There are few artists in the World as universally loved as Sir Quentin Blake. To say his name is to conjure instant recognition of his distinctive style and to recall a moment from your own childhood. If an image can say a 1000 words, then a drawing by Blake can tell an entire story!
This was an exhibition that fused artists and writers across generations and art forms, with creativity sparking creativity in turn. It was an incredible gift of works from Sir Quentin Blake, with newly commissioned poetry that responded to his drawings and a programme of live and digital events – What do you think about when you think about nothing? – all curated by children’s author and illustrator, Lauren Child CBE, who has been influenced by the genius imagination of Blake.
The 24 large-scale drawings in the show formed two emotive series, Children and Dogs, and Children, Birds & Dogs, the latter made especially for us and never seen before, and convey the internal emotional landscape of childhood. Take a look through the gallery below at some of the pictures that were on display, and see the expert hand of the Blake at work as he finely sketches out emotions on paper.
We also reversed Blake’s iconic process of illustration, by setting words to his images. We asked long-time collaborator Michael Rosen and writers Opefoluwa Sarah Adegbite, Jackie Kay, Yomi Sode, 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE (Roshni Goyate, Sharan Hunjan, Sunnah Khan and Sheena Patel) and Ben Westwood, to create poems in response to the drawings, which took you on an imaginative journey into a wide range of feelings and experiences of childhood.
The exhibition brought together artists and writers across generations, and the programme of events allowed Child to further explore creativity, inspiration, and the vital importance of creative work for children in acknowledging their experiences and shaping the adults they become. Blake and Child are both Foundling Fellows, working with us to transform young lives through creative action. Given the growing crisis in children’s mental health we hoped that it would create opportunities to reflect on the importance of the arts in supporting children’s wellbeing.
We also be ran a competition, inviting children to write and illustrate their own chapters of a story, inspired by one of Blake’s new works, which can be read here.
‘The drawings in my donation look at the relationship of the children I draw with living things around them – sometimes positive but often tentative – comparable to the ones they may have to the world around them.’ Sir Quentin Blake
About the poets
4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE are a poetry collective made up of the hugely talented writers Roshni Goyate, Sharan Hunjan, Sheena Patel and Sunnah Khan, who bring their radical, polyphonic performance style to poetry. Watch Sharan Hunjan’s Q&A with us here.
Opefoluwa Sarah Adegbite released her debut collection of poetry in 2018, challenging the social norms of society. She was the overall winner in the 2016 Young Poets Network August Challenge #1 and also the winner in the 2016 August Challenge #2. Watch her Q&A with us here.
Jackie Kay CBE is a Scottish poet, playwright, and novelist, who has won a number of awards, including the Guardian Fiction Prize. From 2016-2021, she was Scots Makar, the national poet laureate of Scotland.
Michael Rosen is a children’s author and poet, who served as Children’s Laureate from 2007-2009. He has also been a TV presenter and a political columnist.
Yomi Sode is a writer and poet born in Oyo State Nigeria, who balances the fine line between both Nigerian and British cultures in his works and performances. Among his many achievements, Yomi was one of three writers awarded the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship in 2019. See the Q&A with Yomi here.