further this summer and got itself a whole HOUSE of Illustration; a proper dedicated gallery and education space for celebrating that particular skill and art. About time too.

Their first exhibition has been in situ since July and is devoted to Quentin Blake. I had always been meaning to go but, as is sometimes the way with these things, it took the realisation that the exhibition was entering its final week to actually make the 30 minute or so trip from home. Me and boys went yesterday.

It makes a fine day out. Not just the House of Illustration but that whole patch of regenerated Kings Cross for a satisfying booky pilgrimage. We gawped at the queues waiting to have their photo taken at the (possibly somewhat over-commercialised) Platfrom 9 3/4 and poked about the Harry Potter shop. We also poked about the Doctor Who books in the bookshop next door. We swung on Kings Cross's handy giant birdcage swing and crane and train spotted.

The House of Illustration proved an elegant space. Yesterday it was running making and drawing workshops for The Big Draw and had a room devoted to Paddington too. We chose to start with the Quentin Blake exhibition. And it is wonderful- full of roughs and plans and notes as well as finished art work. You can follow the whole process from first thoughts to final illustration. The boys' familiarity with Blake's work made the whole thing accessible to them and they spent some time poring over walls/cases devoted to the Twits and The Boy in the Dress and Clown.
But, oh dear. I'd forgotten that there was a whole room in the exhibition devoted to Blake's  illustrations of Michael Rosen's 'Sad' book about the death of his son Eddie. And by the time I'd realised that maybe showing them to my Eddie would not be such a brilliant idea it was too late. He looked and looked and looked and then crumpled into a soggy ball. Then we had to leave and have one of those tangled tearful but necessary conversations about death and loss and whether you could ever be really happy if you hadn't experienced sadness too ( Eddie, in frustration, proposed simply banning sadness as a reasonable solution).

And there, quite simply, was the power of the illustrator expressed in a belly punch. Words on their own don't get to open those conversations with an 8 year old.

So we didn't spend the time I'd thought we might looking properly at Paddington or joining in the workshops which were also on offer. If you're short of activities this half term, do go before the exhibition closes. Just be better prepared than me.
And on the way back, fountain jumping, tunnel running and spotting favourites on the billboards, (plus the sharing of chocolate toffee shortbread) chased all the sadness away. And I think we felt the joy that more sweetly for it.