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The Best Illustration London Has To Offer

26 June 2014 | Emma Wright

Love London? Then you’ll love London’s illustration galleries. Whether you’re an illustrator or someone looking to learn more about an entirely alien subject; read on!

Permit this London Calling feature writer a brief intro. British illustration varies wildly - from the grizzly http://www.imi.org.uk/ to the satirical work of Rob Thompson that stops you weeping into your Metro each morning. The line between illustration and art often blurs: some of the world’s first ‘art’ (ecclesiastical) was created for illustrative purposes. A large amount of illustration today is digital and there are scattered online resources to learn more from. But for non-digital illustration, the following galleries and events are your resources…

House of Illustration has recently opened at 2 Granary Square, King’s Cross. In fact it houses ‘international and British, old and new illustration; from adverts to animation, picture books to political cartoons and scientific drawings to fashion design’… but we imagine they couldn’t afford the signage. They’re currently hosting a Quentin Blake retrospective. Would Charlie’s ticket have been a fraction as golden without Blake’s work?

The Shirley Sherwood Gallery at Kew Gardens is dedicated to botanical illustration. This important scientific practice blossomed (yes!) into a display of wealth in the 1500s (before tulips were £3 from Tesco), and whatever their reasons; Kew still commissions c.100 botanical illustrations a year. Two other facts: The earliest surviving botanical illustration is the Codex vindobonensis, made in 512 AD for the daughter of a Roman Emperor and Franz Bauer’s work has been proved accurate by a scanning electron microscope.

The trail-blazing Illustration Cupboard Gallery has been open since the mid nineties and was one of the first galleries to have a presence on the ‘world wide intermaweb’. The gallery is in the underrated art hub that is the Trafalgar Square area, so London Calling will be disappointed if you don’t at least duck into the National Gallery for a tea. The Illustration Cupboard displays ‘picture books, media reportage, film animation, graphic novels and theatre designs’ and it’s bookshop contains signed work, first editions, rare, out-of-print and limited editions.

One for the stylish: the Fashion Illustration Gallery (at the Mayor Gallery) on Cork Street was founded in 2007 to promote and sell work by fashion illustrators. Fashion illustration can be either technical, or the most creative and emotive branch of illustration there is; charged with capturing a mood that will translate into our every-day lives for years to come.

The London Illustration Fair sets up in the Hoxton Arches on 5th and 6th July. It will showcase the UK’s ‘hottest’ individuals, collectives, and start-ups; alongside established agencies, publications and studios. They want to ‘demonstrate the fundamental role illustration plays in contemporary culture’… a respectable mission. There will be live outdoor mural painting, live screen printing and most probably, lots of booze.

This year, this feature writer has missed an exhibition on the top 10 best known children’s book illustrators at the British Library, and well-known contemporary graphic arts festival, ‘Pick me up’ at Somerset House. So remember to keep your eyes open for the next best thing!

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