Illustration Archive

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    Swedish illustrator Siri Ahmed Backström describes herself first and foremost as a storyteller, and judging from the projects in her portfolio, of which there are no small number, it’s the fine art of creating narrative illustration to accompany a tale that she’s so good at. These images are from a book called Syskondagen, which translates as “Sibling’s Day,” and tells the story of two siblings spending a day together. The imagery is unlike anything I’ve seen before; a gloriously tactile-looking mishmash of textures, colours and shapes, with triangle print patterns on jumpers and checked tights all drawn in charmingly intricate detail. Illustration for children’s books comes into its own when you can glean the vague shape of the story without any text at all, and the fact that this is true here is an excellent testament to the quality of Siri’s work.

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    Going back over our archive of posts on Nathaniel Russell you’ll find we’ve featured him – directly or indirectly – a total of nine times. This is the tenth. Sometimes we’ve looked at his multicoloured space capes, other times it’s been his giant drawings of potted plants, if not his exploration of wooden cut-outs, and there was one occasion where we asked him to write some nice words for our magazine. This time we’d like to look at his illustrations of California and marvel at his talent and the sheer variety of his work.

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    It’s been two years since Mike Perry designed a Hawaiian shirt for us when we teamed up with ASOS, and now that we’re getting out this year’s Hawaiian tees we thought it the right time to catch you up on what the Brooklyn-based illustrator has been up to. And he’s been producing some very exciting, kaleidoscopic stuff for some great clients, and, as always, has found many surprising ways to spill out of the page, sneaking his illustrations into everyday objects and surroundings.

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    Sometimes we genuinely find some of the best creative work for the site while hanging out in the pub – in this case by mooching about in my local last Saturday night. I ran into an old friend from university who still lives with Liam Cobb (another old friend from college) a comic book artist who’s spent the last few years working absurdly hard on his storytelling and image-making, recently producing the beginnings of a futuristic dystopian opus, drawn with the flair of Moebius and balanced with witty, understated dialogue that makes the apocalypse seem really quite drab.

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    Ville Savimaa was last on the site a jaw-dropping five years ago when our director Alex Bec described his work as “gaseous.” It’s not as pejorative an adjective as it might seem in this case, as years later it still seems to suit the whimsical shapes and cloud-like forms that the Finnish illustrator is such a dab hand at.

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    The very pleasingly-named Alain Pilon (say it aloud with a precocious French accent, it’s lovely) isn’t an illustrator we were familiar with until this week, but his super-nice work begs attention and we’re duly delivering it. He creates characters who, in spite all of their sweet naiveté, still capture something of the anthropological awareness that makes simply-illustrated portraits so interesting. His style is caught in a not unpleasant spot somewhere between the quaint, minimal children’s book illustration of yore and a far more contemporary slant on comic book arts, with half-tone dots and monochromatic palettes a’plenty. The result is aesthetically pleasing and easy to digest, without losing out on any of the inherent humour. Which is a mighty impressive feat, don’t you think?

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    Lovely work here from Israeli illustrator Shimrit Elkanati. Not only does her name sound like someone who has been brought up in the forest by a bunch of folklore-loving elves, but her work gives off the same vibes. What’s so great about her portfolio is the way she can hop from mystical work with a kind of Studio Ghibli feel to it, straight to illustrations for The New York Times that depict modern people in comical, everyday situations. That’s when you know someone’s really good, when they can just as easily and effectively draw an intelligent, appealing picture for a child as they could for your average, grumpy adult.

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    We haven’t caught up with Jan Van Der Veken since January 2013 – there was that massive magazine article we wrote on him, but that hardly counts. Since we last spoke he’s had his first monograph published with Gestalten, started a family and set up stock illustration archive Lekstock, which allows users to download great imagery from Belgian illustrators as easily as they would photography. Lots of changes! But what hasn’t changed is Jan’s unwavering skill as an image maker and master of the clear line – a skill that has the ability to delight us even though we’ve long been familiar with his work.

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    I’ve prattled on before about what a great talent I think Connor Willumsen is. The American comics artist is still so young and yet seems capable of producing the most extraordinary compositions and unorthodox narratives within a body of bizarre comics. His draughtsmanship alone is enough to incite serious excitement, but his unusual use of composition is what really gets our juices flowing. Recently he’s been experimenting heavily with the use of broken grids, chopping and changing composite squares of imagery to create unsettling and disorientating collages that tell whole stories in a single image. A couple of them feel like traditional satirical pieces, pulled from the pages of an old MAD magazine, and then rearranged into something altogether more sinister. Striking stuff!

