Last winter, I paid a couple of visits to the Cartoon Museum in London to see their fabulous exhibition of Carl Giles artwork (see my original review here). I don't mind telling you that I was quite sad when it finished... I quite liked the idea of it just 'being there', where I could pop in for a top-up whenever I needed. As a result, I now find myself keeping a watchful eye on the The British Cartoon Archive's website (for 'tis they who now look after the entire collection of Giles' original art), just in case another exhibition is announced. Well it paid off when I recently spotted the launch of 'Giles Ahoy' in Herne Bay, Kent (1st August - 26th September 2009), and last Friday we got the opportunity to visit it.
The British Cartoon Archive have now completed their mammoth task of digitising and cataloguing every piece of Giles artwork in their trust (almost 8500 cartoons and sketches). Pop along to their website and you can now view just about everything the great man ever drew, all in chronological order. And it's even better than that... you can use their search facility to find Giles cartoons relating to any particular story, person or theme you fancy... Want to see every one of his 'football' related cartoons? (there's 159 of 'em!), all 121 cricket related drawings perhaps? or how about the 69 that relate to aircraft??!! Just type in what you are looking for and their archive does the rest. And that's exactly what the Herne Bay Museum and Gallery did to create their exhibition which, as the name suggests, is a collection of all things nautical. They found a total of 93 related cartoons, and put the selection to the local community to vote on. What's on display are the winners, the original artwork for around 15-20 pieces. You might think that with a relatively small number of items on display, you'd be in and out in 10 minutes... not so! As with the London event, we found ourselves pouring over each piece for ages. Giles used to cram such an amazing amount of detail into his cartoons, that you can spend an age picking out all the hidden gems. Seeing the original art (in much magnified size in comparison to the printed version) enables you to really enjoy his work to its full potential. Add to all this a collection of personal photos of Giles on board his own boat and you've got a really interesting display.
I was also delighted to see the carved statues of the Giles 'family' once again. I was really taken with these when I saw them at the London event. As I recall, the carved 'Baby George' was placed on top of Giles' coffin at his funeral.
The icing on the cake (and the reason for choosing this particular day to visit the museum) was a thoroughly interesting talk by Nick Hiley from The British Cartoon Archive. He gave a wonderful overview of Giles' life and oozed warmth and affection for the man throughout. Nick wrote an excellent book about Giles, 'One of the Family' to coinside with the London exhibition, and it is a great read (and packed with rarities that I've never seen published anywhere else). I was delighted to get a chance to chat with Nick after his talk too.
All in all a very successful trip!
If you happen to find yourself that way between now and 26th September, I can thoroughly recommend a visit to the Herne Bay Museum and Gallery (it's even free entry!).
Find out all about the great work that The British Cartoon Archive is doing with the Giles collection over at their website.
Have a go at their Giles cartoon search engine here!