Denizens of Discworld – 30 Years of Paul Kidby’s Illustrations

14 January – 18 February 2023

This unique exhibition draws together a stunning selection of Paul Kidby’s paintings and drawings of Discworld characters. Paul was working as a freelance illustrator when he presented Terry Pratchett with an envelope of his drawings at a book signing in Bath. Paul started working with Terry in 1993, becoming the ‘artist of choice’ for the Discworld books. He designed the Discworld book jackets from 2002 until the final volume appeared in 2015, shortly after Sir Terry’s untimely death. Paul has illustrated many related publications including The Art of Discworld, The Last Hero and The Ultimate Discworld Companion.

The exhibition contains a completely new selection of works, none of them seen in the last exhibition St Barbe organised with Paul in 2012, which subsequently toured across the UK and Ireland. Most have never been publicly exhibited before, so this is a unique chance for Discworld fans to see these incredible artworks first hand. On display will be colourful paintings, exquisite pencil drawings and a bronze bust of Sir Terry sculpted by Paul. St Barbe will host a rogue’s gallery of favourite characters including Rincewind, Twoflower, the Librarian, Tiffany Aching, the Wee Free Men, Nanny Ogg, Conina, Baron Saturday and Errol. There will also be Discworld parodies of well-known artworks from our world.

The opportunity to illustrate Discworld has brought Paul’s work to a global audience, his skill in character design gave form to Sir Terry’s much-loved and eccentric characters. The success of the partnership between writer and artist seemed to be based on an unspoken understanding. Paul said: “When I began illustrating the novels I felt the characters were so well realised that drawing them was merely translating word to line”; while for his part Sir Terry said: “Paul sees things my way about 75% of the time, which suggests either mind reading is happening or that my vision of my characters is really rather vague until I see his drawings”.

The Discworld series comprises 41 novels supported by a range of maps, science guides, atlases, cookbooks and companions. The setting for the stories is a flat, circular world which sits on four elephants standing on the back of a giant star turtle that swims slowly through space. While clearly a fantasy setting alive with magic, gods and exotic creatures, Discworld has its own, carefully thought out, internal logic. The books are humorous and sometimes satirical: the foibles of the massive cast of characters and the issues they face on Discworld have clearly recognisable origins on our own world. Paul’s artwork helps them to step off the page as believable and relatable individuals.

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