My experiences profits at The House of Illustration



This is a resume from my time in the House of Illustration of the things I find important. I will always keep this experience with me:


The power of observation


One of the main roles I had in the House of Illustration was the invigilation of the exhibition rooms. Is probably one of the most unnoticed jobs while at the same time you are not hidden, but quite visible. Others might see you just as a piece of furniture. You are just there, quiet, silence, not disturbing other’s people enjoyable time. You don’t exist for the world except when there is a problem. Luckily in all the hours I had been working in vigilance I have never encounter any problem.

But, are vigilantes as they look? Not at all. The truth is that the nine hours of quietness can bring lots of mind stimulation and great insights when you are in the right place. And for sure The House of Illustration is the right place for an illustrator. People do look at the exhibition in different ways, each person bring their own interest and they comment interesting things (when they are accompanied) and look at things in very different ways. Listening and observing can also teach you new things. Then, there is also the long hours when there’s no one visiting the exhibition…. those are my own hours, when the exhibition is there just for me and I am able to slowly sink into each piece hanging in the wall and read the artists graphic novels that were also in the exhibition. I would dedicate each day to different artists. The quiet learning in those hours were a little treasure I will always remember.


Flexibility – Workshops


The House of Illustration is a big place with many different people working. Each one has their own personal style. I am very interested in working with people and have a background with children and arts in schools. I owe then so much for my illustration style nowadays and returning to this was very touching. Each workshop was run by a different illustrator and for different kind of interests and people like single young mums, a school of deaf children, families and general schools. My role was to assist the leader. Once again I was in the background as a learner. Each illustrator would teach their own strengths and tricks in illustration and we would have a chat before starting so I could know about what we would be  doing in the next hours. I would learn from each one and try to fit their requirements. Working with so many children can be very exciting and also stressful. Flexibility to work and learn from each illustrator was key.


Getting familiar with the place


While I was immersing in my own tasks in The House of Illustration other things were happening. The last days I was there one of the exhibitions finished and The House of Illustration was setting up a new one. So I was able to see and listen to the many people involved in the new exhibition coming in. From the outside it would look like nothing was happening but the movement inside The House of Illustration was almost like a revolution.

Another very interesting thing that I would have never expected is that in the House of Illustration are between thirty-five to fifty volunteers on a rota. It was actually a bit hard to get “invited” to volunteer for this placement, I had to convince them of my value. So, thinking that illustration is not a first need cause in our society, to get involve as a supporter or volunteer is very generous of people. What this tells me is that when you do something good it would attract likeminded people, no matter what is for. Is very encouraging to see how we all want to be part of a bigger piece of what we really love. This is part of being a social animal!

I also met wonderful people and very probably will keep in touch with them. My little fanzines “How did I ever ended here?” are now selling in the shop. And who knows, maybe one day I have another book in their shelves!

To read more in detail please go to my other posts in the “Work experience placement”



The trouble with women and other things.


Today is Sunday and I had all day invigilation at the house of illustration, almost 9 hours. I left my house quite early. It felt like doing something wrong by leaving my bed so early on a Sunday. Wishing university is over and I can start doing new things without this feeling of being working only for the purpose of having good marks. But as usual life gets better after really waking up. When I arrived at the house of illustration I had the chance to be by myself in the big room with the works of the next manga exhibition which will be open to the public in one week. That was a moment of pleasure. Details and more details in each canvas, a never ending lesson in drawing. Such skilled illustrators!! How do they do so good out of the pencils, brushes, paper, and colours, how can someone use these to through in the world these masterpieces? I’ll definitely have to return and spend more time looking at all the details in this exhibition. There’s more than one can see in just one visit!
I really, really love the exhibition of women going on at this moment and today I was a bit annoyed because I had to work only in my FMP sketchbook.


I am aware of the little time I have for my too ambitious project: making a book in less than 2 months! It would be enough time if I could do it in my way but I know that part of the learning process at university is to explore new techniques and also the research. So with all this I couldn’t get to dive into the wonderful illustrations from these women as I would have liked… I was jealous of the people who came and wandered around the rooms, some of them spending hours in each room, time was stopped for them. They were in another galaxy that I know very well, the place of engagement with arts, that space without time, without worries. Lost in illustration; the most similar thing I could think of is when you fall in love and you are only happy with that person. Why the world is not something about being in love, eating delicious food, swimming in wonderful beaches and, important here, being surrounded by good illustration and, of course, doing it too!

