Thursday, 19 August 2010

What Are You Like?

If you have even the vaguest passing interest in illustration then you should absolutely go down and see ‘What Are You Like?’ - I give it two thumbs up.

It’s housed on the top floor of the DLI Museum in Aykley Heads, Durham, which is also home to the treasures of the Durham Light Infantry and charts its history. I didn’t have a good look – not with free wine and Pictionary waiting for me upstairs - but they have some beautiful and interesting stuff.

The show was in three parts. The titular ‘What Are You Like?’ refers to a Victorian parlour game where players describe themselves by creating images of their favourite things, such as their favourite pastime, food, place and comfort. As someone who is quite nosy by nature, I liked these little insights into the characters of the contributors, which included many famous names. I recognised illustrations by Quentin Blake, Shirley Hughes, David Shrigley and Lauren Child amongst others and was interested to see that unusually, non-professional artists had also contributed – there was an Eric Clapton if I remember rightly.. What made it special for me, was how different each person’s response was to the same brief, even when their ‘favourites’ were similar.

Salford Zine Library showed a room filled floor to ceiling with self-published ‘zines. Craig John Barr and Matthew Walkerdine only founded the library at the beginning of this year, so the scale and diversity of the collection was impressive. Their passion really came across in the introduction they gave at the beginning of the evening and there were some amazing pieces Having looked again through their blog, I’ve just noticed I’m actually in the third photo down. Luckily I have my head turned away from the camera so you won’t be subjected to the gormless facial expression I often make when reading. If you actually have any self-published work you’d like to send them to share with the world, their contact details are on their blog.

Thirdly, keeping my favourite ‘til last, was the exhibition by local illustration group Set of Drawers This type of illustration is totally up my street, go and see their website, it’s lovely. Set of Drawers are five freelance artists all successful in their own right: Bethan Laker, Lara Robinson, Josie Brookes, Clare Armstrong and Deborah Snell. They showed a pirate-themed collaboration with ShooFly Publishing which I loved. I’m a sucker for pirates. So is my five year old godson, so I always have an excuse to make pirate hats and hunt for treasure. And drink rum..

Left: Bethan Laker  Right: Josie Brookes

Set of Drawers also showed a selection of their own gorgeous pieces and some Alice In Wonderland illustrations. I LOVE that book, its nonsensical whimsy and drama lends itself perfectly to illustration. You can buy a set of Set Of Drawers cards featuring the Alice In Wonderland pieces for a terribly reasonable 3 squid. Oh, and if anyone wants to buy me one of Josie’s lovely March Hare ‘I’m late!’ screenprints, then please be my guest, they’re very reasonable. In fact, buy one for yourself whilst you’re at it. Apologies for the rubbish quality photos, by the way.

Clare Armstrong
Lara Robinson

Also, Gary Bainbridge and Jack Fallows announced the upcoming launch of new anthology ‘Art.. and that’ by brilliant creative community Paper Jam. I was originally introduced to their work last summer, when the three of us had pieces in an illustration exhibition at Mushroom Works, called ‘Quite The Character’. They do cool, contemporary comic-book style images, totally worth a look (

Then we played Pictionary on giant blackboards, I think they deliberately made the subjects extra-difficult to draw, given the players were arty people.

Was a v successful opening, on ‘til Sunday 5th September 2010

Here is my own little Alice picture. I’m going to have an Alice experimentation at some point, as I think this might work better in colour..

click to enlarge


  1. I love your Alice pic and think it actually works really well in black and white - gorgeous! Thanks for the lovely review, glad you enjoyed the exhibition, X

  2. Thanks for the shout-out, we should totally collaborate!

    -Jack (of PJCC)