12/03/14 - Gary Blythe at the Williamson Art Gallery

Last Friday I was lucky enough to attend an exhibition's private view the night before it officially opened to the public.  I've been going to them for years through my dad's work connections and they're always interesting, but this particular one really blew me away and I couldn't resist writing about it.  I was in the role of unofficial photographer for the evening, so I was dashing around with a complimentary glass of wine in one hand and camera in the other...exactly the way I wish I could spend every night!

Gary Blythe is an insanely talented local artist who is best known for illustrating picture books.  Having spent a bizarre amount of time around children's books (occupational hazard of working in a library), I recognised quite a lot of his work.  The printed reproductions in the books don't do justice to the incredible technique and detail of the original paintings.

This Is The Star by Joyce Dunbar

Beauty and the Beast by Geraldine McCaughrean
Whale's Song by Dyan Sheldon
Blythe won the 1990 Kate Greenaway Medal for Whale's Song.
The Perfect Bear by Gillian Shields
I was particularly drawn to the display of gorgeous pencil drawings.  The ones on the left-hand side of the photo below are from Jan Needle's Dracula and the incredible detail in each perfectly shaded scene is utterly breathtaking.

This illustration from Miss Happiness and Miss Flower by Rumer Godden (above) was probably my favourite piece in the whole exhibition.  The simplicity of this little pencil drawing means that it could initially be overlooked, but there was something about the serenity emanating from the little girl in the picture which meant that I spent a very long time looking at it and I found myself wandering back to it several times throughout the evening.

Gallery 2 was something of a departure, featuring Blythe's private work rather than his illustrations.  If you didn't know any better you would say that the two rooms featured totally different artists, although the more you browse and think about the work it is clear that there are some themes and motifs which work their way from his personal collection into his illustrations.

It was even hard to believe that the work on one wall of Gallery 2 was by the same artist as that on the opposite wall.  The range of styles and techniques throughout the exhibition was incredibly impressive, and certainly makes for a varied experience as you stroll around the space taking it all in.

The exhibition is open to the public until Sunday 4th May at the Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead.  It's a wonderful little gallery, something of a hidden gem across the water from the big flashy museums in Liverpool.  It's definitely worth a visit if you're in the area; the space boasts a friendly cafe, a shop featuring the work of local artists and an incredibly well-stocked bookshop.

I'm definitely going to be visiting again before it closes; as I said, I experience quite a lot of exhibitions but it's rare for one to take my breath away and fascinate me quite as much as this one has!

When was the last time an art exhibition really impressed you?  Let me know in the comments!


  1. Really interesting pictures! I love going to little galleries like this x
    The perks of being a hipster

    1. I feel like little galleries have much more soul to them than big famous ones :)

      Thanks for stopping by, I'm going to have a little browse on your blog! xx

  2. Thanks for posting this, I had the privilege of seeing a number of these for the first time in Gary's Studio twenty plus years ago when I was a student. If you hadn't bothered, I'd never have heard about it and missed out. Cheers!

  3. thanks Hannah! We are looking at his work at a school in China for a project on illustration and the photos have been really valuable, cheers Lindsey Holmes

  4. Wonderful. I was blown away by the illustrations in 'The Whale's Song and was (as a painter and occasional illustrator) very curious about his technique - this has been an eye opener!