1.1 The history of illustration


Brief and objectives

The purpose of the exercise was to explore how illustration has evolved over the past 50-years. The task was to select two illustrators and write notes about each including a short biography and a view of selected works.  We were asked to compare them in terms of their style, context, production and imagery.

The first illustrator was selected from a predetermined list, and the second was a personal choice.

Finally, we were asked to create an illustration in the style of each artist, selecting similar subject matter and using similar media.

The process and outputs from the exercise are recorded below.

In the rest of this blog I describe:

  • Why I chose Edward Bawden as my first illustrator and Olivier Kulger as my contemporary illustrator, including brief biographies and selected works for each
  • The creative and research processes that I used to create my own illustrations including pictures at various stages of completion and the final pieces
  • What I learned from the exercise

How I approached the work

This is the first exercise on the course and the first time I’ve worked in an academic context for a very long time – so for me this exercise was a lot about re-learning how to learn. I was quite nervous and excited to start.

The OCA provide an estimated time for each element of the work, and I wanted to stick to the timings for this first exercise to gauge my own rate of work and to help me plan future assignments. I also looked at several other student learning logs to get a feel for how I should approach the work and layout my own.

The process I used to select the first illustrator involved Google. I briefly searched for and read the biographies and viewed the work of all 6 x artists. I could easily have selected E H Shepherd because his illustrations of Winnie the Pooh are deeply engrained in my childhood memories, but after some deliberation, I selected Edward Bawden.

Why I chose Edward Bawden

I knew that to recreate an illustration ‘in-the-style-of’ I needed to quickly and easily relate to the subject matter and feel some empathy and/or excitement at using the same materials/media.

I am currently working in the City of London, and Bawden’s linocuts and lithographs of London landmarks instantly jumped out; I pass several of them every day. I have an interest in printing and love the simplicity and power of linocuts. I also liked his paintings; the landscapes he created as Official War Artist and his later landscape paintings particularly caught my eye because I recognised where I could find similar subject matter close to where I live to use as reference. I liked the idea of experimenting with pen, ink and gouache.

A brief biography

Edward Bawden was born in England on 10 March 1903, in Braintree Essex.
He left school in 1918 and studied at Cambridge in the School of Art and at the Royal College of Art in London. His circle of friends included celebrated artists and print-makers Eric Ravilious, Douglas Bliss and Enid Marx.

After graduating, he tutored at both Goldsmiths and the Royal College of Art and worked as a commercial artist on a large variety of projects for the Curwen Press and subsequently for many other publishers including Faber and Faber, producing book illustrations and cover designs, posters and advertisements, leaflets and calendars, including commissions for Twinings, Poole Potteries, Westminster Bank and the London Transport Board.

During the Second World War, Bawden was nominated Official War Artist; he produced mostly watercolours recording the war’s events in both France, Belgian and the Middle East.

It was in the 1960s that he produced his best-known works; A series of large lithographs and linocuts of London monuments and landmarks. He is also known for his garden metalwork furniture.

He died on 21 November 1989, aged eighty-six.

This image was created during his time as Official War Artist.

Cairo, the Citadel: Mohammed Ali Mosque
Cairo, the Citadel: Mohammed Ali Mosque Graphite and watercolour on paper Dimensions: 470 x 597mm http://www.tate.org.uk

Here are links to examples of his later London monuments linocuts:

Liverpool Street Station

St James’ Palace

London Underground poster

Why I chose Olivier Kulger as my contemporary illustrator

I don’t currently have a good enough awareness of contemporary illustrators and I’ll need to address this over future assignments. Although I have a growing interest in graphic novels and have works by Joe Sacco and Adrian Tomine, I considered these illustrators too challenging to emulate given the limited timeframe.

So, I was starting with a blank canvas on this one.

For my research, I started by buying the reference books related to this exercise and used these as a starting point, followed by internet research. It took longer than I thought.

As I saw the work of Olivier Kugler in Thinking Visually for Illustrators I knew I’d found what I was after.

A brief biography

Olivier Kugler is a London-based reportage illustrator. He was born in Simmozheim in the Black Forest.

He studied graphic design in Pforzheim and then went to New York to work as a freelance graphic illustrator. At the School of Visual Arts in New York, he was part of the Illustration as visual essay program, which taught drawing on the spot.

Kugler’s focus is drawn-up reports, in which he depicts the everyday life of people who have met and escorted him in various parts of the world. His illustrations combine cartoon, storytelling, cartography and current events.

