Research 1-4

Research Point 1

Who’s out there and what are they doing?

Looking back over my previous units I examined the illustrators that were chosen for research.  I felt that they were important for identifying the type of illustration that they did or do.  I put them into the categories for type and then listed them according to what I reckoned they were.   Some fell into more than one camp which is why their names are featured more than once.

There are the four types of Illustration – Technical, narrative, editorial and persuasive.

Within these four types there are further examples of :

Technical –                                          Medical, mechanical and scientific illustration.  Infographics overlap, maps, diagrams and instructions.

Narrative –                                          book covers, childrens books, graphic novels, comic stips, sequential art, character and background for games and animation.

Persuasion and identity –             logos, posters

Editorial –                                            commentary, cartoons, reportage

Crossovers –                                       can include persuasion, narrative, fashion illustration, surface pattern.

Contemporary –                               digital forms, culture changes, graphic novels, fanzines.

Websites/Links for illustrators:

Willie Ryan                                

Oh Mar Win                              

Pam Smy                                   

Shepard Fairey                        

Bonnie Christine                     

Stacie Bloomfield                   

Pernille Orum                          

Joshua Middleton                  

Jane Massey                            

Tillie Walden                            

Liana Finck                                

Christoph Niemann               

Veronica Lawlor                                      

Jules Scheele                           

Sarah Andersen                      

TechnicalNarrativePersuasion and IdentityEditorialCrossoversContemporary
  Willie Ryan                  Pam Smy Joshua Middleton Sarah Andersen Pernille Orum Jane Massey Tillie Walden Jules Scheele    Shepard Fairey  Veronica Lawlor Christoph Niemann Liana FinckStacie Bloomfield Bonnie Christine Oh Mar Win Pernille Orum Jane MasseyTillie Walden Jules Scheele Pernille Orum Joshua Middleton  

I didn’t pick any of the illustrators that were researched in ‘Unit 1; A History of Illustration’ but it is important to mention Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious as their work is something that really inspires me. 

There are a few illustrators listed here that I don’t actively follow but am very aware of their work and admire it a lot.  The more ‘go to’ illustrators are generally the ones that come up in my Instagram feed and I regularly check their work.

They’re a mix of Narrative, Crossovers and Contemporary which is interesting.  I knew that I’d have a lot of Narrative illustrators in the list but I’m surprised to see a lot of Crossovers too.  There is definitely a leaning towards fanzines and graphic novels but book covers and surface pattern design are other types of illustration I’m definitely interested in.

At present, a lot of the Crossover illustrators are advertising seasonal work and links to workshops.  There are quite a few of them that do workshops and tutorials in PS, Ai and creating surface pattern designs.  It’s easy to follow them and learn from them.

From the illustrators that work in sequential art formats, I tend to follow those that have very clear characters, simply drawn and with humour or a light-hearted perspective in it.  I’m not particularly drawn to sweeping epic landscapes or fantasy designs but I do appreciate them.  It’s the simpler forms of expression in fewer lines that appeal and the surface patterns that have a mix of digital and drawing that seems to work for me.

Research Point 2

What pieces from my sketchbook reflect my personal voice?

Image boards 1 and 2 of sketchbook images

There were a lot of sketches with brush pens and crayons.  These worked for me, possibly because they were crisp and clean in lines and felt like they had a weight to them.  Some sketches while watching various TV shows also appeared.  They had sketches in panels and with contrasting colours rather than the real colour.  I like that a lot and felt that was something I wanted to express in my work more.

There were other sketches where I had again used brush pen and a strong single colour that filled the panel only or the character drawn.  This felt like I was expressing simplicity and strong colours with a distinct line in the drawing.

There were other sketches where the colours were subtle and the only linework existed around the face and hands.  That looked great too. 

What have I most enjoyed?

The sketchbook exercises pushed me to consider other forms of creating.  The various work produced in it was different to my previous sketchbooks and it pushed me out of my comfort zone.  Already, however, I can see that I’d like to continue that push outside my comfort zone as it is too easy to fall into repeat patterns.

My personal voice has humour, strong lines and a sense that a strong colour or messy background works.  That is what I’ve learned so far, but I’m still exploring and hopefully my expression of self will make itself a little clearer over this course.

Which are closest to what I want to be doing?

The sketches from the TV show, the strong brush pen characters and the characters with colour and a line around the head and hands.  These are something I’d like to continue doing.  The backgrounds they’re on are mostly empty, so I’d like to see myself developing a better understanding of how to set up a good background to settle these characters into.

