Illustrating expectations


I went to the House of Illustration yesterday – and it wasn’t what I expected. The displays of Quentin Blake’s work were elegantly presented: a summary paragraph, plus one or two more explaining his key choices when illustrating, alongside several original drawings for each book. The selections were for adults and children, modern and classic. I loved the table (at tip-toe height for 8 year olds) where he’s displayed his pens, brushes, inks and watercolours alongside examples of what an illustrator thinks about.

See pictures of the exhibition here.


But this is not what you’re led to expect. The hoardings you walk past on the way from the station have a wide variety of illustrators – from Lauren Child to Posy Simmonds – advertising the exhibition. But when you get in, there’s only three rooms. Very high quality, but Quentin Blake, and no-one else.

We weren’t alone in expecting more than a 15 minute peruse, as we overheard one of the staff being told not to allow visitors to ‘go through that door’ as they’d found their way into some of St Martin’s college studios and disturbed some of the classes there. The feeling we left with was disappointment – it was so good but so small, and not what we expected for £7 entry even in the big city. Seven Stories in Newcastle is far better value.

So this is an illustrative lesson in managing expectations – they’d built them high, even on the walk up to the door, but we left feeling let down, sometimes you want a bit more quantity especially when it’s of such quality.

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