ILLUSTRATION FEATURE Pictures at Play - SCBWI's Biennial Illustrators' Exhibition

Pictures at Play is back! This December sees the return of SCBWI's celebrated illustrator's exhibition in London, this time in the prestigious Westminster Reference Library next to the National Gallery.   Anne-Marie Perks and John Shelley reveal all.

Two years on since its first presentation, our flagship biennial illustrators exhibition Pictures at Play returns this year in a new central London location. Illustrators - the call for submissions is now open, deadline 20 October!


Our Previous Show

SCBWI’s Biennial Exhibition for illustrator members debuted in 2017 at the Half Moon Theatre and Gallery in east London. Pictures at Play hit the scene with gusto, highlighting among other great initiatives a memorable launch event where many publishing industry professionals were invited (including art directors, commissioning editors, and agents). Alongside the launch, a thought-provoking and informative panel-talk took place between the guest illustrators - Tim Hopgood, Pam Smy, and Leigh Hodgkinson - and the jury - Ness Wood, art director of David Fickling Books, Peter Marley, commissioning editor of Oxford University Press and Louise Jackson, commissioning art director from Walker Books.

Pubishing panel discussion at the 2017 Pictures at Play Launch (photo © John Shelley)

Other events associated with the 2017 exhibition were book and print sales by the exhibiting artists, book readings and workshops with families, and participation in Half Moon’s Christmas festival.

Definitely the most fun and stress-free exhibition I've ever taken part in! (Layn Marlow)
The last event showcased a beautiful selection of work from fellow SCBWI artists, and I was humbled to exhibit alongside them. The launch was a great opportunity to meet and chat with some lovely fellow illustrators too - really enjoyed that! (Howard Gray)
John Shelley presenting one of several illustrator events during the course of the 2017 show (image © John Shelley)
The new exhibition will continue to act as means for accepted illustrator members to build their presence with the publishing industry. 

 Pictures at Play 2019!

We are very excited to be in the Westminster Reference Library Gallery in December 2019. This beautiful library building is right in the centre of London, just off Leicester Square, nestled behind the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery. It's a location with a venerable history, the cellar of a house once occupied by Isaac Newton and Fanny Burney still forms part of the current building. The library is especially well known for its extensive collection of books on art, and regularly presents shows and events frequented by a wide range of creatives and academics.

Westminster Reference Library lies between Leicester Square and the National Gallery, on the site of a house once occupied by both Isaac Newton and Frances Burney, though not at the same time! (image © Westminster Reference Library)

Our guest illustrator for 2019 is author/illustrator James Mayhew, widely known for his Katie books introducing the art world to children, as well as series such as Mouse and Mole and Gaspard the Fox. The organising team is working on promoting the accepted artists’ work with a launch party, promoted extensively across the publishing industry. Yet to be confirmed will be a panel-talk the night of the launch party featuring the jury and guest illustrator.

James Mayhew is an illustrator and author, best known for the Katie books, Ella Bella Ballerina and Gaspard the Fox.
Alongside his books, James also collaborates with musicians and orchestras in concerts for children, painting illustrations live on stage in time to the music. For many years he taught on the MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art. (image © James Mayhew)

The invited judges will be looking for the very best of members' work for children's books. Selected images will be printed, framed and displayed for a month throughout December and the Christmas period, ending just after the New Year.

(image © Westminster Reference Library)

Highlights will include:

- A grand opening and panel talk for the exhibiting artists and industry professionals.
- Sale of exhibited prints by private arrangement with the exhibitors. 
- Sale of illustrators books at the launch party and other events. 
- Workshops and events for children and families through the course of the show.

Key dates 

20 October: Deadline for entrants to submit.
3 November: SCBWI will inform successful entrants by email.
17 November: Deadline for selected work to be uploaded to SCBWI for printing and framing.
9 December: Exhibition opens to the public.
14 December: SCBWI panel event and exhibition launch.
4 January 2020: Exhibition closes.

Every exhibitor will receive a framed giclée print of their accepted work for exhibition in addition to opportunities to attract attention through the events and other activities planned during the show. At a prestigious central location in the middle of London, this year's Pictures at Play will be a memorable exhibition. Submissions are open now!

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For all the details of how and what to submit access:


John Shelley is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures and the illustrator of over 50 books for children, most recently A Purse Full of Tales, an anthology of Korean folk stories, for Hesperus Press. He's twice been nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, first in 2018, and again in 2019.
Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @StudioNIB.

Anne-Marie Perks is a college lecturer, illustrator and the former SCBWI British Isles Illustrator Coordinator, for which she still volunteers on the illustration committee.
She has a website here, and on Tumblr.
Follow her on Twitter and Instagram 

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