Exhibition: The BFG in Pictures at York Art Gallery

This review comes to you sponsored by my superstar of a mother-in-law.

As I may have alluded to in the past, Baby Bookworm is a spirited sort and the excitement of seeing Quentin Blake’s original, unpublished sketches of The BFG was a little much for him the other day.

He flew around York Art Gallery like he’d drunk a bottle of frobscottle until there were tears (mine) and Granny S came to the rescue, taking him for some ‘time out’ while I finished looking round.

I’m hugely grateful, not least because The BFG in Pictures is a lovely little gem of an exhibition that is ideal for young children other from my own….

The BFG in Pictures at York Art Gallery

Curated by Blake and created by House of Illustration in London, which has a room dedicated to his work (and is worth a nosy should you have time to kill at Kings Cross – or even if you don’t), it is split into two sections.

The first area has a selection of 40 of Blake’s preparatory sketches and different versions of the finished artwork for Roald Dahl’s book about orphan Sophie and her word-mangling, dream-sharing, whizzpopping Big Friendly Giant.

Originally commissioned to produce a small number of black and white illustrations, Dahl asked his long-time collaborator to expand his contribution to the 1982 novel, with chapter headings and a coloured cover.

Later editions saw the book become full colour and there is a short but fascinating video of Blake talking about how he uses a lightbox to reproduce his initial ideas while retaining the energy of his style.

There is a quote about his artwork being like handwriting, which I thought summed it up perfectly.

No pictures are allowed as the images are too precious, so I can’t share them here – you’ll have to go and take a look for yourself.

The BFG in Pictures at York Art Gallery
Making up some splendiferous BFG-style words

The second room is very much hands-on and aimed at letting children explore their thoughts on the book and the themes within, as well as try different styles of drawing.

There is a space designed to be Sophie’s bedroom, with story books, a bed and a table where there are sketch pads and pens, plus worksheets to spark ideas.

The BFG in Pictures at York Art Gallery
Sophie’s bedroom space

There’s also a beautiful darkened space behind a curtain, styled as The BFG’s cave. It’s decorated with his dream jars and has a big chalkboard, along with a lightbox area so you can try drawing in the style of Blake himself.

The BFG in Pictures at York Art Gallery
Inside The BFG’s cave

There are further creative spaces elsewhere, including chalkboards to draw your own BFG (there were some very impressive examples done by visitors on our day there), magnetic letters to make up words and luggage tags to write down your wishes.

These ranged from wanting world peace and good health for relatives to holidays in Disneyland and seeing favourite Kpop bands. It takes all sorts!

My favourite element was the dressing up area, where you can don BFG ears and a cape, take a dream-catching case and visit the little houses to blow them into children’s bedrooms.

Baby Bookworm put on his ears and delightedly announced “I’m the BFG!”. But as is the way with toddlers, they were off again before I could get a photo.

The BFG in Pictures at York Art Gallery
Children can dress up as the iconic character and share their dreams

I think all generations of Dahl fans will get something out of this exhibition. It’s the perfect size for small children or anyone with a short attention span, and the focus on inspiring people to draw only enhances the artworks on display.

There are going to be plenty of special events too, with Big Draw workshops taking place at the moment, if you want to make your visit at real razztwizzler, as The BFG would say.

A gloriumptious way to spend a couple of hours!

The BFG in Pictures at York Art Gallery
Alas, this was not my handiwork

The BFG in Pictures is at York Art Gallery until 24 February 2019, open daily 10am-5pm. Admission is £7.50 adults, free for under-16s with a paying adult and free for members. Find out more, including details of special events, at yorkartgallery.co.uk

Other book-themed things to with kids…

Matilda the Musical: our review

Seven Stories in Newcastle: the best day out in Britain for bookworms?

Follow The Highway Rat trail at Dalby Forest in North Yorkshire

Meet The Tiger Who Came To Tea at National Trust properties around the UK

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