Illustration Archive

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    If you happen to be in central London doing your Christmas shopping this week you might well come across a rare gem of a shop in Soho, home to glacéau vitaminwater’s unique pop-up, in which a host of young creatives have been creating bespoke wrapping paper for those gift-givers who are all fingers and thumbs, and don’t fancy giving their presents in your standard brown paper packaging.

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    None of us at It’s Nice That could work out exactly what it was about Daniel Guerrero Fernández’s drawings that we loved, but we all agreed it was great. Clouds, mountains, planets, yin-yangs, waterfalls, swords – something about his portfolio is a cross between K-pop and Game of Thrones with a pinch of Studio Ghibli thrown in for good measure. Anyone that can pour that amount of joy on to a page is fine by me, I just hope that after this great interview over on Urban Outfitters he’s still got some of those pin badges left.

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    Try to look upon Will Laren’s work not as a series of spot illustrations, but as comic masterpieces in their own right. He’s effectively moulding a new genre according to these novel and very specific needs. Rendered in acrylic, Will’s aesthetic is comprised mainly of colours and patterns that look like they belong side-by-side only on the rails of a forgotten charity shop, but somehow when they’re juxtaposed with Will’s pallid looking, wrinkly-faced characters spouting grotesque and hilarious things to one another, they seem very much appropriate. Explaining the joke will kill it in a second, so check these wonders out for yourself.

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    I am a bit cynical about the concept of guest editors (for obvious, selfish reasons I suppose – “no not anyone can do this!”) but WIRED getting Christopher Nolan to helm their December issue is something of a coup. Subtitled Beyond. A Story in Five Dimensions, the special issue focussed on line, planes, space, time, and the multiverse. Longtime friend of the site Mario Hugo was brought in to create an array of visualisations for the cover, contents page and throughout the rest of the magazine and he worked with Hugo & Marie colleague Sam Hodges (once of this parish) on the intriguing final images.

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    Wrapping presents is easily our least favourite part of the festive season; in fact we can’t really see any issue with Smithy’s ingenious tin foil solution from Gavin & Stacey. However it may just be that we’ve been using the wrong kind of wrapping paper all these years – vapid creations covered in tired stereotypes.

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    Mysterious French artist Sarah-Louise Barbett has been comfortably residing in my favourites folder for years now. She updates her Flickr every now and again with more beautifully painted watercolour scenes of some of the most poignantly boring scenarios imaginable. Sarah-Louise sees the world differently to everyone else, she records odd mundanity with extraordinary beauty and wit – capturing the moment someone leaves a bottle of Fanta on a car roof, or when she catches her dog sitting casually on a sofa. Some people might prefer to use a camera to quickly snap these scenes, but that’s why I love Sarah-Louise so much: she chooses to paint them. That one she did of the chubby black labrador (she does seem to have a thing for dogs) is probably one of my favourite images from this year.

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    David Shrigley’s got a whopper of a new book out entitled Weak Messages Create Bad Situations. I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes, at this time of year, when you look back at those annual round-ups and “photographs that sum up 2014” it can be easy to feel like the world is just so full of disaster and crap. It seems that the people running this planet have been giving us weak, nay wrong messages this whole time! How mean. And what have they created? A bad situation. We love David’s new book, which totally sums up the feeling of helplessly skidding downhill on a bicycle with no brakes towards a cliff. Here he is on the book, dreams, and the world in general.

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    Over two and a half years have passed since Robert Fresson graduated from the Royal College of Art with his Masters in visual communication. Two and a half years of moving out of London, buying himself a barge in Bath, taking up teaching on the illustration BA at Plymouth and of course busting his nuts creating a plethora of new work – or “illustrating his socks off” as he’d most likely put it. I’ve always been envious of Rob’s work (we did art foundation together so it’s a lasting envy) for its masterful approach to traditional techniques, colour processes and wonderful use of line, which goes from strength to strength as the years go by. He also has the work ethic of a single-minded shire horse, capable of subjecting himself to unfathomable hours of dedicated labour on a project that particularly excites him. And that’s why he’s so bloody good!

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    There’s something resolute about Laura Breiling’s illustration; it has a kind of strength of character about it that fully explains her growing client list. Whether her subject is a burly naked man gazing into a bathroom mirror with an uncapped lipstick lying next to him or a fabulous older lady lying fully clothed in bed sipping on a cocktail and gazing unflinchingly at the viewer, Laura’s confidence and consistence in her heavy jewel colours and printed textures command a kind of awe. Or at least they do for me. The Germany-based illustrator creates a huge volume of work, experimenting in different styles and subjects to form a style of working unlike any I’ve seen before, and it’s right up my street.