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    In case you were wondering (which you probably were) what Kyle Platts has been up to recently, the answer is rather a lot. Don’t worry, he’s still churning out drawings that resemble the illegitimate love-child of the Bash Street Kids and Beavis and Butthead at an unstoppable rate. His latest lump of work is, satisfyingly, much like his old work but even better – the detail is tighter, the colours and brighter and his choices of materials are getting increasingly varied. We caught up with Kyle for a chat about residencies, Pick Me Up, his new work and some fellow artists he’s excited about at the moment.

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    We first wrote about Sam Coldy back in the summer of 2012, when he designed a range of lenticular images cleverly incorporating type design to make some of the snazziest posters we’d ever seen. It’s safe to say that he’s been busy since then, churning out new work left right and centre. Sam’s proven himself to be a flexible chap, happily straddling the categories of illustration, art and design with a colourful aesthetic that you could spot from a mile off. His delightful knack for creating vibrant, retro images with the scantest of shapes has landed him plenty of gigs creating album covers and artwork for musicians, with fantastic results; check out his backgrounds for all-girl soul band Juce below.

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    Annu Kilpelainen has long been providing the happy splodge of rainbow colour on our grey London lives, and the new work we trundled across on her site has us wondering if the inside of her brain isn’t entirely coloured in tropical brights and sumptuous neons. Her new work bears no small resemblance to a summer water fight, on your front drive, all dripping hair and hand-me-down cotton dungarees soaked to the skin, except these scenes have technicolour cars where your Dad’s old brown Volvo should be. As ever, we’re huge fans of her vivid style and we’ll be even more into it when the sun comes out. Finally.

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    In the four years since we first featured him, Mitch Blunt has transformed from a fresh-faced graduate with a penchant for traditional print processes into an editorial illustration maven whose images are in demand by the most elite publishers of breaking news. This demand is the result of Mitch’s innate ability to tell complex and often politically charged stories with the simplest of imagery; analogising the current climate in Ukraine with a rowdy bear or transforming handcuffs into a pair of swimming goggles to accompany a story about an Olympic athlete’s fall from grace. Their universality means they’re always a welcome addition the the accompanying editorials, summarising succinctly what a journalist may take hundreds of words to communicate. Always a pleasure Mitch!

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    Josh McKenna (jshmck to his mates) is in his final year studying illustration at Falmouth where he’s become “A passionate screen-printer, competent in Photoshop and Illustrator,” taking inspiration from the "tropical way of life.” What this means is that Josh’s work is awash with pastel-shaded images of busty women sunning themselves by modernist poolsides and gentlemen in panama hats conducting shady business in angular rooms. Alongside the rich visuals there’s also a growing understanding of editorial imagery in Josh’s portfolio, something we’re excited to see him develop in the future.

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    Brooklyn-based illustrator and graphic designer Daniel Zender has something of a fixation upon things that go bump in the night; so much so that he has created an entire project devoted to them. Light Terrors is a series of images depicting dream-like states and the nightmares that accompany them, from losing teeth to drowning in a mysteriously water-filled bed and being melted by a spooky-looking witch. His bold, bright, graphic shapes may undermine the scariness of the characters featured but they sure are nice to look at, and his client list, which includes publications from Bloomberg Businessweek and the New York Times Book Review, proves that we aren’t the only ones who think so.

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    Raymond Lemstra is one of those illustrators who can do no wrong in our eyes; his incredibly fine detail, careful layers of shading and seamless combination of totemic robots with folkloric imagery makes for one hell of a package. So obviously we’re enormous fans of his new book Big Mother, published by Nobrow.

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    Another Flickr prodigy rears its multicoloured head in the form of Nadine Redlich, a German illustrator whose work is a dangerous cocktail of hilarious and magical puerility. I did some quick digging around for some more information on Nadine and came across a short bio of her on German illustration blog Rotopol Press: “Redlich was born around 1879. In her early life she began her studies at the Fachhochschule Düsseldorf in the field of communication design. She was able to end these studies with a diploma after more than 100 years.”

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    Sam Vanallemeersch’s website proclaims that he “draws for you” – and what an honour that is. These images are updates from the man who had the most viewed article on It’s Nice That in 2013, and you can see why. Not many illustrators or artists can boast a portfolio so rich, unique and powerful, but Sam’s got this ability to transport us into his chaotic world with just one glance at one of his hectic, jittery scenes. Interestingly, his piece of work for International Women’s Day is aesthetically very different to his trademark style, but it’s just more proof that Sam is exceptionally talented. His drawings give you the feeling that you’re at once terrified, lost and out of your depth in a strange apocalyptic land, but you’re happy to be there because to be honest, Sam’s world shits all over the reality of our own.

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    Vincent Mahe was utterly unknown to us until very recently and boy are we glad to have stumbled across him! The Paris-based illustrator also goes by the name Mr Bidon, and his portfolio proves him to be already pretty established, with more brilliant work than we can squeeze into one wee post.

