Korky the Cat artist Charlie Grigg’s life work celebrated in new exhibition

Charlie Grigg Exhibition Poster 2018

A long-planned special exhibition celebrating the work of Sandwell-born cartoon artist Charlie ‘Chas’ Grigg as an illustrator for The Beano and The Dandy opens today in Wednesbury in the Black Country.

The exhibition at Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery highlights Charlie’s work on strips such as “Korky the Kat” and “Desperate Dan” and Features artefacts, original drawings, letters, unseen and unpublished images.

There’s also a chance to see video interviews with Charlie who lived in the Rood End area of Langley as a young boy.

Charlie was a hugely popular artist, who drew “Korky the Cat” for The Dandy for 20 years and had a saucy sideline in seaside postcards. He was honoured with a special plaque at his old school, Rood End Primary School in Oldbury, last year.

The plaque aptly describes him as a children’s comic illustrator, celebrates his work for the two comics and describes him as one of the best illustrators in British comics.

Charles Grigg

Charles Grigg

Charlie, who originally worked as an engineer in the Midlands and lived in the Black Country all his life, never had a formal art education. He chronicled the colourful and amusing adventures of Korky for The Dandy from Issue 1052 in January 1962, taking over the strip from the character’s retiring creator, James Crighton.

His run on the character continued until Issue 2116 in June 1982, although he occasionally filled in for David Gudgeon, his replacement, thereafter.

"Korky the Cat" by Charles Grigg, for Dandy 1260. © DC Thomson

“Korky the Cat” by Charles Grigg, for Dandy 1260. © DC Thomson

Maurice Heggie recalled in The Art and History of the Dandy that “The in-house colourists found his open style a joy to colour — during the 1960s these Dandy covers were amongst the best in the field.”

Grigg also freelanced for Bamforth’s, the makers of seaside saucy postcards, for more than 20 years from 1975, drawing 180 pictures of hen-pecked husbands and their larger-than-life wives.

He was well into his 70s before he ceased sketching full-time and died aged 97 on 4th December 2013 after battling Alzheimer’s for some time.

His son Steven feels his father was largely unappreciated while he was alive and says he never lost his love of drawing even in his 90s.

“He couldn’t remember what he did 10 minutes ago,” he told the BBC last year, “but give him a pencil and say ‘can you draw Korky the Cat’ or Desperate Dan?’ and he was there straight away, perfect.”

“Charlie’s version of Korky became the definitive one,” commented fellow artist Lew Stringer, noting his passing back in 2013 “and the artist’s marvellous ability with colour led to him producing some memorable covers for The Dandy Book and The Dandy Summer Special.”

Dandy Special 1968 © DC Thomson. Art by Charlie Grigg

Dandy Special 1968 © DC Thomson. Art by Charlie Grigg

Special Launch Event Planned, book of Charlie’s life out this year

A special launch of the Charlie Grigg exhibition will be held on the evening of Thursday 19th April. (If you wish to attend the launch, email alex_howell@sandwell.gov.uk or call 0121 556 0683 by 16th April).

The launch will also feature a section of the book Our Best Kept Secret, written by Dr Brian Dakin (aka Billy Spakemon). The book tells the story of Charlie’s life as well as the ongoing project to mark Charlie’s work.

The exhibition launch includes performances of original work by Brendan Hawthorne, John Langford and Alex Vann based on the life of Charlie, hosted by Billy Spake Mon.

The launch of the Our Best Kept Secret itself will take place during the exhibition’s run, along with other events.

Exclusive commemorative T-shirts produced by Black Country T Shirts will also be on sale.

“This is an opportunity for fans of The Beano and The Dandy to find out more about Charlie, the man who drew some of their favourite cartoon characters,” says Arts officer Alex Howell.

“Visitors will be able to admire some of his brilliant work, including drawings in cartoons and comics and in caricatures.”

• Cartoons, Comics and Caricatures: Celebrating the work of Charlie ‘Chas’ Grigg opens today, Wednesday 4th April at Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery on Wednesday and Thursdays from 11.00am – 4.00pm and on Saturdays from 2.00 – 5.00pm. Last entry is 30 minutes before closing. It runs until November 2018 before touring in a smaller form around local libraries

• For more information on the Museum and others in the area, browse the Sandwell Museums Facebook page | Follow Sandwell Museums on Twitter @sandwellmuseums or Instagram @sandwellmuseums #sandwellmuseums

• Visit the Discover Sandwell website with information about what there is to see and do in Sandwell and for events and activities visit this activities listings page

Further Web Links

Charles Grigg Obituary (Daily Telegraph)

Lew Stringer’s tribute to Charlie Grigg on Blimey!

Korky the Cat artist Charles Grigg honoured in his home town with special plaque

• Brian Dakin talks about the work of Charlie Grigg on his podcast here

With thanks to Lew Stringer for the heads up

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