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    There’s a lot of joy at It’s Nice That HQ when our favourite illustrators hit the big time. When Aisha Franz had her latest graphic novel Earthling published by Drawn and Quarterly, it was once again time for celebration. Earthling is the story of an all-female family (two sisters and a mother) who each retreat into imaginary fantasy worlds in order to escape the mundanity and struggle of ordinary life. That makes it sound quite heavy going – but it’s not. It’s full of dark humour, sex and hilarious snippets of perilous teenage life that you’ll be glad are far, far behind you. Also, we’re so used to Aisha’s work being so brightly coloured that this book – drawn entirely in scribbled pencil – is a very interesting new venture for her, one that I personally am a big fan of. Anyone you know who’s into the witty, sarcastic humour of Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World definitely needs to get their hands on this.

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    We came across Cozy Tomato’s illustrations when studying the Mr Porter Journal for our Behind the Screens feature. Cozy Tomato (whose real name is Koji Tomoto) gets commissioned by the guys over there all the time, to add a retro, fun element to their articles on fashion and lifestyle. Cozy’s work is reminiscent of 1950s children’s books and quilts, lots of pointy nosed people with gravity-defying ponytails having a wild, leisure-filled time in the great outdoors. What’s marvellous about Cozy is how his illustrations are so well-researched that they actually could have been lifted from back in the day, and are so packed full of unadulterated, candy-coloured joy that they can spice up even the most intellectually treacle-like article. Perhaps that’s why he gets so many commissions from Monocle.

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    Talk about ramping it up – it was only a couple of months back that we were marvelling at the amount of work Cynthia Kittler had taken on since graduating, and now she’s back again with shedloads more.

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    In April this year Josh McKenna was still a student, working his way through third year illustration down in Falmouth. Since then graduation’s taken place, he’s traded the peaceful coastal town for the incessant throb of London and he’s found himself producing a fair bit of lovely commercial work. When last we met Josh’s work was all poolsides and exotic colour palettes, but his subject matter reflects his move to the metropolis – huge red buses, commuter cyclists and smart phones now dominate, but there’s still that characteristic sense of fun in there too, as a personal project on bums reflects. It seems like Josh has moved up in the world, and his image-making shows that off beautifully.

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    Editorial illustration comes in all shapes and sizes and JooHee Yoon’s work is undoubtedly on the stranger end of the spectrum. That’s definitely a good thing though as her personality-packed imagery is incredibly versatile and she’s been commissioned by titles like The New Yorker, Le Monde and The New York Times as well as the likes of Lucky Peach, Jamie Magazine and Nautilus Magazine. Equally at home either printmaking or drawing, JooHee often likes to combine the two in her pieces which give them a vivid sense of vibrancy both when viewed in situ and as standalone pictures.

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    Judging by his bulging portfolio, Jochen Schievink has had one hell of a year. The Hamburg-based illustrator has played a pretty key role in creating editorial illustration for German newspapers and publications, clocking up commissions for Die Zeit and Der Spiegel among a bunch of others, and in doing so he has made the art of boiling down complex, sprawling news stories into neat, engaging imagery his standard. As a result, his blank-eyed characters are beginning to look right at home on thin newspaper stock surrounded by blocks of tiny black type, proving that Jochen has all the necessary tools to add exactly the blotch of colour and the dynamic figures to make an uninspiring story look unmissable. We’d best get used to his spot illustrations being dotted across the newsstands – it looks like we’re going to be seeing a lot more of them.

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    Sometimes it’s possible to let a method or technique define a creative’s practice when in fact they have versatile skills. With someone like Magnus Voll Mathiassen, whose name is synonymous with a pristine form of digital illustration, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that he can draw perfectly well without his computer in front of him. But recently he went full analogue for a show in Bergen, Norway, churning out 20 beautiful ink drawings in under six hours; framing them, hanging them and exhibiting them that same day. The original drawings are monochromatic, varying between the figurative and abstract. Stylistically it’s recognisably Magnus but with the added charm of fluid, decisive mark-making in brush and ink.

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    Friend of Leif Podhajsky, wearer of a waxed moustache and creator of some seriously trippy artwork, Nick Stewart Hoyle – or Signalstarr as he likes to be known – is a creative we should all be paying attention to. His signature style is one of retro-futuristic wizardry; a merging of Hollywood’s 1980s visions of the future and ancient mythology; Sun Ra meets Man Ray, and any number of other anachronistic parallels. Whether, like me, you’ve always had a penchant for Iron Maiden’s Powerslave cover or you just enjoy the occasional bit of psychedelia in your life, the arresting power of Nick’s work is undeniable. He’s here to take us to the stars, ideally in an electrified floating pyramid.

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    With a client list that includes The New York Times, The Atlantic and Le Monde, Sébastien Thibault seems to be the guy that heavyweight news organisations call when they want someone to distill complex and serious stories into communicative visuals. The Quebec-based illustrator has a tremendous ability to take difficult, controversial and confusing ideas and turn them into something immediate, appropriate and often very perceptive. So whether it’s the end of liberal zionism, the debate over alternative medicine or suicide rates in the military, Sebastien is incredibly adept at creating a pitch-perfect visual treatment in his recognisable style.