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    It’s funny, this here comic. It’s the gift that just keeps on giving. Once you’ve been seduced by the candy colours Vincent’s chosen for his palette then suddenly you meet the host of hilarious French characters he’s invented. Then you realise that the storyline he’s written is actually one very, very long image that he wants you to scroll along to read. How’s that for a modern day comic book? We spoke to Vincent about this appealing project that he made for Professeur Cyclope magazine, mainly because (most of us) have no idea what the words say. Should have paid more attention in class, yadda yadda yadda.

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    If you’ve yet to step into a world where succulents and cacti spring from the ground at every step and where minerals take the form of planets suspended around a yellow room, then welcome to the one fabricated by Hye Jin Chung. An illustrator, she spins fantasy landscapes such as these while the rest of us bumble around our own, real-life ones, and it’s no difficult task to decide which one I prefer.

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    Raise an earthenware mug of ale to the Nous Vous boys, as it’s time to celebrate the launch of their fantastic new website. As with all of their lovely work, this concept of this new site seems to have been approached wisely and with tactile, gentle care. As you enter, a smiling figure encourages you to use your keys to navigate your way around slowly to take in all their wonderful work, old and new.

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    “A Drawing a Day” projects can often come a dime a dozen in the creative industries, but it’s very seldom that anybody actually sticks to them, or that they’re as brilliant as this one.

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    Sara Andreasson is about as multidisciplinary as creatives come. She’s a designer hailing from Wermland in Sweden who has seemingly made a conscious decision not to specialise in any one area. Equally adept at fashioning furniture from extraordinary materials as she is at illustrating exuberant images of altered classical sculptures and abstract digital images, it would be fair to say that Sara’s portfolio is a mixed bag of projects. But the consistent element at the heart of all of them is her attention to detail. Whether sketching portraits in soft graphite or taking still-life photographs of taxidermy birds she’s certain to craft each piece with care, displaying the talents of an expert despite clearly being a jack of all trades.

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    The very lovely Serafine Frey popped in to the studio to say hello yesterday afternoon, bringing with her armfuls of the fantastic illustration she’s been busily making since she left HORT to concentrate on freelance work. And my, is there a lot of it!

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    What is Yoboh Studio? Well, since you ask, it’s the brainchild of Lucas Dillon, an artist from Belfast who’s come to ply his trade in the capital city of London. His illustration is heavily influenced by 90s skateboard graphics, colourful sweet wrappers, late-night cartoons and potentially a sneaky little lick of an acid blotter, combining to create a psychedelic concoction of repeat patterns and symmetrical compositions. Quite what’s going on in these images is hard to say for certain, but it’s a recipe that’s clearly working as Lucas has clients like Becks, Converse, Nike and Red Bull pestering him at all hours for his distinctive visual language. Long may it continue.

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    Illustrator Lauren Rolwing, who made these brilliant illustrations of the key outfits at fashion week, has just completed a new project and it’s a joyous celebration of Memphis design in the truest sense. Lauren reimagines what the world would look like if Ettore Sottsass lived in her neighbourhood, and it’s fair to say it would look pretty fantastic. School uniforms are royally jazzed up, birds can spot glow-in-the-dark worms from a mile off even in the dead of night, and houses are transformed into cubist, blocky affairs showing off Lauren’s penchant for geometry as well as Sottsass’ signature style. Come do our place, Lauren? Go on.

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    Feeling a bit blue? Too many shandies on the weekend making you have a bit of a two/three-day hangover? I’m with ya baby, but don’t fear, Ed Cheverton’s here to inject some serotonin back into your grey brain. Lovely Ed was an It’s Nice That Graduate back in the summer of 2013 and has since been doing what we like best – continuing to make fantastic work and putting it out into the world.

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    It’s been almost two years since we hand-picked Alex Walker from a lineup of hundreds of young graduates and told everyone what a creative genius he was, and since then he’s only gone from strength to strength. The former Nottingham Trent student dazzled us with his ability to illustrate technically advanced and conceptually ambiguous concepts with playful ingenuity.

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    Ken Garland has long been one of our creative heroes here at It’s Nice That – he’a man who combines talent and charm with effervescent energy. So imagine our excitement when we found out that Pudkin Books – the publishers he started with wife Wanda in 2008 – were finally available online. The overarching theme of the series is “A Close Look At…” and most of them showcase Ken’s own photography, with subjects ranging from pebbles to street graphics, Mexican windows to Berlin’s Buddy Bears. But others feature John Laing’s watercolours, Lana Durovic’s photographs and most intriguing of all, utterly charming illustrations produced by Ken’s daughter Ruth when she was just a teenager (A Close Look At Playing Out).