What do my choices say about my developing voice as an illustrator?

I like to express through strong lines and strong colours.  Most of my sketchbook work involves brush pens or other black pens or inks.  Variation is there in more recent sketchbooks so that habit is being reviewed.

I’m not looking for detail a lot of the time.  I like to sketch a basic idea of a character so keep it simple.  Is that being efficient or not wanting to put the time in?  I think it is more to do with getting an idea down quickly.  These are often sketches using no references or using a quick reference when watching TV shows.  They’re responses to what I see and the idea is put in the sketchbook.  It would benefit me to try to extract a few of these ideas and see what projects could emerge from them by experimenting with them further.

I’m mixed media and my strengths lie in story telling and expressing humour through my characters.  The stories told don’t need to be super funny, they can be real-life based tales but told with humour in it in some way.

As an illustrator I might be suited to project work involving a narrative project or editorial illustration that needs a reportage type feel.  Developing a character for a web comic and then pushing it into merchandise would be a good idea.  Children’s books are also something of interest, but on topics that are often serious or difficult perhaps so that humour can be used to express the content.

How do I see myself developing in the future?

  1. Developing characters that could transfer across a number of platforms. 
  2. Developing a comic and graphic novel or children’s book (or both).
  3. Exploring the ideas already expressed in the sketchbooks and see what projects can be developed from them.
  4. Trying out surface pattern design with a character range.
  5. Establishing an Etsy store to sell prints and designs on cards, postcards, prints and stickers to fund my course.

What sort of projects am I interested in exploring?

Graphic Novels, short comics and one story vignettes. Reportage and Travel sketchbooks and historical fiction through comics.

What skills do I need to develop?

  1. Life drawing, perspective and landscapes – using a variety of mixed media.
  2. Using the sketchbook to develop ideas – logging down ideas, testing out what media will work, testing out character design and landscape design.  I want to get skilled in using the sketchbook as a proper tool for going from an idea to a completed project.
  3. Photoshop/Illustrator – it’s always good to develop these skills further
  4. Painting – using watercolour and acrylic paints effectively.

Research Point 3Start a visual diary

Pinterest is one of my visual dairies online.  It was helpful for the units in Year 1 and is proving helpful again for Unit 2.  It is a great source of material for finding inspiration and references as well as grouping illustrators together so you can have a folder full of images you love.  It helps with getting inspiration for colour groups that work well together, composition of imagery and what to consider and effects from various mixed media or pure digital formats.  I get a lot of motivation from this site.

I have a folder which contains images of a variety of things from plants, trees, statues, places, animals, and objects.  If I am out, I will take photos and then send them off for printing so that I have a reference that is not from the internet.  It is useful for having to hand on the desk rather than always opting for online sources.

Books are also helpful and if there is an image I enjoy or a layout that strikes me, I’ll often post-it so I know where to come back to if I want to consider how it might translate into my own work.  Sometimes it is a texture or a composition that leaves an impression on me and so I note it and go back to it for direction.

Some examples are Oliver Jeffers ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ and ‘The Story of Fausto’.  There are various food magazines too so that I have a reference for food or a good layout for foods and recipes. 

I have also literally done a diary for myself from images I had in my sketchbook.  Over lockdown I used various sketchbooks to paint into.  There was no focus other than to pick colours from paint pots and apply it to the page.  It was a way of keeping my creativity alive.  Some of the abstracts really worked for me so I translated them into a twelve-page diary from my printer and used it to write my thoughts down about how I was feeling during the lockdowns.  It was a helpful tool in keeping my head screwed on and a way to interact with my art as I found lockdown impacted quite negatively on my creativity at the very start.  Towards the end and after the second lockdown, perhaps because of understanding it better and what was involved, my creativity came back a bit and is slowly returning to a more fun and energized version.

*Research 4 – illustrators that do wallpaper design

William Morris

Florence Broadhurst

Matthew Williamson

Cole & Sons**

Stacie Bloomfield

Bonnie Christine

Jane Massey

William Morris – Arts & Crafts –

William Morris wallpaper from the late nineteenth century, is probably one of my favourite designs.  The elaborate repeat patterns are so fantastically bright and detailed that the application of any of the designs on any surface instantly uplifts that product.  I have a number of teacups with the beautiful designs adorning them, but it is the wallpapers that the original designs were made for. 