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    Bringing a new perspective to industrial design and illustration, a show at The Aram Gallery sees RCA graduate Rachel Gannon illustrate a series of furniture designs, with each discipline feeding into the other as Rachel’s work is exhibited alongside products by industrial designers André Klauser and Ed Carpenter, who work together under the moniker Very Good & Proper.

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    Finnish artist and illustrator Toni Halonen is very much in demand. Whether it’s brands like Kenzo and Nokia, magazines like Trendi and Bloomberg Businessweek or institutions like the Design Museum Finland, clients are queuing up for a dose of his bright bold imagery. So we were super-excited when he agreed to create the latest artwork for our London Graphic Centre billboard project and even more thrilled when we saw his final image for the Covent Garden store.

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    With beautiful composition and a real elegance to his work, Paris-based Tom Haugomat’s portfolio is like taking a sophisticated stroll in your Sunday best. While his style feels familiar, Tom’s ability to execute his images to such a smart finish separates him from the others so it’s no surprise his work has appeared in numerous magazines. Having started his career as an animator, Tom’s love for illustration soon took over, enabling him to develop his own style. A wonderful graininess and pared-back colour palette is used in each of his illustrations, and the way Tom plays with space and the figures within the image creates an atmospheric and compelling story.

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    It’s a cliche now to say that food magazines have become a cliche. New ones are served up seemingly every week and various titles have food specials from time to time, the formula of which has become very familiar. Respect then is due to The Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazine which eschewed the well-trodden territory of glossy photographs artfully designed to look unstaged for its latest food issue. Instead the SZ team turned to Israeli artist Rutu Modan, who illustrated the entire thing from the cover through the 100 ages that follow. It’a bold approach for a weekly supplement but they’ve pulled it off in style and Rutu’s images pull the whole issue together into a great-looking cohesive whole.

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    If we put a penny in a jar for every time we gave a nod to Berlin-based studio Haw-lin relentless sourcing of cracking creative talent we’d likely have at least a fiver in there by now. And by way of adding to the growing stash, here’s another gem we came across on on their online moodboard – Alexander Medel Calderón. The Santiago-based graphic designer and illustrator makes work which is colourful and playful above all else, championing a palette of primary colours and a selection of shapes straight from Microsoft Word with an admirable nonchalance. While it’s not all fun and games – Alexander has an innovative and experimental approach to typography too, proven by some super sharp poster design and flashy lettering – there’s a healthy dollop of irreverence in what he does, and we’re complete suckers for a bit of that.

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    In spite of the myriad ways that the internet is one of the greatest inventions of all time, there are some corners of the creative world that it cannot measure up to. Illustrator Thibaud Herem’s work is one of them. And that’s not to say that his architectural drawings don’t look great rendered in millions of tiny pixels and presented in front of a light source – they do, of course – but there’s still nothing like seeing the huge lengths of stained, scratched and wrinkled paper unrolled across the carpet to admire the incredible detail in the inky lines of his enormous compositions.

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    It takes a strong will to choose psychogeography as the subject for a graphic novel – it’s not an easy subject to get your head round at the best of times – but that doesn’t seem to have dissuaded Christian Skovgaard. His new book Picking Up Pieces is based around a young woman who is forced to deal with the death of her lover in tandem with the news of the collapse of a historical archive in Cologne. Newly absorbed by the emergency services’ attempts to salvage what they can from the ruins, the woman finds sanctuary in tying her own loss to this physical one, and explores the two simultaneously.

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    French illustrator Baptiste Virot is a seriously exciting new talent in the comics world. He’s a man skilled in the art of wavy lines, surreal characters and traditional print processes; his portfolio is stuffed with hand-screened prints, risographed zines and bits of bizarre commercial illustration. In the age-old tradition of fanzine culture he’s just as comfortable working in stark black and white as he is creating colour separations for the manufacture of vibrant prints. Want to see some ugly people riding a giant neon dog? Today’s your lucky day pal!

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    Originally from Barcelona and now working in Finland, Magoz’s portfolio is a colourful jaunt through his editorial illustrations, which have appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and adverts around the world.

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    Joan Cornellà is nothing short of a master of his form. He’s got the gruesome comic strip down to a fine art, creating complex and hilarious narratives and then expressing them in no more than six bright panels, from one man with a poo on his head googling “who loves me?” and being given the answer “nobody,” to another man riding a bicycle made out of a suffering friend.