Olivier Kulger has a great website that features a large selection of work.

He’s very prolific and covers a wide range of subjects. I have only included a representative example here and if you like this I’d urge you to check out his website.

Burkina Faso for Oxfam and The Guardian
Burkina Faso for Oxfam and The Guardian

See larger image here: http://www.olivierkugler.com/c95/b1lg.html

My illustration in the style of Edward Bawden

I considered two possible subjects to match those used by Bawden in his paintings that are within easy reach of where I’m living and working:

  1. St Nicholas’ Church, Pyrford, Surrey
  2. Newark Priory, Ripley, Surrey

I spent a couple of hours at each location and took reference photographs.

Contact sheet
Contact sheet

After considering each, I chose the church because it most closely matches the format and layout of Bawden’s painting St Nicholas’s Church, Fyfield; the fact both churches had the same name was purely coincidental but that probably played a part in my decision.

Fyfield, St Nicholas' Church
Edward Bawden – Fyfield, St Nicholas’ Church – Gouache, pen and ink – Dimensions: 470 x 580mm – http://www.goldmarket.com

The Bawden original was create using pen and in and gouache – mediums that were new to me (I probably used gouache during my Art Foundation Course but that was a long time ago).

I sketched a couple of different views. The first using ink pen which is my preferred sketching tool, and then using pen and Indian ink and coloured pencils

One of the interesting aspects to the original painting is the way that Bawden uses several visual devices; he lays the graveyard out based on a grid of rectangles to give a strong sense of perspective and form. This is reinforced by the blue and aquamarine colour that dominates the lower half of the picture.



I organised the elements of my own illustration using the same proportions and a similar grid structure. I wanted to work to the same scale – the original is 470 x 580mm. I scaled this down slightly to 389 x 446mm to fit within an A2 format.

The following pictures were taken at key points during the process including the final result.

The final artwork:

St Nicholas’ Church, Pyrford, Surrey

My illustrations in the style of Olivier Kulger

Olivier Kulger has created a series of illustrations titled Food! that can be found on his website here.

Here’s an example from the website that shows the visual style I was trying to emulate.

Olivier Kulger – food illustration – http://www.olivierkugler.com

See larger image here.

As well as his overall visual style and language which is multi layered and distinctive, the subject matter in Food! gave me an easy subject to work with.

I have done work for a local Pizza business that sell wood fired pizza from a converted van, and I thought using a view from inside the van would provide me with visual reference for the illustration.

Contact sheet

I like the way the illustrations are constructed which (I assume) is using Adobe Illustrator. I started using Illustrator earlier in the year and like how easy it is to combine traditional hand drawn illustration with the benefits of a powerful set of digital tools.

I didn’t do a lot of sketching to organise the layout of the illustration because it seemed obvious to me.

One of the joys of working in Illustrator is that a lot of the creative process happens during the execution of the work, so I like to have a starting point but don’t generally tie things down too much.

The first step in the creative process was for me to draw out the key elements of image from the reference photographs using an ink pen that were then scanned and ‘placed’ into Illustrator. I also sketched in pencil and used a light-box to ink in the parts of the image I wanted to use. I use a lot of layers to maintain control over the image as it develops

Here’s the final artwork:


What I learned from the exercise

What went well

Overall I’m quite pleased finished artwork and the process and lessons that I’ve learned, I think they quite successfully meet the objectives of the exercise to create an illustration in the style of each artist, selecting similar subject matter and using similar media. I’ve become a fan of pen and ink; the range of mark making using different nibs is of great interest and the black is far stronger and more expressive than the ink pens I usually use.

Painting again after such a long time was rewarding although it was a bit trial and error and took longer than I’d planned.

It was good to create the first entry in my Learning Log. It took a bit of trial and error to get the layout right but future work should be much quicker to upload.

What I could do differently/better

I spent almost the double the 16-hours I had allocated for this exercise. I’m hoping that was down to the fact this is the first one and I’m just getting up to speed.

I spent too much time of the research for Edward Bawden and the painting took longer than I thought it would – although I really like the result.

Taking good representative pictures/scans of the artwork was challenging. There is excellent advice on the OCA website here. I need to improve on this going forward and allow for the time it takes in my planning.

I think I made several mistakes along the way  in terms of execution, but these were down to lack of familiarity with the medium; the pen I used for most of the drawing was too heavy and I ended up using a small nib that held the ink more easily and was generally better to work with and better matched the original artwork.




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