Carla Lee Illustration

The word ‘illustration’ comes from the Latin word ‘illustra’tio, illustro’ meaning ‘enlighten’. True to its essence, Yorkshire-based Illustrator Carla Lee’s work is nothing short of enlightening.

Focusing on precise detail and intense observational skills, Carla shines a magnifying glass onto objects and animals and teases out intricacies so defined her images stray away from reality and approach the surreal.

Carla usually begins with the traditional Illustrator’s tools: sketchbook and pens. From here, her passionate imagination and desire to create are her ‘je ne sais quoi’, resulting in unique and striking images.

Carla is a self-confessed kitten lover, which is apparent in the feline, farmyard, feathered and four-legged motif that characterises her work (take a browse on her website). ‘The Fox and the Mask’ – a limited collection – brings out the wave-like tonality of her mammal’s fur, so detailed it could be a peacock’s tail. And it’s only too appropriate that Carla drew a collection of magical ‘Alice in Wonderland’ inspired illustrations in which animals and nature are recognisable, but somehow not quite right.

Talking stories, one of Carla’s proudest ventures was her first book for American company ‘New Adjustment Productions’ titled ‘Weevil & Nightshade’s Compendium of Farables and Tales’. This original piece treads somewhere between Aesop’s Fables and Grimm’s Fairytales. In seven tales written by Mark Roushe, the farables confront societal issues with a fantastical twist through characters Shannon Shee and her shadow Persephone, a living enslaved girl made out of chocolate. Carla’s poignant, imaginative and prickly style perfectly complements the lyrical yet dark tone of the farables, which interweave abstract and realistic themes with uncanny fluidity.

Check out Carla’s work on her website and discover the wizadry for yourself.

Caitlin Hazell

Caitlin Hazell is a wonderful illustrator who regularly contributes work to the well known teen magazine, Rookie. This perhaps sets the tone for her illustrations which employ pop culture and personal narratives to create a sensitive voyage through teenage life.

Caitlin’s own journey is documented though her blog which runs much like one of her moleskins, filled to the brim with scrawling snippets and scenes. As her Rookie biography states, she ‘enjoys looking out for the small things in life people usually miss’ and I think this goes a long way to describe her work which acts like a very sincere spectatorship on the big bad world.

dumb stuff is the name of Caitlin’s bigcartel site where she sells sticker sets and her past 6 Zines which appear like diaries or journals – completely covered in text and felt-tip. One of my favourite illustrations of Caitlin’s reads ‘Don’t worry Mr Sheep – i’ll come back later and get you out (child talking to Damien Hirst’s ‘Away from the flock’)’ and for me her work goes some way to create a breathing space or at least something lighthearted and fun. It is really easy to fall in love with!

You can see Caitlin’s work online at Rookie, as part of Bunny Collective and here.

She is fiercely productive so definitely one to follow!







Tom J Newell

Having lived in Camden Town my whole life, moving to Sheffield to study was a strange experience. It can be hard balancing a life in two cities, one wishes that there were something you could bring with you to both places. Imagine my delight when I discovered the striking similarity between the dark yet fascinating cartoons I was used to seeing on the side of the Unicorn Pub down the road from me in Camden and the equally beautiful and twisted work on the walls and in the burger menus within The Harley, Sheffield.

The man responsible for these home comforts (and the beautiful artwork) is artist and illustrator Tom J Newell. Raised in Chesterfield, Tom J Newell has worked on all kinds of projects. Aside his fabulous wall murals he also produces paintings, comics, posters and all things in between. Born and raised in Chesterfield, he has now moved to Sheffield a five year stint in London, working closer to home in a city that is bursting with creativity.

Tom’s inspiration seems to spring from all over the place, which perhaps is what makes his work so unique. Taking influences from the Beano and Dandy as a child, he began drawing comic book characters, and was further influenced by video games and graffiti as he grew older.

Moonlighting as a DJ, its not just the visual that keeps his creative juices flowing. He also takes a lot of inspiration from music and literature. “Music and musicians inspire my artwork just as much as visual sources” he says, “I approach the construction of a new image by manipulating existing imagery”.

It’s not hard to see that Tom is a forced to be reckoned with, his illustrations alone have had something of a viral effect already. His artwork is splattered across the menus of the Twisted Burger Company, Kraken Rum and all over the walls of bars, tattoo studios and galleries.