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    Wild Beasts frontman Hayden Thorpe vividly remembers coming across Mattis Dovier’s work. The band had been approached to take part in The Jameson Works, a project which focuses on how creativity happens and the insights and stories picked up along the way that are as much a part of the creative process as the final outcome. Searching for some reference material, Hayden came onto It’s Nice That and saw this post of Mattis’ GIFs. “It was pretty confrontational,” he remembers. “You could see Mattis’ hand behind the work and that reflects the way we now work too.”

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    There’s something delightfully scientific about Erik Söderberg’s GIFs, however firmly I remind yourself that they’re composed of thousands of pixels. The repetitive way they pulsate and fizz quietly on the screen takes me right back to double Biology on a Thursday morning, watching in shellshocked fascination as tiny living cells mutate on a tiny strip of glass under a microscope, and grandly imagining myself to be the second coming of Louis Pasteur.

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    I love peering into people’s sketchbooks. There’s so much more honesty in an image that’s been hurriedly scribbled down on a station platform than in one which has been perfected over the course of several drafts, and I’m a sucker for that kind of insight into an artist’s process. I like to see the mistakes, the rubbings out and the development as well as the final work.

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    I came across Assa Ariyoshi’s work while perusing the latest issue of Mood Magazine where it brought alive a feature on the weird and wonderful world of Icelandic cuisine. I love the way how in this surreal dinner party scene the shark looks like he’s drunkenly ranting at the puffin. We’ve all been on both sides of this I’d wager.

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    Jean-Jacques Sempé has something of a varied CV. Having been expelled from school, he went on to become a door-to-door tooth powder salesman, a soldier and a comic book artist, before going on to creating some rather iconic covers for The New Yorker and cartoons for Paris Match.

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    If our interview with Brown Cardigan as part of our feature on to digital publishing has taught us anything, it’s that you shouldn’t underestimate the power of a GIF. Introducing then Japanese illustrator Nimura Daisuke, who has perfected the art with some of the sweetest, rudest moving images we’ve ever seen. How could you not fall for a shot of a woman flashing at a grumpy man as he looks the other way, or an unfortunate schoolboy leaning over and having the full conents of his rucksack crashing to the floor?

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    Kevin McNamee-Tweed by name, twee by nature, I’d assumed, casting an eye over these sweetly, naively sketched wee pictures of books. Then I read the titles. One contained the word “shart.” Another proclaims, “It’s Only Your Fault: How to Help Yourself”, while a more philosophical tome proffers the question “who is….BIRD HUMAN?”

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    Jean Jullien is many things. Artist. Illustrator. French. Recent emigre to New York. It’s Nice That favourite. So hot right now. He’s also the final artist to have a show at Kemistry Gallery’s current east London home before it closes its doors early next year (although as has been reported it has some excitingly ambitious plans).

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    A couple of weeks back a parcel containing the newest issue of The Pendulum made its way through our door, leading us haphazardly but happily to the website of its creator, Liana Jegers. Chicago-based artist Liana is an illustrator as well as a co-ordinator of printed imagery, and her Tumblr is full of snippets of sketches in progress which stand up admirably on their own.

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    Last week the third issue of Danielle Pender’s Riposte magazine was launched and after she and designer Shaz Madani set such a high bar with the first two issues, we were interested to see how they’d followed up their previous success. The early indications are very good. Although we haven’t seen a copy in the flesh we have had a sneak peek at some of the content and once again the title’s smart curatorial approach is very much in evidence.

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    German illustrator Nadine Redlich just keeps going from strength to strength, her catalogue of exuberant characters growing day by day. Though there’s no doubt at all that Nadine’s masterful at creating truly cheerful chappies, there’s a growing number of creatures in her portfolio who look like they’re ready to hibernate for winter, staring out at you blankly as though they wish they’d been left to sleep. Of course there’s also the belligerent mountain, the cherry at the end of its tether and that creepy fellow with the giant aubergine who I can’t help but find menacing, resulting in an altogether impressive cast of characters in a portfolio we can’t get enough of. If you want even more, Nadine’s got a comic out with Rotopol Press that you can get your hands on here. Now, back to enjoying that dog on the chair…

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    We’re no ballet aficionados, but we wouldn’t usually associate drunkards, typists and factory workers with the grace and poise of the discipline. However, as these beautiful gouache painting by Tatiana Bruni show, there’s much more to ballet than tutus and swan lake, with her angular figures, bold colours and sometimes grotesquely postured characters. The paintings show costume designs for Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1931 ballet The Bolt, and are going on show at London’s Gallery for Russian Arts and Design alongside a series of period photographs. The ballet itself was bold and striking in its use of real hammers, machine-inspired choreography, aerobics and acrobatics, and the costume images are equally as dynamic, inspired by “the aesthetics of agit-theatre and artist-designed propaganda posters”, according to the gallery. The sense of movement is palpable, whether in the graceful billowing dresses or the staggering legs of our brightly-coloured drunkard, working against the geometric rigidity of the style to beautiful effect.