But….. there was one book I made time to look at… and this is the story of the book: At some point in the morning I learned that we were going to have Jacky Fleming signing books. I wondered who could be this Jacky Fleming so I went to the room where she was exhibiting and looked at her work and her book “The trouble with Women” I realised that the layout of the book had some similarities with one of the ways I was thinking about for my project, the one I was working on today. Illustrations are framed, simple lines, with ink and hand written typography. So, since the book was interesting, beautiful, with sense of dark humour -a bit British, not as a criticism but the opposite- and I get a 25% discount in the bookshop, I decided to buy it and have it signed by the author. When she came I asked her to sign it for me and she asked me what would I like her to write for me, so I said “something beautiful, please”, and she looked at me I guess wondering who was I to ask for such a thing. Then I realised that when I looked at her work I noticed she was a woman more into the cynicism than into beauty. So, kind of saving the situation, I told her why I was buying her book. My sketchbook was under my arm and I showed her the similarities I saw in my drawings with her illustrations, and surprise! she liked my drawing and she insisted in looking more into my sketchbook. She told me to get in touch with “Rose” from the editorial of her book and she said she would talk to “Rose” about our encounter. Now I’m wondering what can I show Rose since I don’t have a portfolio. I will have to ask at university on Tuesday how I should show Rose.

This is me with Jacky after she sign my book and it says:

For Iris,

Good luck with your beautiful illustrations. Jacky

So maybe at the end she was also into beauty!

The last two hours I decided to leave my sketchbook and get a couple of graphic novels from the exhibition to end the day at the House of Illustration. So I had a bit of time for this at the end. It’s difficult sometimes to concentrate when people are coming and going around, but I managed to do some sketching and write most of the post you are reading now and get closer to complete my 60 hours intern-ship.

Little hands


This time we worked with two courses of year (10 years old). The drawings were much more developed but missing the innocence and originality of year 1 previous groups (6 years old). Never the less still many good things to take with me.


This workshop’s task was to make them do in groups of five a strip of illustrations from a fairy tale and then, not telling anyone which tale was, the other groups had to find out to which fairy tale belonged these illustrations just by looking at the drawings. We gave them only ten minutes to do this. After this we gave each child a piece of text from the tale “The wizard of Oz” and a story board template with six squares to fill in with illustrations from the text. When they ended the storyboard with pencil they used a long pointed stick to go through all the lines with ink. They also could use some colour ink if they wanted.


I asked them if I could take photographs of some of their work, and as usual, they were really happy for me to do so. The thing is that I am filling up a folder in my computer with images from their work and I feel like I have a bank of great ideas, really good illustrations, gems of art. And all this coming from such generous artistic hearts!!! Life and its presents!!


Pop Ups Workshops




Today at the House of Illustration we had two workshops with two different classes from the same school: year 1 and year 2. First we showed them the competition of illustrations for the “War Horse” and the exhibition of “Mapping Kings Cross” by David Lemm. After that we had them drawing with pencils inspired by these two exhibitions. And, after this, we took them to the workshop room downstairs and teach them how to do a “pop up” card. The theme was related to treasures; their own treasures, pirate’s treasures, etc. The enthusiasm was absolute. When they work, they really commit to it…. One could say by looking at them that they are living their own drawings. I saw a little girl who drew a butterfly and then took it around the room as it flying in reality. There is also so much insight in the way they work: strong confidence in their strokes, follow of the instincts, really doing it in their own very way. It was a privilege to see so many artists working today and to learn from them.



The singing mums


19th of February I helped in a workshop at the House of Illustration with young vulnerable parents and their babies coming from an organisation called All Change. This workshop was a bit messier than the one before as babies tried to get attention from their parents while they were trying hard to commit on making their own piece of art. And they tried really hard!! Once again art was showing an escape route for a harsh reality. We also did the lenticular piece for this workshop. Babies here and there, pencils, food, magazines, glue, baby bottles, conversations about children teethes, toys, lipsticks…. But the final surprise was when a mum started to sing and another one follow her and then another and at the end they all sang teenager songs and babies enjoyed their mums. It was really lovely to see once again how we all find our way to enjoy life, no matter what you are going through.

Lenticular workshop


Yesterday was my first workshop day at the House of Illustration. For this time the workshop was leaded by two illustration students at Kingston University. As I came earlier I had time to chat with them and learned that they were new to this kind of workshops. They were asked by one of their tutors at university to do this as so they could gain some experience. Also we talked about our courses and looked at each other’s works and after our chat we started to prepared the space and materials for the workshop. We were expecting 16 people, 6 adults and 10 children. The workshop was about making a lenticular collage: one way was going to show the past and the other the future.