What’s more, despite significant grounds for arrogance, Tom J Newell strikes me first and foremost as a a wholeheartedly Decent Guy. Won’t take my word for it? Ask Sheffield Children’s Hospital, where he ran workshops in 2010 “That was another great excuse to get out of the studio,” he told me “and seeing the approach that kids have towards drawing is always inspiring.”

Still working in his studio developing old doodles that he did in school and having his work put up all over sheffield and beyond, Mr. Newell is a fireball of compassion, talent and ultimately an unrestrained creativity. His imaginative, sometimes slightly unhinging illustrations are impossible to forget.

Curious? Visit

Ailene Gray

I found Ailene Gray on the internet. She appears to be an undergraduate student, just like me. But unlike me, she can draw some very pretty pictures.

There is a site online which I’d never heard of called the ‘just us’ collective. It showcases student illustrators and artists and gives them the chance to appear in exhibitions and publications in the coming year. Hundreds of people submit their work and you can vote online for your favourites. The top fifty get accepted into the collective. This voting page is where I discovered Ailene Gray.

On the site, the artists are given the opportunity to describe themselves alongside examples of their work. Ailene’s says:

Escaped from Bedford to somewhere with more sea and less Bedford to study Illustration. If ink was a person, me and ink would be in love. The first inspiration I can remember was seeing the concept art for ‘The Ocarina of Time’ instruction manual when I was 6. I’m a mother to two rats, I’m obsessive and my insides are made out of bread.

I liked her description.

As well as the evident quirkiness of character which this artist displays both in her work and her words, I think Ailene’s illustrations are marvellous. The three pieces shown offer a fantastic range – one shows intense intricacy where another appears haphazard and amusing. In spite of this, they all exude a style that shows true artistry – you can tell they all came from the same artist. Her whole page exudes personality – her succinct use of language only supports the fantastic artwork she submits to be judged.

If you too like the pictures on this article, please vote for Ailene Gray at


John Kilburn

Bristol Born John Kilburn’s  enthusiasm for illustration goes back to the early years, his first go at illustrating a book during primary school, where he produced the masterly “Ossie and the Boogy Boogy Boo” for a project about Australia.

John graduated from Falmouth University with a distinction in Authorial Illustration in 2012, and since then has been making his mark on the “small but burgeoning scene of artists in Falmouth and Cornwall” with illustrations in many different forms, from paintings and comics to pop up books and coffee packets. His strikingly detailed pencil art and bright colours create somewhat of a signature style, but all of his works possess their own unique character whatever the medium.

What strikes me about John in comparison to other artists of his demographic is his involvement in the community at large. He runs a small art space in Falmouth with other graduates and works closely with the Cornwall-based Atlantic Press; which works to publish first time works of authorial illustration. He also takes part in various life illustration and comic events around the country – keeping an active role in the artistic community.

John Kilburn has made an impact nationally and locally with his work, and with his art space just kicking off, and the final project for his masters, The Golden Plaice (which happens to be an illustrated book about a clever prawn searching for said ‘plaice’) is being shipped off to the USA as part of the Yale Center for British Art collection.” I find it hard to say no to anything” he says “I always look to push myself in new directions and unfamiliar places.”

 Visit to feast your eyes on his work.

Jing Hu

I first came across Jing Hu’s work at the University of the Arts London’s Freshers Fair last year, when we shared various works with each other as fellow fine art students. I was immediately blown away by the illustrative style of her paintings, possessing at once a very distinctive Chinese quality yet also the influence of western antiquity.

Her colour palettes ranges from vibrant reds to monochromatic greys, but the vast majority of her work have subdued, introspective undertones. The stylised, sometimes hybrid characters stare solemnly back at the observer, haunting in their androgynous, anime beauty and poised in frozen inertia. They sit or lounge or stand in luxurious, traditional settings or strangely fantastical landscapes. Doe-like eyes seem to accuse the viewer of something – you’re not sure exactly what, but they seem to be trying to communicate a story to you.

With a stroke of her brush, Jing Hu weaves an unspoken narrative between the threads of her seductive characters as she “explores ideas around flux, migration, urban-life with aesthetic codes as markers of identity and aspirations.” Essentially, her work elevates the banality of modern life to the realm of urban mythology.

To follow Jing Hu’s journey and view more of her works in her eclectic portfolio (which also includes mixed media art), visit her website.

