Top 5 Artworks from Quentin Blake: Illustrating Verse

Exhibition curator Katie McCurrach chooses her five favourite artworks from our new touring exhibition.


  • Katie McCurrach, Exhibitions Curator
  • Exhibitions

The first ever exhibition dedicated to Quentin Blake’s illustrations for poetry opens in Kirkby on 17 January. Get a taste of Quentin Blake: Illustrating Verse with our curator’s selection of her favourite works.

1. Mister Magnolia by Quentin Blake

Mister Magnolia is such a unique and loveable character. He lives an eccentric life with his pet owls and dinosaur and one freezing cold foot, but he has lots of friends as well. When Quentin Blake first started drafting Mister Magnolia, he imagined it as a counting book. Even though it became a poetry book with a simple storyline, you can still count the items on each page (1 boot, 2 sisters, etc.). This illustration shows six friends on Mister Magnolia’s scooter.

2. The Bed Book by Sylvia Plath

One job that an illustrator often has to do is think carefully about the layout of a page in a book, particularly how the drawings will fit around the text so that it is easy to read and makes sense. You can see in this artwork how Blake has cut out Sylvia Plath’s text so that he can arrange it on the page and position the three different beds that are mentioned in the verse around it.

3. Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

Jabberwocky is a poem that describes an imaginary monster using lots of nonsense words, which gives Blake as the illustrator a lot of room to decide how he wanted the monster to look. Blake used a chinagraph pencil (a bit like a wax crayon) to draw the Jabberwocky to make the monster and the surrounding forest look wild and scary.

4. All Join In by Quentin Blake

Quentin Blake is very good at making a scene look messy and chaotic by drawing lots of characters doing different things. He hasn’t put in any background or wall colour so that we can easily see what is going on. My favourite part is the poor cat in the bottom right hand corner – you can spot it on other pages in All Join In having a difficult time in all the mayhem but it does get a plate of chocolate cake at the end of the book.

5. Our Village by John Yeoman

This illustration perfectly complements the end of the poetry book Our Village by John Yeoman, where Yeoman describes the villagers ice skating under the moon. Blake has used cold colours for the scene to evoke the snowy atmosphere, which contrasts with the warm yellow-orange for the lanterns. I particularly like the sleeping birds in the tree on the right side of the page.

See our touring exhibition Quentin Blake: Illustrating Verse when it opens on 17 January at Kirkby Gallery.