Axel Scheffler is spearheading a project to publish a book of illustrations by Judith Kerr, Quentin Blake, Chris Riddell and more, celebrating Europe.
Drawing Europe Together: Forty-five Illustrators, One Europe will be published by Pan Macmillan on 1st November with artwork from British and European artists. It was inspired by 'Drawing Europe Together', an exhibition of pro-European artwork that Scheffler helped create and that was shown in Germany and at the Institut Français in London.
German-born Scheffler said: “I'm very grateful that Macmillan is turning this project into a book. For obvious reasons, I feel very engaged on a personal level: the Brexit uncertainty puts into question my own future and that of my family in this country (even though I have lived here for 36 years).
“I feel very encouraged by the response and the solidarity of my colleagues; there was great enthusiasm to contribute and the pictures are very touching and heartfelt. I also did a workshop at the Institut Français with British school children, who were very engaged and interested in discussing Brexit and Europe (a little mock-referendum went clearly in favour of remain!). This convinced me even more that schools need to have more debate and I hope that a book like this might encourage families to take up the discussion too.”
Scheffler will provide a cover illustration and foreword for the book, which will feature illustrations and captions from all the the artists who contributed to the London showing of 'Drawing Europe Together', as well as an additional 14 drawings by new contributors. The list of those taking part includes Oliver Jeffers, David Roberts, Rebecca Cobb, Marta Altés, Jutta Bauer and Thomas Müller.
The publication comes after Scheffler spoke at The British Book Awards about his anger with Brexit, saying the vote made him “sad and angry” every day.
“I – and my fellow EU citizens, many working in the UK book industry – are still living in uncertainty," he said at the time. "We have, so far, no guarantee that we can still live and work here in the future. In a worst-case scenario, I might not be allowed to stay here by the time my next book with Julia Donaldson is launched.
“Britain has decided that it doesn't really like us and it does hurt. The UK has been my home for 35 years and there wouldn't have been this Gruffalo (which he created with Julia Donaldson) if it hadn't been for the EU facilitating my studying here. I would have had to leave after my studies in 1984.”
Anthony Forbes Watson, m.d. of Pan Macmillan, said: “The work of Axel Scheffler, as an eminent German illustrator working in Britain – often in collaboration with British writers – embodies the rich benefits of cultural collaboration across borders and his work has engaged children in the UK and around Europe for decades. When we heard Axel's impassioned and moving plea at this year's industry awards for Europe to stay together, we decided to help Axel to put a book together to give him and his fellow illustrators a collective and creative voice in this debate, and for this book to serve as a reminder that such cultural collaboration should never be taken for granted.”
The 'Drawing Europe Together' exhibition will continue to tour, including a launch event and exhibition at Waterstones Piccadilly in November 2018 and it will also be shown at the European Commission in London for its final days in March 2019. The exhibition will then move to Bristol’s RWA Gallery in February 2020.