Freyja Dean

Some of the most fulfilling and interesting cross-disciplinary work in the burgeoning London art scene is coming out of the inter-dialogue between the arts and sciences – from biological processes to scientific theories to technologies that are testing the brave new virtual frontier, artists are increasingly drawing on the scientific basis for our natural world to weave the fabric of our contemporary narratives.

Art institutions, too, are beginning to recognise this – take the relatively new MA Art and Science at Central Saint Martins, which is supporting young creatives who come from all walks of life.

I refer, in particular, to the work of Freyja Dean, self-professed artist, illustrator and designer. She completed her MA last term at CSM, but before that was studying Scientific and Natural History Illustration for three years, and also completed work for the Royal College of Surgeons. She applies this scientific background of precise finesse to her artwork, seen clearly in the beautifully crafted lines and shading of both her anatomical and ink illustrations.

Freyja has created an eclectic range of work, from album covers to painting to costume design. I was particularly impressed by her MA work, IDollatry, which consisted of a fantastical “portal” guarded by a lemur-hybrid that opened up into a triptych of IDollworld. Listening to her speak at the MA Art and Science Symposium was inspiring as she explained how her work sought to explore the technological potential of the future, as well as the phenomena of modern, self-cultivated mythologies.

“I wanted to create an altar piece complete with idols (or IDolls) that explored the possible consequences, not just in terms of what we are capable of, but also what kind of humanity we are shaping for ourselves.” 

To peek further into the world of Freyja’s strange and futuristic Eden, visit her website.

Will Sweeney

There are fewer greater places to discover illustrative talent then at a celebrated institution like the Design Museum in London: it was there, during Vestige’s technology-based event, that I discovered the eclectic work of artist Will Sweeney. Treading somewhere between the mainstream and the obscure, Sweeney’s work nevertheless captures the popular imagination with elaborate drawings and renderings of fantastical alien landscapes and hybrid creatures – something Japanese, something 60’s inspired, something that entices and arrests your senses.

Some of Will Sweeney’s most commercially successful work includes his music videos for Birdy Nam Nam and his comic Tales from Greenfuzz. Watching Birdy Nam Nam’s music video The Parachute Ending is like taking a short acid trip: the colour positively pops in a psychedelic tableau of Iron Maiden-esque statues, flickering sci-fi screens and symbiotic plants in what Sweeney calls a “meat versus vegetables” kind of story.

Another of his works, Purposemaker, is a stunning pencil work of such detailed precision it likens itself as a futuristic interpretation of famed Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel’s Dulle Griet. A diorama of surreal characters juxtaposed on a flattened landscape, both works seem to reference allegorical interpretations of life and death – in times and places both real and imaginary.

Illustration, prints, comics, videos, toys, clothing and even exhibitions: the prolific artist has extended his incredible style to incorporate all aspects of commercial design and co-runs his London-based outlet Alakazam with Ayako Terashima. For more information or to see more of Sweeney’s portfolio, check out his biography on Big Active.

Mister Phil

Mister Phil grew up in Portsmouth and currently resides in Brighton, where he has lived since attending Brighton University and gaining a degree in Illustration.

He uses cartoon illustration and a compelling blend of block colour to create eye catching and unique images whose psychedelic nature demands attention, giving one the feeling that there is a story to be told behind each one of them. “There’s a sense of surrealism in the work which mainly comes from not thinking too much about what I’m trying to achieve” he says, “allowing the work to create itself based on what comes before. I react to what I’ve put down on the paper, try not to stop too long and think about it, but act in an intuitive way.”

Mister Phil’s main platform and focus at the moment online, he explains “as long as something goes up every day then it’s OK. I enjoy the immediate feedback from twitter and internet – it keeps the momentum going…  I’m on a mission with this daily doodle project, looking forward to seeing where it takes me as ideas evolve very quickly when you force yourself to work under a strict deadline.”

Describing himself as an all round “creative person”, Mister Phil works with photography and web design alongside his illustration and animation work. “If I make something I really like when I see it again, then I’m content.” He says, when asked what his own work means to him. “I like the idea that within the space of a couple of hours you can create something that didn’t exist before, that hopefully no-one else would have created.”


Sophie J Cunningham

Sophie J Cunningham is living proof of an age old vital fact about illustration: working traditionally will simply never go out of style.

