Story book stars pay a visit

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SOME of the best known children’s illustrations will be taking centre stage at a Park Gallery exhibition.

All of the artists involved have provided drawings for books by Julia Donaldson, who is curating the display.

Julia, best known for her 1999 favourite ‘The Gruffalo’, has helped create the exhibition in conjunction with Artlink Central, a charity of which she is the patron.

Julia said: “Artlink Central was talking about if it might use Callendar House.

“Because of the gallery space, and because most of my books are illustrated, it made sense to create something along these lines.

“It’s really nice that there is a common theme.

“It’s all very new and a very exciting time for me.”

The exhibition will be a mix of finished pictures and early sketches, along with some of the ‘props’ which Julia uses during her regular storytelling sessions. The illustrators whose work will be on display include Jonathan Allen, Nick Sharratt and David Roberts.

There are also some pictures from Julia’s private collection.

She said: “Often people imagine that an author and illustrator work hand in hand but that’s not the case.

“A publisher will look at a text and then send it off to an illustrator.

“My first book, ‘A Squash and a Squeeze’, was sent to two different illustrators who couldn’t do it.

“The third choice was Axel Scheffler, I didn’t meet him until after it was published, but he’s now my most regular illustrator.”

Julia explained that finding the right illustrator for a story can be tricky.

She said: “Different texts require different skills. Recently I was asked to write a sequel to ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’. I had no idea who would illustrate it. I had in my head Edward Lear – but he’s been dead for a long time!

“To find someone who was going to be faithful to that style was difficult, but I’m thrilled that we have Charlotte Voake.

“She has sent two early sketches from the book for the exhibition which I haven’t even seen.”

Another exclusive in the exhibition is a display of envelopes in which Julia received correspondence from Axel Scheffler.

Each one is decorated with paintings and, in some cases, Axel has used the stamp in his design, to create an image of the Queen on a horse or Prince William as a giant.

Julia said: “I think my postman has a more interesting life than most! Sometimes he has to search for my name and address and once Axel wrote them on bricks being played with by the Gruffalo’s child!

“When Axel got an e-mail address, I didn’t use it for ages because I didn’t want the letters to stop!”

Artlink will also be running events to tie in with the exhibition.

Director Kevin Harrison said: “We will be going into the children’s ward at Stirling with an illustrator and cartoonist to create a large collage, using the books as inspiration.

“We are really excited about this exhibition – we have a real interest in supporting the Park Gallery as it’s had a few knocks in the past.

“It’s such an imaginative setting in which to do something associated with Julia’s books.

“She is a fantastic asset to us and a key supporter.

“She comes along to our events to meet the children we’re working with and comes up with fantastic ideas.”

As well as the exhibition, there are a number of supporting events over the coming weeks.

‘The Gruffalo’ film is being shown at FTH Cinema on March 30 and at the Hippodrome on April 2.

Julia herself will be hosting a Words and Pictures event in Callendar House on Saturday, April 9, talking about writing stories and working with talented illustrators. The talk is suitable for adults and children aged 10 and over.

During the Easter holidays there are Gruffalo drama workshops on Monday, April 4, while on Saturday, April 16, there is the opportunity to create your own book with artist Charmian Pollok.

Tickets for these events must be booked in advance at the Steeple Box Office on (01324) 506850.

There will also be free drop-in storytelling sessions on Wednesday, March 16, and Saturday, March 19, as well as on April 2, 5, 19 and 26 at 10.30 a.m. in the Park Gallery.

‘The Illustrators’, curated by Julia Donaldson, opens at the Park Gallery, Callendar House this Saturday, March 12 between 10 a.m. and 2.30 p.m.

After the opening day, the gallery will be open Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last admission 4 p.m.) and the exhibition runs until May 2.