We prepared the lenticular papers by folding A3 sheets into eight long strips so that people would have more time to do the collage. After that we filled the tables with colour papers, magazines, sizers, pencils and glue. When the materials and the room was ready it was time for me to go upstairs to receive the people and bring them down. A moment later everyone was sitting in the place to choose and started working in their past and their future. And here came one of the most beautiful moments in which the flow of concentration felt as if each one was in their own world and at the same time very much united to the rest by a sense of peace and wellbeing. The room full of mainly children and some adults…. silence in the air. This connection to the spirit is what I most love of arts, sometimes I even think that I love it more than the piece of art coming out of this state. This is what I really pursuit by doing arts. When people started finishing their works conversations started slowly between people that they didn’t know before each other: what would you prefer; to go to the space or under the sea in a submarine

The results were beautiful. More than what I expected. People slowly left in peace and love and Joey, Holy and me with another volunteer left the room tidy and ready for the next time.



House of Illustration

House of I.

I started my placement last Thursday. It was a very cold February day and I wasn’t sure how long it will take me from my house to the House of Illustration, so I arrived 25 minutes before my starting time at 9.30 am.!! The temperature was 0 degrees and I was wondering around and getting familiar with Kings Cross. As a Southern European as was dressed with layers and layers, yet I could feel the cold passing through all my clothes and thoughts. The question came back; the same question I have every winter since my arrival in the UK eight years ago: will I live here for good? And them the same answer: this is the loveliest place to be ever in summer… although I can believe it when I’m going through the winter.

Finally, someone opened the door at 9.25, But they weren’t expecting me! The visitor manager, Holly Burrows, who asked me to come, forgot to let know the rest of the team that I was coming on this day. Fortunately, after checking with Holly they told me that it was good for them to have one more helper. Next week I will be assisting in three workshops but for this Thursday I worked as a vigilant and it was actually quite interesting. When being quiet in a corner for hours surrounded just by the exhibition’s works you can learn more than what you think. We should never underestimate the power time plus observation. Time, that precious thing we seem to lack so much, time to look at things, time to really understand the kind of people interested in illustration and to hear their comments about what they see, time to see how this place works in detail.


The actual collective exhibition is filled up with wonderful drawings, storyboards, posters, illustrations and wonderful graphic novels books… and now I can look at all this and read this books within the many hours I will have to spend here today! At the end of my first day at the House of Illustration I felt completely drank of one of the things I most like in the world: illustration.

At the moment the House of Illustration is hosting an exhibition of the work of pioneering female comics artists. Exploring the world of comics through original artwork by 100 women comic creators working across genres and generations – from the 1800s to the present day; from observational comedy to surreal fantasy, challenging biography to subversive dissent. On display is original artwork from graphic novels, comics and zines – many seen in public for the first time. It will feature work from acclaimed titles such as Nina Bunjevac’s Fatherland and Isabel Greenberg’s Encyclopedia of Early Earth as well as self-published sensations like Nadine Redlich’s Ambient Comics and many more. Some of the images in this exhibition are dealing in a masterly way way with very difficult issues such as abuse, grieve, isolation, rape… in a straight forward way to meet the viewer with this traumas, much better than explained with words.

Also theirs is an exhibition of the artist David Lemm: Mapping King’s Cross: a multi-disciplinary exploration of the changing King’s Cross landscape by our Illustrator in Residence. The first two hours of my day I was at the entrance of David Lemm’s exhibition. Here you can see a set of 24 square wooden boards with collages representing maps of Kings Cross with his observations and experiences in the area.  Among the different visitors to this room I was very interested in a group of students with a tutor talking about phytogeography. The tutor was talking about a known personage that predicted 20 years ago by channelling energies that Kings Cross area was going to be a playground for imagination and this is the reason for Saint Martin’s University and the House of Illustration ended placed in this area. I was very interested in this conversation, yet I couldn’t get the name of this personage and because of my “invisible” role as a vigilant I couldn’t ask. I will, anyway, research about it.


At the moment they also have The Book Illustration Competition Longlist 2016. entrants have been asked to illustrate Michael Morpurgo’s classic War Horse.There are many very strong illustrations from all around the world. The winner will be announced on 25 February 2016.