In this increasingly digitalised age, not being super top notch on your photoshopping skills or not being able to afford the most recent C200 Adobe suite (which’ll only set you back a couple thousand hundred pounds of course) can make you feel a bit lost in the times; however illustrators like Sophie are here to show how you can throw your Wacom tablet into the wind and make absolutely stunning work with just a brush and some paints.

Having just graduated from the Edinburgh College of Art and still maintaining that she doesn’t “quite know if I have a career yet“, Sophie’s style is entirely hand painted- a delicate way of working that requires a lot of patience, but also produces rather beautiful results. The tone and texture of her pieces have a lot more depth and soul thanks to this I believe, and her hand-drawn lettering is very original yet as neat and crisp as any computer type face.

When asked this question [on why she works so traditionally] I usually joke that I don’t work digitally because I don’t know how to use the Adobe suite (I don’t have a clue!), but really it’s just because I love what I do. I’ve always painted. It does take a long time and I often end up with a claw for a hand after a hard days work, but the satisfaction  I get from the work, as well as people’s reactions to my paintings makes it worth it for me. It feels nice to be doing something that’s a little different. At the moment, I just want to keep doing what I enjoy, but I’d never rule out working digitally in the future.

In content her work definitely has the kind of look that would be perfect for things such as children’s books and decorations: it’s vibrant, adorable, and slightly stylised. However she also has produced some more elegant pattern designs (such as the vinyl cover for Elton John’s Bennie and the Jets album that you can see in the top insert picture to the left hand side).

She also professes that she “devoured encyclopedias as a child” leaving her with a great love for “anything to do with natural history“. This interest can really be seen in a lot of her works – her final University year was devoted to researching polar exploration, and it’s really lovely to see old subjects or events such as the adventures of Ernest Shackleton or William Hardy (who discovered circulation of the blood) be rediscovered and imagined by her. As she says herself: “I really enjoy taking historic imagery and making it accessible and relevant today”.

And as for the future she is currently balancing a part time job with painting to keep herself afloat, but if anybody is around in Edinburgh from mid-August this year she has her first solo exhibition in Eteaket on Frederick Street for the duration of the Fringe, which I’d highly recommend checking out. She would also love to design her own range of illustrated merchandise- “Maybe even a shop to sell it in (a girl can dream!)”


To see more of Sophie’s work look below:




Fionn Jordan

I’ve tried again and again to think of something better to start this article, but to be honest I can’t think of anything better than this: Fionn Jordan is simply kickass.

I mean, I have something of a bordering obsession on browsing artists and checking out illustrators, and I must say it’s not that often that I just stop and can’t say anything but “that’s just so cool“. And as much as I’d like to think of an eloquent intellectual reasoning for how much I like Fionn’s work, instead it simply all boils down to the fact it is just all very very cool.

(Also before I go any further here’s a short disclaimer: it’s an Irish spelling, and so it’s Fionn as pronounced ‘Finn’)

Spidery ink lines and intricate patterns does immediately remind you of one of his self-professed heroes; Victorian illustrator Arthur Rackham. However think more Arthur Rackham meets Tank Girl meets old Kung Fu movies: all joining to create a headily original and exciting style.

His range of work is also pretty impressive, and seems to have managed to skip nicely past the age-old illustrator trap of ‘finding one thing you can do well and never experimenting with anything else’. Instead even just scrolling through a few pages of his website alone there are examples of skateboard decks he’s designed, zines he’s worked for, noodle advertisements, a huge variety of different character designs, and on top of that a 40 page original comic he somehow found the time to make.

The short graphic novel Vinyara, is a tale of “a talented yet purposeless individual and her trials as she attempts to find herself” (or for a less formal introduction “just a lass killing people with a sword”), and the previews look astoundingly professional for someone who by his own admission”never intended to become a comics artist“. Rather what joins all of these diverse and varied interests and pieces is that, in his own words, “it’s just narrative illustration that I love … it doesn’t have to be comics, I’m writing a children’s storybook at the mo, with watercolours, and I like that too. As long as there’s a story involved, even if it’s just a picture of a goblin carrying a chunk of meat…where did he get that meat from? Probably that three legged cow in the background”.

