'Doodle Boy's' first exhibition set for county gallery

An 11-year-old art sensation will be holding his first ever solo exhibition.

Joe Whale's work will feature in an exhibition at a Shrewsbury gallery
Joe Whale's work will feature in an exhibition at a Shrewsbury gallery

Joe Whale, known as 'Doodle Boy', sprung to prominence after pictures of his work on the walls of a Shrewsbury restaurant went viral in 2019.

The success led to him being chosen by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to draw their royal train, and he has since enjoyed significant breakthroughs in the USA for his work.

Despite offers from across the pond to exhibit his art, the Ellesmere College pupil has instead chosen a location far closer to home – The Soden Collection on Wyle Cop in Shrewsbury.

Joe's first exhibition will begin at the gallery from October 22 to 31, with plans for the young artist to do some live doodling in the window of the shop on October 16.

Joe said he was looking forward to the opportunity to show off his work.

He said: “I am super excited to open my first art exhibition, I live and love art and to be able to share this with the world is amazing."

Joe's characterful doodles have already earned him celebrity status in the USA, having appeared on CBS & NBC News and Little Big Shots, alongside actress Melissa McCarthy.

He was flown out to California in January 2020 to doodle the backdrop for the set of NBC’s Little Big Shots, peppering the set with drawings of his trademark black and white characters. There are also plans afoot for a huge public art project in Boston.

Joe's work for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Gallery owner Jonathan Soden said he was thrilled to be hosting the exhibition.

He said: "It’s time the UK brought Doodle Boy back closer to home. He’s such a fabulous talent and we all know the USA love runaway success stories, especially in small packages. But Joe so much deserves to have his talent recognised and celebrated here in the UK. We are honoured that The Soden Collection is able to play a role in helping him achieve that.”

Joe's talent for doodling first came to light in 2019 after he began attending art classes at Bloom art studio in Coleham and owner Kerry Jones posted his work on Instagram.

Number Four restaurant in Shrewsbury asked Joe to doodle on the walls and the story went viral.

At just eight years old, Joe was signing up with agents and brands and now has a two book deal with Scholastic, his own range of merchandise, a licensing deal with Warner Music and a colouring book out this autumn.

He was also commissioned by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to draw the Royal Train as part of their three-day tour of the UK last year, and was invited to speak as a Changemaker ambassador at the Children’s Media Conference in 2021.

"It’s a tiny fraction of the offers he’s actually received,” says dad Greg, who shields Joe from the business side.

He added: “People in the US love the idea that anything is possible if you follow your dream.

“Joe’s is such a feel-good story. People keep telling me that usually celebrities find it hard to ‘break’ America. With Joe, it’s almost the other way around.”

Greg added: “We have always aimed to open the fine art world up to Joe and his work and to exhibit in Joe’s home town always seemed the right thing to do – Joe is really excited at the prospect and can’t wait for the launch at Soden Collection.”

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