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    We first featured illustrator Mike Ellis late last summer, but it seems that he’s been super busy in the past six months as we’ve got plenty of reasons to put him on the site again. The first of which is his new project, Room for Rent. Mike illustrated five of his friends’ apartments and houses for an exhibition in Toronto, installing them in an illustrated 3D dolls’ house in which they could be illuminated using LED lights. Even without the miniature technology though, the illustrations are very beautiful; scratchy and bright and wholly unlike anything we’ve seen before. And what we wouldn’t give for a collection of plants to rival the one in Nolan.

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    Robert Crumb fans (of which there are thousands) hold on to your seats because TASCHEN have just released another volume of the legendary cartoonist’s sketchbooks, and this collection precedes the last.The six volume edition encompasses 18 years of the artist’s career, edited by Crumb himself into what he considers to be his very best work from the period. There’s the usual glut of smut you’d expect from this uniquely perverse mind, but also studies for commercial work and hundreds of other pieces of extremely rare material. As ever the folks at TASCHEN have spared no expense on the release, and the hardcover, slip-cased set contains a total of 1,344 luxuriously printed pages. But that should be enough to satisfy the most die-hard fans out there. Although you really can’t have too much Crumb in your life.

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    I knew these images would take me on a trip down memory lane, but I wasn’t quite prepared to open the little blue file of images and be hurtled back to being eight years old, with my nose in a thrice-read Jacqueline Wilson book. Anyone else who grew up obsessed with these incredibly famous children’s books will know about Nick Sharratt, the man behind the instantly-recognisable illustrations for Jacqueline’s stories. He took her tales about children facing up to the perils of adult life and invented characters with his pens that have stayed with us since, if not inspired many of us to pick up a pen and start drawing ourselves.

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    It’s becoming something of a yearly tradition for us to check back in with Malin Rosenqvist, the very talented Swedish illustrator responsible for a bunch of posts from us cataloguing her creative development over the past few years. And never one to disappoint, she’s back again this spring with loads of new stuff for us to fawn over.

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    You should know before you start reading that we really love Jim Stoten, he’s one of our favourite illustrators. So now you won’t be surprised when we start to gush about his latest project for Nobrow 9 which sees him tackling a comic based on scale and proportion that zooms in, step-by-step, from one panel to the next, allowing you to travel at speed through time and space. Jim takes you into the eye of a cat where a man plays piano on a toadstool, across a desert on a sunbather’s knee that’s home to a camel with can-can dancer eyelashes. There’s a guitar-playing duck with a solar system in his sunglasses and a horse galloping across the screen of a television on the moon. Jesus Christ it’s good. You should go have a look!

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    Body-paint remains something of an overlooked form in the art and illustration worlds – too many great-seeming-but-actually-very-difficult-to-execute ideas have gone awry in the wrong hands. Janine Rewell, however, appears to have the right ones. She already has a stack of fantastic illustration work under her belt, and her most recent project with Finnish shoe designer Minna Parikka has seen her apply all of this skill to the art of body-painting.

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    We’ve always gone nuts for Brecht’s work, his deeply satirical view on the modern world is impossible not to enjoy. But recently we’ve noticed he’s actually improving rapidly. We thought his work simply couldn’t be beaten, but he’s become not only a better illustrator as the years have progressed, but also a better satirist. Examining his recent work you’ll find all kinds of imagery that deals with current affairs and news stories in the most extraordinary fashion, dressing them up in cartoonish clothing to sneak hawk-eyed observations under the radar. But in truth Brecht sees the world for what it is, and pictures that seem like just a bit of fun at first can often have some pretty hard-hitting messages.

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    It doesn’t happen that often, but occasionally we come across a creative talent who is tremendously familiar to us but who for some baffling reason we have never celebrated on the site. So it is with French illustrator and character designer Geneviève Gauckler, whose work has cropped up in group shows but who has never been feted in her own right – until now. Ciitng the title sequence of Flipper as one of her major inspirations, Geneviève creates characters that snap, crackle and pop with vibrancy and personality, leaping off the print or magazine cover to frolic in the farthest reaches of your imagination.

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    Always With Honor are one of those frustratingly talented studios capable of effortlessly turning out thoughtful, considered design and illustration for clients as international and massive as Nike and as small as Boke Bowl, their local noodle bar. This scalable approach to clients comes to bear on their aesthetic choices too. Their vector graphics can be transformed from hard-hitting monochrome icons to a playful herd of animals (like the ones below) with the simple addition of a few colours, and yet still maintain that signature Always With Honor vernacular.

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    One of the best parts of this job is finding out that a brilliant creative featured on the site has picked up work as a direct result of that article. Sometimes we find that out by way of an email, or bumping into someone in the pub, but at OFFSET 2014 it was great to hear Sarah Mazzetti namecheck us from the main stage.