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Celebrating National Illustration Day 2023

by Lindsey Glen, Quentin Blake Centre team

Illustration is all around us. From road signs to comics, video games to advertising, it is fundamental to human communication. Yet how often do we stop to notice, examine and celebrate it? And why do so many of us stop illustrating as we enter adulthood?

As the national centre for all things illustration, we decided to address this through a nationwide celebration. We set a date – the last Friday in November - commissioned illustrator Lena Yokoyama to create a set of joyful and inclusive images, and set about enlisting illustrators, schools and influencers to spread the word.

Photograph of a person standing and smiling in front of an illustrated wall with the wording 'Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration'.
© Nifty50Digital
Person standing in front of illustrated wallpaper with the wording 'National Illustration Day'.

The day began with Joey Yu illustrating Radio 4’s Today Programme live from the studio and discussing her practice: “I always love talking to people and drawing them live in that moment because you see those little micro-expressions. When you’re sitting with someone for a while you learn what they do, how they act. You can exaggerate certain elements and use whatever colours you like.”

Illustration of lots of people in a studio surrounded by monitors and computers.
© Joey Yu
Illustration of two people, they are wearing headphones and are sitting at a desk with monitors in front of them.
Illustration of a person sitting at a desk looking at two screens, typing on a keyboard in front of them.

Joey was joined by Quentin Blake Centre Ambassador Lauren Child to discuss the importance of a national day for illustration. Meanwhile on social media people had already begun posting illustrations that meant something special to them, along with their own illustrations. By 11am #NationalIllustrationDay was trending on X and by the end of the day well over 1,400 people had taken part on Instagram.

We especially enjoyed hearing from National Illustration Day projects around the country, from school celebrations using our new resources to a University of Brighton exhibition featuring work by current and past illustration students. With messages from places as far flung as Greece and Sweden it was clear that this had already become an International Illustration Day!

Screengrab of a National Illustration Day Instagram post from BA Illustration at University of Brighton.
Screengrab of a National Illustration Day tweet on X from Polesworth School.

Back in Islington, where we’re establishing our new galleries and learning spaces, we opened a pop up exhibition space and studio at Angel Central shopping centre. On display was illustration by Islington residents. Their animation, ceramics, illustration and textiles were created with Community Illustrators Alaa Alsaraji, Lily Ash Sakula, Grace Holliday and Jhinuk Sarkar in collaboration with the Peel Institute, Islington Mind and All Change Arts.

We invited people to drop in, be inspired and create a celebratory illustration with us. Members of the Quentin Blake Centre team, and Trustee and illustrator Marion Deuchars, were on-hand throughout with encouragement, tips and ideas.

Photograph of the outside of a shop with the windows covered in illustrations.

We welcomed more than 600 people over the course of the weekend, from ‘Black Friday’ shoppers to local illustrators, from the Mayor of Islington to families seeking indoor activities on a decidedly chilly day. It was an absolute joy to meet local residents of all ages, see their creativity at work and hear their ideas about the new Centre.

You can view the illustrations in our online gallery.

Two people holding ceramics standing in front of a large scroll and illustrations displayed on the wall.
© Lindsey Glen
Three people look at an exhibition of illustration and sculpture.
© Nifty50Digital

On welcoming people to our studio, I was struck by how many adults told us “I can’t draw” or suggested they would need a child with them in order to participate. Yet with gentle encouragement from our persistent team, we saw people who hadn’t draw for years use collage, pens and pencils to express an idea in a creative and meaningful way.

Photograph of three people, one is a child, at a table illustrating with pens and paper.
Photograph of three people at a table illustrating with pens and paper.
Photograph of a person at a desk drawing with pencils on a piece of paper on a table.
Photograph of the Mayor of Islington holding an illustration of himself.

As Lauren Child told the Today programme: “At some point a lot of us think we’re not talented and therefore we can’t draw. And yet drawing is a wonderful pursuit. [Our aim] is to encourage people to have a go at drawing and [feel] what it does for you when you look out at the world - that moment where you’re really, really concentrating on something. I think that promotes empathy and understanding as well because when you look, you really begin to see. It makes you ask questions.”

National Illustration Day will be back next year and we’d love to hear your ideas. Get in touch at