And having only just graduated from the University of Cumbria I’m sure there’s a lot more work to come- in the near future alone at least Fionn is (amongst other things) working on a watercolour children’s book, producing a medieval board game, travelling around Japan and China and making a couple of zines. So, you know, I guess you could say he’s not lacking in too much creative energy or anything.

But I’ll leave you with links to his website, twitter, Tumblrand also some short questions he kindly answered for me (see below). And I really recommend giving it a read, because well, he does just seem like a cool guy.


What or who would you say are your biggest influences?

John Bauer and Arthur Rackham. I absolute love that golden age of illustration folk lore stuff, it’s what I grew up seeing. There’s a book called The Little Grey Men – it’s brilliant – and I don’t know who did the illustrations for the version with the orange cover, but they’re in my mind till I die. Edmund Dulac, too. That’s the watercolour side of things.

The other side of things is that fineliner stuff I do, most of it’s black and white, like my comic Vinyara. Sergio Toppi, he’s my biggest influence for that. His Arabian Nights illustrations are the best, you should check them out actually. I think some manga stuff influences me more than I think…Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, Studio Ghibli of course, and Mushishi. And Hong Kong cinema, particularly Shaw Brothers movies.

Your penwork and draftmanship skills are really impressive, and it clearly takes a lot of time to create such detailed pieces- do you ever get bored or frustrated of working in such an intricate way?

I don’t get bored as drawing gives me a chance to think. I do too much. I think everyone does, just constantly doing things that your brain focuses on, even if it’s scrolling through facebook. Drawing’s good for me in that way, gives my mind a chance to do what it wants not what I make it.

Ahah, I’m not sure frustrated is the right word, I just feel a sense of unstoppable hopelessness when something is turning out crap! And I get cramp in my little finger, that is frustrating, actually.


What would you say if the proudest moment of your career or the piece of yours you like the most?

Well…I was picked to go to this big exhibition called New Blood and I graduated too. They’re important, but they don’t actually mean that much to me. There are two moments which really stick in my mind – they aren’t dramatic at all, but they meant something. So you know when you just get something, or it really feels right, like a picture or a song? There’s a musician called Historian Himself, he’s not very famous, so I’m really fortunate I found him. His music isn’t perfect but there’s something about it which gets me in the gut, you know what I mean? Anyway, at my final show, there was a woman and her daughter looking at my work, and I was milling around trying to do that socialite thing (which I hate). Eventually she grabbed me and told me how much she liked it, so I talked to her for a bit, and I could tell that she did really like my work. It’s not perfect either, I more than anyone think that, but I think she had that same feeling as I do about HH’s music. It felt really good. 

The second thing is Historian Himself saw some of my comic pages and messaged me saying he liked them, that felt good too, like that little cycle had been completed.

What does the immediate future hold for you and your career?

Some or all of the following: A children’s storybook with watercolours, some more comics, the production and creation of a Hnefatafl-esque game called King Of The Hill, screen printed skateboards, probably a few months in Japan before I go to China and a series of documentaries where I play a caricatured version of myself and ride my unicycle. Oh, and a zine with some illustration buddies (Matt Boak, Robert Marshal, Ben Walton, Jonny Clapham). That’s gonna be really good, probably really bizarre, too.

And lastly, do you tend to listen to any specific music or podcasts whilst working at all?

Oh yeah, depends what I’m drawing. I usually work in silence on watercolour and ink pieces, not sure why. If anything, then Hedningarna or The Iron Horse (Scottish one not the American one).

I’ll stick on a Shaw Brothers movie if I’m doing Vinyara stuff, One Armed Swordsman, Clan Of The White Lotus, they’re wicked! That or oriental trip hop stuff Wy-i or Mujo. Also Takewon TakeL. Stereowon.


James Lancett

Originally from Wales illustrator and animator James Lancett graduated from Kingston University in  2011, and has since launched an increasingly impressive career in the arts world, with a warm and textured style that can’t fail you make you feel all fuzzy inside just looking at it.

Lancett’s showreel (see the video on the left hand side) shows some of his most recent animations, my personal favourites being Overcast, a rather sweet story about a cartoon character’s inability to get along in the real world due to an ever-present raincloud over his head, and The Diver, about a swimmers flights of fancy.

All of Lancett’s animations have a simple warmth and tone to them that carries across to all of his illustration work as well, which keeps on Lancett’s consistent style.







Lancett is also currently represented by agency JellyLondon, and you can see his profile on their website here.