Behind The Blue Door

Stylish Weekends | January 8, 2016 |

The forgotten art:

10 leading illustrators from the UK



From cavemen to cutting edge fashion drawings, illustration has etched, engraved and inked its way into British history.

The UK is justly proud of a hall of illustration fame that includes George Cruickshank, Beatrix Potter, Arthur Rackham, E H Shepard, Quentin Blake, Edward Ardizzone, David Downton and Raymond Briggs: a roll-call of names that conjures up half-forgotten fairy tales, children’s classics and glamorous innovation.

But the age of illustration is far from over. From ghost stories to limited edition stamps, those leading the discipline today are just as exciting as those who worked in an era before pixels and photoshop.

Here, in no particular order are our current top ten.


  1. Sandra Dieckmann


Sandra Diekmann

Image source: @sandradieckmann/ Instagram

Dreamy, nostalgic and mysterious; the animals in Sandra Dieckmann’s illustrative masterpieces are achingly beautiful.

From spellbinding bears to flying foxes, her work has been applied to a multitude of international commissions and projects, with clients including Sky, Lily Cole, WWF, Andersen Press and Al Jazeera.

Find her at her studio and shop MAMA WOLF in Hackney, East London, where she sells prints, greeting cards, ceramics and more.


  1. Sarah Maycock


Image source: @sarahmaycock/ Instagram

With her illustrative delights on the walls of David Attenborough’s home, Sarah Maycock is the poster girl for quintessential British talent.

As well as designing Wedgwood’s very own Blue Door, her soulful work has been used by clients such as Liberty, The Guardian, Waitrose, Rugby World Cup, BBC Wildlife magazine and Laurence King.

The south-east based artist mostly uses Indian ink, watercolours or crayon to create her charming illustrations; a blend of fine art and illustration using her minimal-mark technique.


  1. Yehrin Tong

yehrin tong

Image source: Yehrin Tong Illustration/ Facebook

Minimalism isn’t in the repertoire of Yehrin Tong. The Central Saint Martins graduate specialises in beautifully complex patterns.

Her tessellating mathematical motifs, optical illusions and intricate type treatments have graced everything from ad campaigns to editorial illustrations and even embroidery.

Yehrin has worked with companies including Apple, Condé Nast, BBC Radio 2, Adidas, New Scientist magazine and New York Times. She recently won the V&A Book Cover Illustration Award for her cover of The Book of Strange New Things.


  1. Ben The Illustrator


Image source: @benillustrator/ Instagram

Self-confessed colour-addict Ben O’Brien (aka Ben The Illustrator) excitedly recreates life’s endless forms and colours in his kaleidoscopic illustrations.

Tropical tangerines, hot fuschias and mermaid aquas splash over Ben’s projects, which range from editorial and advertising to interiors and fashion.

Clients include Jamie Oliver, Pixar, Esquire Magazine, Waitrose, Nickelodeon, Virgin Media and the BBC.


  1. Nina Cosford

nina cosford

Image source: @ninacosford/ Instagram

Nina Cosford lives right by the sea in Hastings, where she creates expressive, whimsical illustration across editorial, advertising, reportage, typography, education and children’s books.

Nina brings bright blobs of watercolour, promarker or oil/wax pastel to her mechanical pencil drawings; turning everyday objects, characters and locations into vivid, playful narratives.

Previous clients include TimeOut New York, Buzzfeed, Nokia, Marie Claire, Waitrose, Teen Vogue and Walker Books, and her GIRLS Illustrated fandom project has gained great acclaim, resulting in support from Lena Dunham herself and commissions from HBO to draw promotional content.


  1. David McConochie


Image source: David McConochie/ Folio Society

It was the dark, unsettling beauty of David McConochie’s illustrations for The Folio Book of Ghost Stories that propelled him to the winning spot in the 2015 Book Illustration Competition, ahead of 400 rivals.

Originally from Durham, David moved to London in 2005 to complete an MA in Illustration at Central Saint Martins. As well as working on a limited edition postage stamp for Royal Mail, his editorial work has graced the likes of The Sunday Times, BBC, Guardian Newspapers and Condé Nast Traveler.


  1. Nate Kitch


Image source: @natekitch/ Instagram

Since graduating in 2012, award-winning illustrator Nate Kitch has already worked with Wired, Esquire, New Scientist, Ted Baker, Virgin and The Guardian.  

His illustrations combine hand-drawn elements with photography and digital imagery, mixing texture, shapes and collages to create works of art that are often crazy and always thought-provoking.


  1. Helen Green


Image source: Helen Green Art/ Facebook

Her mesmerising David Bowie gif has been shared by the masses on social media this year – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg where Helen Green’s drawings are concerned.

The Birmingham-based artist has done a lot since graduating in 2014 – she has already worked with Lady Gaga, Wired Magazine, Sky Arts, Refinery29, Skype and The Hollywood Reporter Magazine.

Helen specialises in famous faces, expressing her love for portraiture and music with vibrant watercolours, gouache, pencil and sometimes a ball-point pen before finishing a piece digitally.


  1. Dan Woodger

dan woodger

Image source: Dan Woodger/ Twitter

London-based illustrator Dan Woodger once created 1000 fantastic emojis in more than 1000 hours; earning him the title ‘Emoji Guy’.

The effort he puts into his cheeky, oblong-eyed comic book figures has not gone unheeded by brands and publishers: Ted Baker, New York Times, Esquire, Google, Cadbury, Virgin Atlantic and Wired are just a few he’s worked with through his new-age cartoon magic.


  1. Sarah Beetson


Image source: @sarahbeetson/ Instagram

The chaotic work of Sarah Beetson is instantly recognisable. Her signature style is a sparkling soup of pop culture and vintage influences with psychedelic blobs of colour for croutons.

There’s barely a medium she doesn’t touch, listing spray paint, tissue paper, collage, paper, wood, photographic prints, fabric, acrylic-gouache, markers, gel pens, crayon, stickers, vintage magazine clippings, beads, sequins, Letraset and more…

Hailing from Manchester, Sarah has won many awards for her illustrations and has worked with several huge brands and publications such as Penguin Books, MAC Cosmetics, The Wall St Journal, Ellesse, Diesel, Mary Portas, Reader’s Digest, The British Fashion Council and IKEA.


Shop the Story

Bone china gets the illustrative treatment, with the whimsical Mythical Creatures collection for Wedgwood by Kit Kemp.

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