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Review of the Year 2015: Top 25 Illustration

A look back at 2015’s illustration stories proves the power of the discipline to delight, to titillate and to delineate some of the world’s most distressing, incomprehensible events. So from the lewd and rude to the erotic to the hard-hitting, we present the illustration work that made It’s Nice That sit up and look in the last year.

  • Chris-simpsons-artist-creative-jobs-its-nice-that-list Work / Illustration Chris (Simpsons Artist)'s surreal but accurate illustrations of creative jobs

    Working in the creative industries can surely be odd enough at times, but to add an extra dollop of the ludicrous and surreal is Chris (Simpsons Artist), who’s helpfully depicted how ten creative roles really pan out. Often worryingly accurate (see production runner making tea, illustrator who has “left it to the last minute”) and always hilariously strange, the series was commissioned by creative industries network Hiive and gives a nice gentle rib tickle to graphic designers, who may or may not spend all day using a Wacom to scroll about over images of sausages.

    1
    Emily Gosling
  • List Work / Illustration How illustrators responded to the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris

    It’s not very often that illustration finds itself at the centre of world events, but that came to pass yesterday when three gunmen attacked the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The publication – which lampoons anyone and everyone – was seemingly targeted because of the way it has mocked Islam in the past and three of its cartoonists (Cabu, Wolinski and Tignous) were among the 12 people killed. The illustration community was quick to respond with powerful and poignant imagery uploaded to social media. Jean Jullien’s “Je Suis Charlie” picture depicting a pencil being jammed into the end of a rifle was among the most shared tributes on Twitter, while others like Hattie Stewart paid more personal respects. Later the cartoonists at the major newspapers added their offerings to try and make sense of the events that played out in Paris.

    2
    Rob Alderson
  • List Work / Illustration Here are some mind-boggling GIFs from Erik Söderberg to transfix you

    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.

    3
    Maisie Skidmore
  • Unnamed-1 Work / Animation Intricate GIFs depicting modern life from illustrator Rebecca Mock

    GIFs are just a part of life now, like shoes or the BBC. In a world overrun with these oddly satisfying little snippets of expression, the general vibe of GIFs so far has been leaning much more on the quantity level than the quality. When you find yourself scrolling cross-eyed through the internet and you come across GIFs with such delicate majesty such as these by Rebecca Mock, it hits you like a pixelated smack in the face. Rebecca is an illustrator from New York who creates exquisite digital illustrations for the likes of The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Medium among others. Her illustrations are subtle and somewhat tender moments represented in GIF form, un-showy and delicate. Sometimes the only thing moving in the whole image is a flashing light on a laptop, or the endless sideways scroll of an iPad. How refreshing to see someone leaping on this medium, and using it to illustrate the strange new digital world we’re in.

    4
    Liv Siddall
  • M_1 Features / Illustration A mind full of filthy ideas and creative brilliance: we visit Malika Favre

    Sat smoking on her sofa, Malika Favre looks completely at home. The French illustrator’s east London flat, which doubles as her studio, is stylish in an unaffected way with pictures all over the walls, both her own and some by her cross-Channel contemporaries: a gorgeous drawing of Tate Modern by Thibaud Herem and a Jean Jullien beach scene above her bed.

    5
    Rob Alderson
  • Main Work / Illustration Beautifully crude, rude and lewd drawings from Joan Cornella!

    For me, coming across Joan Cornella’s collages are something of a love-at-first-sight situation — the picture I first saw told a brief story about a man being shot in the crotch by a pink bear in a tree, who then runs over to lend him a tampon. It’s hard to say exactly why these gruesome tales are so pleasing, but I guess it’s something to do with how they’re simultaneously so well-drawn, hilarious and colourful. We don’t know much about Joan, but if you’re reading, get in touch! We want to pick your brains (and then leave offerings of candles, beads and small snacks outside your house).

    6
    Liv Siddall
  • Nude-with-phone-chris-delorenzo-its-nice-that-list Work / Illustration Stunning nudes and monochromes with a story from Christopher Delorenzo

    Usually, I assume that only the most daft, confident or drunk people get tattoos of other people’s illustrations they’ve found on Tumblr. But in the case of “anonymous,” who recently asked graphic artist Christopher Delorenzo if he’d mind if they used one of his drawings to get some ink, I think maybe they’re on to something. Christopher has said that his work is informed by literature and writing: something very much evident in the way each of his simple monochrome drawings manages to convey a rich narrative in black, white and charm. The nudes are stunning – voluptuous and with such a great expression of form – but with a wry eye on the modern world as they clutch an iPhone. Even without much in the way of facial features (just a nose, in some cases), their faces speak a thousand words.

    9
    Emily Gosling
  • Vw-int-list Work / Advertising Illustrated campaign for Volkswagen uses parents lying to children as a metaphor

    We’ve all told lies, or at least tinkered with the truth either for our own sake or for someone else’s. A new tongue-in-cheek print campaign for Volkswagen’s used cars sees parents’ white lies recast as a metaphor for untrustworthy sellers. “If they lie to their kids, what will they tell you when they sell you their car?” the adverts read. The simple blue and red visuals show parents and children in varying situations, lying about a dead fish, a particularly ugly drawing or a ridiculous hat. “It’s not ugly, it’s called fashion,” a mother says, shoving a bobble hat on her unwitting son’s little head.

