Rachel Lillie: Opening Week

Our Illustrator in Residence captures the moment our doors open and the first visitors arrive.


  • Rachel Lillie
  • Residency

The news of the week is.... the House of Illustration's doors are open!

And so the space that I've been drawing through all its changes becomes a public one. The galleries truly have been transformed. Not a speck of sawdust can be seen, and only the faint echo of a drill is heard as the builders continue towards the end of their work downstairs. Instead we have Mr and Mrs Twit, Washerwomen, a Dancing Frog and many more of Quentin Blake's timeless characters lining the walls. What a journey it's been for everyone involved - it felt incredibly special to see our first visitors walk through the House of Illustration doors, eager to discover what lies behind the walls.

The first through the doors was a lovely lady called Julie who seemed to sum up exactly what Sir Quentin's drawings evoke in us all when you look at the work in the flesh - "you really feel as if you've met them" as she points to Mrs Twit, "look there - I've met her - and him!"

Almost instantly after the first few visitors arrived, the galleries were full. I set myself the task of trying to draw everyone who visited us on the first day. I had lots of fun drawing the array of people in the gallery space, all really engaging with the exhibition. It was lovely to place myself at certain points in the gallery rooms and draw how people were interacting with the space. Looking back over my drawings it just proves how widely loved Quentin's work is, and that illustration truly is a universal visual language with the power to engage such a wide audience.

Standing in the gallery I saw the fluctuation in visitors throughout the day and observed how they moved. They created patterns and rhythms in the space, from the sound of footsteps and chitter-chatter to the way they navigated the exhibition - coming and going in waves, until we said goodbye to the very last guest. I met so many lovely people that day - I'll be drawing some more in the gallery, so keep an eye out for me if you're visiting and say hello!