William gathered his inspiration from nature and his designs and ornamental features are timeless.  They were hand printed using wooden blocks and carefully worked out so that the repeat pattern was flawless.  He did use surface patterns machines towards the end of the nineteenth century as they became more popular. 

The emphasis during the Arts & Crafts Movement at that time was a strong belief in craftsmanship and inherent simplicity, beauty and nature as inspiration. 

Florence Broadhurst – Handcrafted Wallpaper

Florence was originally from Australia but lived in England where she founded her hand made designs for wallpaper in 1959.  Nature inspired her and so she often created large geometric shapes and brightly coloured hand printed patterns in her designs.

She worked in silk printing and printed onto metal surfaces.  She developed a washable vinyl coat finish on wallpapers and a method of fast drying so that wallpaper could be produced in large numbers. 

Matthew Williamson

Matthew Williamson is based in England and started his career in fashion and textile design in the 90s.  He translated his bold, beautiful and colourful designs into interiors in 2003 with rugs and it wasn’t until the 2010’s that his already prestigious collection of designs found their way into fabrics and surface designs for the luxury product sector.  He has created a range of fabrics and wallpapers with Osbourne and Little since 2013. 

His designs are most definitely inspired by nature and his colours and expressions of it were from his mother’s influences in fashion while he grew up in Manchester.  He manages to convey a sophistication within his designs while retaining a timeless look using a contemporary range of colours. 

Stacie Bloomfield – The Creative Powerhouse Society

Stacie runs a shop on Etsy which is her brand of illustration across a variety of platforms and branded as Gingiber.

She does surface pattern designs and focuses on prints, wallpaper and fabric.  She tends to ensure that her style is adaptable and can be transferred across a variety of products for print.  She has wallpaper designs but I found that her surface patterns for tea towels, bandanas and notebooks were more appealing.  She seems to work mostly in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and has a range of workshops that support other artists trying to get their own brand together.

Bonnie Christine – Flourish –

Bonnie has a variety of surface pattern design workshops on Skillshare, which is where I first came across her work.  Her videos were very easy to follow and understand.  Her surface patterns can be applied across a variety of products, so she not only does wallpaper designs but fabrics.  Her background is in fabric and design so creating surface patterns was a natural progression for her.  She has a very distinct style of illustration and it translates well to the patterns used on fabrics and wallpaper.

Both herself and Stacie are friends, so I found Bonnie’s classes online first and then came across Stacie’s work through a promotion of her work in Bonnie’s workshop.  Both work predominantly in Adobe Illustrator because it is easier to vectorize images and thus apply them to small or large projects without losing the quality. 

Jane Massey – Illustration –

Jane’s work is mostly of one character in different settings.  I have included her in the research here as I think that it is only a matter of time before the crossover from prints on T-shirts and bags occurs into fabrics and wallpapers.  Her work has been featured in a gallery in Japan and the larger images in a gallery setting were imposing and very beautiful.   The simplicity of her illustrations are quite powerful on paper and fabric and easily translatable into wallpaper.

For me this is interesting to see as I would like to develop my own range of characters for this purpose.  Seeing that her work in illustration can be transferred to products shows me that a simple and yet very clear style of illustration can translate well to any platform.

Her style does seem to be more pencil and paper but that could be just the texture impression as the images enlarged for the gallery did not lose any quality through their size, which to the best of knowledge can only be achieved through high resolution scans or the image being created in vector image form.

Pinterest Board for designers:

Research findings:

  1. Nature is a popular form of inspiration for all these designers.
  2. Hand crafted wallpaper produced a different type of quality that had longevity to it.
  3. There is always more than one way to create wallpaper – mass printing or hand printing.
  4. Scaling up can provide a new perspective on a design.
  5. Bold and bright colours were more popular than muted ones.
  6. More recently in the digital age, illustrator is a popular method for creating repeat patterns.
  7. Wallpaper designs can be transferred to other surface patterns for a variety of products.
  8. Wallpaper designs can be very imposing – but their impact on small spaces can be great if used well.
  9. Natural forms work better as a design but geometric shapes are also great.
  10. For bold patterns often one colour works best but for a wider range of strong colours keep the designs small but intricately detailed for impact.


William Morris – Arts & Crafts –

Florence Broadhurst – Handcrafted Wallpaper

Matthew Williamson – &

Stacie Bloomfield – The Creative Powerhouse Society

Bonnie Christine – Flourish –

Jane Massey – Illustration –

Rebecca Gross –   28.01.17