    10
    Alexander Hawkins
  • Francoise-mouly_interview_int_list Features / Illustration The New Yorker art editor Françoise Mouly on what makes an unforgettable cover

    In 1968, as student protests swept through Paris and the world seemed full of hope and on the brink of real, lasting change, Françoise Mouly had a front row seat. Aged 13, she had stayed in the city with her father while her mother and sisters joined the evacuation. “It was a great, great time,” she remembers. “Usually I don’t like crowds but there’s something really nice about that shared belief that you can actually change the world.

    11
    Rob Alderson
  • Le-cube-itsnicethat-list-2 Work / Illustration Kanye, Miley, Madonna and more in garish and satirical illustrations scrapped by MTV

    The bright, light-hearted animation and illustration work coming out of South American studio Le Cube has drawn clients from Vodafone to Cartoon Network to Nescafé and recently landed a commission from MTV. Split between Buenos Aires and São Paulo, the studio was commissioned to create seven gif-style animations for the TV network which poke fun at some of the biggest names in pop music. The resulting Pop Icons series, which sees Nicki Minaj’s backside bouncing on washing machine, Justin Bieber melting his own face with a hair dryer, and Kanye West kissing himself, was unfortunately deemed too inflammatory to air and was scrapped by the MTV legal team. When all that was said and done, Le Cube decided to go ahead and finish the project regardless. “If you want to sue something, sue boredom,” writes the studio.

    12
    Alexander Hawkins
  • Mcbess_int_list Features / Illustration “I wouldn’t recommend trying to make it as an illustrator to anyone”: straight-talking McBess

    When French illustrator McBess (aka Matthieu Bessudo) started drawing it was a way to combat his boredom from the 3D computer-based work he was doing at the time. “I would draw on paper and it became more interesting than the computer, so I kept drawing instead of doing my actual work,” he tells me after his Offset talk a couple weeks ago in Shoreditch. “Eventually I decided I wanted to leave but turns out they wanted to fire me anyway!”

    13
    Rebecca Fulleylove
  • Royal-studio-adobe-tutorials-its-nice-that-list Work / Illustration Portuguese Royal Studio makes Adobe tutorials look good (and simple!)

    Online tutorials: necessary, helpful, but not too often particularly easy on the eye. Congratulations, then, to Portuguese agency Royal Studio, which has created some well-crafted imagery to illustrate a series of tutorials for various Adobe programmes. It makes sense really that tutorials for creative programmes should look great themselves, but alas it isn’t often the case.

    14
    Emily Gosling
  • Toddterje-itsnicethat-main Work / Art + Music Todd Terje interviews the creators of his new animated video!

    What a treat this is! We have for you today a special conversation between bearded electronic wizard Todd Terje and two very talented illustrators Espen Friberg and Bendik Kaltenborn about the fantastic new music video they have been working on. If you haven’t already seen it, it’s a hilarious whirlwind of illustrations painstakingly animated together frame by frame, and something the three of them have been working on since October.

    15
    Liv Siddall
  • Julian-glander-itsnicethat-list-3 Work / Illustration Checking in with gif-man Julian Glander to talk hotdogs and dachshunds

    Any fella with the energy and inclination to create a behind the scenes illustration of an animated gif he made earlier – let that one sink in for a moment – is absolutely fine with us. Julian Glander’s been up to his armpits in commissions since we last caught up with him, building gifs of funny jiggly people jumping into cereal bowls, dachshunds flying down flights of stairs, skating hot dog sausages and drum-playing apples for the likes of Starbucks, Subway and Giphy. This series was made for Koodo though, a Canadian cellphone provider, proving that anything can be made to look exciting if the commissioner is good enough at scoping out up-and-coming young talent.

    16
    Maisie Skidmore
  • Lazybones-blog-2-int_copy Work / Illustration Miranda Lorikeet has been pushing MS Paint to its pastel gradient limit

    Sydney-based Miranda Lorikeet, or Lazybones, is an HR assistant by day, taking spare moments, evenings and weekends to produce gradient and island filled drawings on MS Paint. Using pictures of sunsets for colour reference, and taking a day per image – working for hours to get the mountain ridges and gradients just right, Miranda is crazy prolific. Her work has something of the “outsider” about it: it’s intuitive and strays only from seascapes, cliffs and rocky mountains to depict butts and sunglasses.

    23
    Billie Muraben
  • Nimura-int-list Work / Illustration Japanese illustrator Nimura Daisuke is back with his charmingly naughty gifs

    Nimura Daisuke’s gifs and illustrations are both mischievous and charming with their thick line-work and simple colour palette. It’s been a year since Nimura’s playful work was last on the site, but fortunately for us he’s continued to depict his slightly twisted versions of everyday scenarios. From a T-shirt full of children to a woman brandishing her lady garden with an aloof look on her face, any topic seems up for grabs for the Japanese illustrator. Whether Nimura’s images are still or moving, the gestures and expressions he conveys through a few simples lines adds a wonderful humour and whimsy to his work.

    24
    Rebecca Fulleylove
  • Thomas-hedger-int-list-3 Work / Illustration Cheeky, irreverent and vivid illustrations by Thomas Hedger

    When we came across Thomas Hedger’s punchy, flat style of illustration, we were reminded of the strong lines and intense palette favoured by one of our 2013 Graduates, Edward Carvalho-Monaghan. That being said, Thomas has a style of his own that he couples with subjects ranging from the dreamlike to the dirty. Working from a house boat in London, he also produces a seemingly neverending stream of work and posts one illustration a day on Instagram. Creating digital, block-coloured interpretations of everyday objects and people, his work is both interesting and joyous.

    25
    Alexander Hawkins