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Illustration Week: A Broadsheet for Quentin Blake's Big Drawings

Quentin Blake "The Only Way to Travel" exhibition newspaper.

What's black and white and drawn all over?

A newspaper filled with illustrations by Sir Quentin Blake, whose mischievous work will be familiar to anyone who grew up on the books of Roald Dahl. Blake illustrated 13 of the author's best-loved books, including Matilda, The Twits and James and the Giant Peach. 

We're kicking off Illustration Week on the blog with this digital broadsheet printed for Blake's new exhibition, "The Only Way to Travel", on view now at Jerwood Gallery in Hastings.

Quentin Blake "The Only Way to Travel" exhibition newspaper.

Newsprint catalogue for "The Only Way to Travel", an exhibition of new work by Quentin Blake at Jerwood Gallery. Designed by Burgess Studio.

Blake says he chose the title for two reasons: "The main one was that it allowed me to do almost anything. Anything that moved, any kind of vehicle – and I could make them up as a I went along." The other reason is that the theme is universal. "Everybody's travelled in some way or other," he says.

London-based Burgess Studio designed a newspaper to accompany the exhibition. But "it was Quentin's idea really," they tell us. "He was keen to do something big and fast (which most printed publishing isn’t) to reflect how the drawings were made."

Quentin Blake "The Only Way to Travel" exhibition newspaper.

Artist Quentin Blake working on his new series, "The Only Way to Travel", on view at Jerwood Gallery until October.

The drawings, more than 100 in total, are all new. "This is the first exhibition that I've agreed to do when none of the work existed," says Blake. As such, they address timely issues from mental health to the refugee crisis. They're also huge – some taking up whole walls in the gallery.

Quentin Blake "The Only Way to Travel" exhibition newspaper.

Newsprint catalogue for "The Only Way to Travel", an exhibition of new work by Quentin Blake at Jerwood Gallery. Designed by Burgess Studio.

"I've never worked at this size before – ever," explains Blake. "It makes you think again. What you thought was quite a big pencil, is actually nothing. So you get into a whole different set of brushes, and then you have to learn how that works on a bigger scale."

Quentin Blake "The Only Way to Travel" exhibition newspaper.

Quentin Blake "The Only Way to Travel" exhibition newspaper.

Artist Quentin Blake working on his new series, "The Only Way to Travel", on view at Jerwood Gallery until October.

Blake made the works by drawing directly onto massive sheets of paper taped to his studio wall, or putting the sheet on the floor and dribbling ink directly from a big bottle, which was "enough to give his archivist a conniption." Two of the drawings were done on site at the gallery.

"What is very nice about this show for me is that just being invited to do big drawings has taken me to some places which I didn't know I would get to otherwise," says Blake.

Quentin Blake "The Only Way to Travel" exhibition newspaper.

Newsprint catalogue for "The Only Way to Travel", an exhibition of new work by Quentin Blake at Jerwood Gallery. Designed by Burgess Studio.

Blake's friend Linda Kitson photographed the drawings, which were too big to scan, and Burgess Studio turned them into newspaper – making the most of the big broadsheet format with plenty of poster-style spreads. It's available at the show until 15 October 2017.

Quentin Blake "The Only Way to Travel" exhibition newspaper.

Newsprint catalogue for "The Only Way to Travel", an exhibition of new work by Quentin Blake at Jerwood Gallery. Designed by Burgess Studio.

Of his goals for this show, Blake says: "I hope that young people looking at it will say, 'Oh you can do that?' I'm a professional artist –I've been doing it for 50 years or 60 years – and you can still do experimental things. You can invent things, you can imagine things. And I would like them to feel that as well."

Alexis Burgess, director of Burgess Studio, indeed came away with that experience: "I realise now that the show title is ironic – that there are lots of ways to travel. It’s a lesson in how not to be uptight."

“Quentin Blake: The Only Way To Travel,” is on view from 15 June to 15 October 2017 at Jerwood Gallery in Hastings, jerwoodgallery.org. Follow along on social media with #BlakeOnlyWayToTravel.


It's Illustration Week at Newspaper Club!

Next up: we chat with San Francisco-based artist Koak about her surreal paintings, inspired by cartoons she watched growing up in '90s.

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