Quentin Blake: Inside Stories - Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle (REVIEW)

The Quentin Blake: Inside Stories exhibition is on at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle until 8 July. 

My boys love their art, love Roald Dahl and with an artist, for a dad, I knew this was something the whole family would love to see when we were invited along to review the exhibition. So during the recent school holidays off we went.

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle

We are having quite a couple of Roald Dahl years. Last year we joined in the centenary celebrations and this year we have already been to see The Twits at Northern Stage so there was a lot of excitement about going to see the pictures from some of my boys' favourite books.

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle

But there is much more than just Roald Dahl illustrations at the Laing Art Gallery. 

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle

Bringing together more than 100 pieces of original art, Quentin Blake: Inside Stories, has first roughs, storyboards and finished artworks that demonstrate how Blake's ideas evolve, often in close collaboration with the authors.

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle

The exhibition covers many different topics and answers many different questions such as 

  • Which moments do you choose to illustrate? 
  • Where do the pictures go?
  • How to adapt to the mood or atmosphere of the story?
  • What do Characters look like? 
  • What does an illustrator think about?

As well as the artwork on the walls, the exhibition is also interactive and encourages children, in particular, to be creative with an Interactive box, with dressing up clothes and items from books that evoke wonder and interest and three creative stations where you can Draw a Character, Design a Front Cover or Make a Book Dummy.

Draw a Character:

The boys favourite was drawing a character. You had to roll a dice five times and after each throw, the number rolled matched a characteristic or description. Once you had five you had to draw a character that encompassed these points. The boys had a lot of fun and you can see some of their characters the exhibition inspired here.

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle

The exhibits demonstrate Blake’s use of a wide range of different techniques and media including inks, watercolours and pastels to create his distinctive and unforgettable illustrations.There is also information about what Quentin uses to draw – Pen, Reed pen made from bamboo, Waterproof pencil, Sable brushes and Quills.

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle

I also liked the Quentin Blake quotes on the walls …

"It's like directing a play, except that you actually 
get to design the scenery and play all the parts"

"I discovered that a drawing can fulfil its purpose 
and still be scratchy and instinctive and badly behaved"

We saw illustrations from lots of books including Story of the Dancing Frog, The Wild Washerwoman, The Twits, Danny, Candide, Michael Rosen's Sad Book, David Walliams' The boy in the Dress, Matilda and Clown.

Who is Quentin Blake?

Quentin Blake was born in the suburbs of London in 1932 and has drawn ever since he can remember. He has always made his living as an illustrator, as well as teaching for over twenty years at the Royal College of Art. His first drawings were published in Punch while he was 16 and still at school. He continued to draw for Punch, The Spectator and other magazines over many years, while at the same time entering the world of children's books and he is known for his collaboration with writers such as Russell Hoban, Joan Aiken, Michael Rosen, John Yeoman and, most famously, Roald Dahl.

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle

The Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Founded in 1901, the funds to build the Laing Art Gallery were provided by Alexander Laing, a Newcastle businessman who had made his money from his wine and spirit shop and beer bottling business. Located in the heart of the city, the gallery today is home to an internationally important collection of art, focusing on British oil paintings, watercolours, ceramics, silver and glassware, and holds regularly changing exhibitions of historic, modern and contemporary art.

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle

When to Visit

  • Monday               Closed (except bank holidays)
  • Tuesday               10am - 5pm
  • Wednesday         10am - 5pm
  • Thursday             10am - 5pm
  • Friday                  10am - 5pm
  • Saturday              10am - 5pm
  • Sunday                2pm - 5pm
Quentin Blake: Inside Stories at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle

How much does it cost?

Admission to the Laing Art Gallery is free. Tickets to the Quentin Blake exhibition are:
  • Full price including donation £ 8.00
  • Full price                                 £ 7.00
  • Senior citizens                        £ 6.30
  • Concessions                            £ 5.60
  • Family ticket                            £14.00
  • Children 12 and under            Free
  • Membership discounts            £ 3.50
  • Multi-visit ticket                      £13.60
  • Multi-visit member                 £ 9.30

What is your favourite Quentin Blake illustration?

Deb x

We received complimentary admission to the exhibition in exchange for an honest review.
Photography is not allowed within the exhibition so the images of the exhibits have been supplied by the Laing Art Gallery.


  1. Ahh! What a great day out...Quentin Blake is such an amazing artist. I grew up reading Roald Dahl's books so remember his illustrations well x

  2. What a cool exhibit. I adore Quentin Blake. I have absolutely loved him since I was a little girl!

    Rachael xox

  3. We will have to take the girls. The love Roald dahl books so would be interested in seeing more Blake illiustrations

  4. So interesting to see inside this exhibition. I grew up with Blake's illustrations and Roald Dahl's books. Fascinating to learn a bit more about the artist and I like the interactive element. #culturedkids

  5. I grew up in Newcastle and the Laing was a popular haunt of ours so this was a pleasure to read and a trip down memory lane! I love Quentin Blake illustrations I think the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ones are my favourite. The great thing about this exhibition is that kids get a chance to draw themselves as well as look at Blake's inspirational art. #Culturedkids

  6. AnonymousMay 05, 2017

    Having grown up with Dahl's novels I absolutely adore the illustrations of Quentin Black. Great to see an exhibition dedicated entirely to him.

  7. Quentin Blake's a legend. Roald Dahl's stories are amazing, but a large part of what gives them their power is the illustrations. I'd love to see this exhibition. #CulturedKids

  8. What a great exhibition, I especially like the sound of drawing your own character. #CulturedKids

  9. I've grown up reading the works of Roald Dahl and love Quentin Blake's fantastic illustrations. Thank you for sharing your experience with #CulturedKids