Thu, 24 Sept 2020
Quentin Blake Quentin Blake and John Yeoman 50 years of children’s books
Quentin Blake and John Yeoman 50 years of children’s books, at The Base, Greenham, until December 6
Review by GERALDINE GARDNER
THE Base at Greenham Business Park has opened its doors for the first time since lockdown with an exhibition featuring the work of illustrator Quentin Blake and his long-time collaboration with writer John Yeoman.
Many people will be familiar with Blake’s style of drawing from his work on Roald Dahl’s children’s books, but his working partnership with John Yeoman goes back even further and this exhibition celebrates their work. The two went to the same school in Sidcup and both read English at Cambridge University, so it is perhaps not surprising that they should find it easy to work together, producing more than 30 books.
Their first joint project was A Drink of Water, published in 1960 and Yeoman is quoted as saying: “Quentin wanted a book to illustrate and he just asked me to write one.” The book is a selection of folk tales from around the world retold by Yeoman.
The Base has a small but perfectly formed exhibition space and shows such as this are ideally suited – as you walk around you can follow the pair’s collaboration in chronological order and what is immediately striking is their shared sense of the absurd and a quirky outlook.
From Sixes and Sevens to The World’s Laziest Duck (originally entitled The Puffin Book of Improbable Records) you can see how seemingly simple illustrations are so intricately drawn and how with one stroke of the pen Blake can convey so much.
Each section of the exhibition focuses on a different book and in some instances shows the work in progress as Blake’s drawings bring Yeoman’s words to life. It is a meeting of minds and a delightful exposition of the workings of two congenial grown-ups with a child’s outlook on life. In The Boy who Sprouted Antlers, we are shown how Blake adapted the illustrations to suit the times – the book was first published in 1984, with the boy in shorts and last republished in 2002, with the boy in long trousers.
You’ll leave the exhibition with a smile – albeit hidden behind a mask – because these joyous works are a reminder of the pleasures of childhood and letting your imagination run wild.
Quentin Blake and John Yeoman 50 years of children’s books runs to December 6 and is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm.
The Base has implemented all necessary safety measures and hand sanitiser dispensers are in place. Visitors are required to wear masks and no more than 25 people will be allowed in at any one time in order to ensure social distancing.
You can book tickets at www.thebasegreenham.co.uk or call the box office on 0845 5218218.
It is possible to turn up at the door, but given the restriction on numbers you may not be able to go in straight away – however, with The Honesty Café just next door it is easy to while away the time.