Today marks 150 years since the first publication of Alices Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Lewis Carroll’s timeless tale has been reprinted and retold countless times. The original edition was illustrated by John Tenniel, but in the book’s 150 history, many extraordinary illustrators have contributed to its longevity, including Arthur Rackham (1907), Mervyn Peake (1946), Ralph Steadman (1967), Salvador Dalí (1969), Max Ernst (1970), and Anthony Browne (1988).
Today, Grahame Baker-Smith can add his name to that list. The self-taught illustrator was commissioned by Royal Mail to create a set of ten beautiful stamps to commemorate the first publication of Alices Adventures in Wonderland. In addition to stamps, Royal Mail created pins and a specially struck medal from The Royal Mint. Together with Walker Books, they have also published a concertina book gift edition featuring 3D versions of Grahame’s gorgeous illustrations. You can find all the stamps and gifts sets in the Royal Mail Gift Shop.
Grahame Baker-Smith’s hard work was shortlisted for the Professional Design cacategory in this year’s The AOI Illustration Awards. If you went to the Somerset House exhibition, you were treated to a sneak peak of the Wonderland stamps. Their bold design and saturated colours stopped you in your tracks and demand you take a closer look.
Can you tell us about your path into professional illustration?
My first attempt to illustrate a book was in 2010, when I was invited to work on a small poem book for children and I couldn’t refuse the challenge. Before that project I had worked as a storyboard artist and character designer for an animation studio, so I found it very easy moving from one field to another. Also, in the past few years I had the chance to experiment different techniques and mediums, from painting (my bachelor degree) to graphic design and app design.
In 2013 I decided to enrol in the MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art, feeling the need to learn more about the field. It was one of my greatest experiences as I learned a lot from the great tutors and colleagues. During the course I found the courage to write my own stories. My first written and illustrated book will be launched in the spring of 2016, called “Nara and the Island” published by Andersen Press. During the two years I spent in Cambridge I entered several contests for illustrators. I was highly commended in 2014 at The Macmillan Prize, my work was exhibited at the Cheltenham Illustration Awards in 2014, and I was 2015’s V&A Illustration Student Award Runner-up.
What was it about the Sir Foxley Fox stories that attracted you to the project?
The first thing that attracted me was the idea to illustrate a novel for kids, as I had never had the chance to work on such a project. Then the idea of animal characters along with humans in the same image stimulated my imagination, and when I found that the story was historically based, I knew I had made a good decision. Considering the non-fictional aspect of the text, I really researched the clothes, architecture and landscapes for the project, which was something I really enjoyed doing.
With many memorable Fox characters throughout history, what steps did you take to make Sir Foxley Fox unique?
As the story is based on true facts, I couldn’t stylise the characters too much, so I tried to have a more realistic look at both the fox and human characters. The process of creating the fox character was easier as the description in the text gave me enough details. I immediately envisioned the look of both Sir Foxley-Fox and Falconius from the first reading.
Can you describe your creative process for the book?
Andrew sent me the prologue in order to familiarize me with the characters and the text. I drew the first page, the one with Mr. and Mrs. Foxley-Fox sleeping and holding paws, where I tried to set the character’s appearance, the Victorian age by clothes style and all the other details. We agreed on these aspects, so I started sketching the full page images and the vignettes. As the text describe all the scenes so well, and is based on historical facts, it was pretty easy to put together each image.
Can you describe your working environment and the main illustration tools you use?
In almost all of my projects I mix techniques. I like the complexity of pencil marks, from soft lines to dark shades. I like to emphasize these tangible effects with limited digital colour pallets. So my main tools are pencils and Photoshop, but for other projects I’ve used watercolours and coloured pencils as well.
What has been the most satisfying part of the project?
Working on this project was a joy, from the first drawing right to the last one. I think the most enjoyable part was the research and the wide range of scenes I had to illustrate. So, with each image I had to work on different aspects, things that made the process very diverse and complex.
What are some of the new things you have learned?
Besides the historical facts from the text, it was a good challenge to match the images with the text. The pacing of images is different in novels than in picture books for instance, so I think I’ve learned how to adapt illustrations to a novel book.
What was the best bit of creative advice given to you?
Draw, draw and draw. The first part of my first year in Cambridge was marked by the observational drawing, and then I learned that the best created images are rooted in observation. After a month of daily observational drawings, new characters and situations came to me much easier than usual.
We love sharing inspirations and likewise hearing other people’s. Can you tell us 3 of your favorite illustrators and why?
The list is very long and various, and is very hard to find just three illustrators. But if I must, I would say Shaun Tan for the lyrical and silent images, Alexis Deacon for the storytelling of his compositions and the quality of his work, and Emily Hughes for the playfulness and childish approach to the illustration.
Are there any illustration projects would you love to do in the future?
I would love to work on a classic novel like “Wind in the willows” and I would like to finish my non-fiction graphic novel about my friend Eli.
We were recently contacted by independent publisher’s Luma Works about their new self-funded magazine called Storytime. I could not possibly attempt to better the words hey used to describe the magazine, so here is what they had to say:
Storytime features classic children’s tales, including fairy tales, poems, folk tales, fables and myths & legends, all written in a fun & accessible way. Our aim is to encourage kids to fall in love with stories and improving their literacy. What really helps to sets the magazine apart is the wonderful illustrations we specially commission. Every month we select talented illustrators from all over the world to create beautiful, vibrant and exciting illustrations to really bring these classic tales to life – there’s no other kids’ magazine out there that commissions so many illustrators on a regular basis.
Over the past year we have commissioned illustrations from over 75 wonderful artists from across the globe, and with a readership of 20,000, that’s a great platform for their work. We have a database of over 550 illustrators which we regularly update. We’re always delighted to receive new submissions as well!
We’re keen to support illustrators with Storytime, and we’d love it if the illustration community could get behind us and help spread the word about us too! We are now offering a special discount for illustrators who want to subscribe to Storytime – either to read with their kids, or simply to enjoy the gorgeous work from our brilliant artists each month. Just visit our website
It is a splendid project with a fervent focus on quality illustration. The list of talent is incredible, which also happens to includes many previous Lounge features, such as Alex Wilson, Aurore Damant, and Gaia Bordicchia. Deffinitly one to pick up for your children (but really yourself).
To enter, simply head to either our Instagram, Twitter or Facebook page and look out for the relevant post regarding this competition. The competition will end midnight (GMT) on the 25th October 2015.
To find out more about the book, you can read our 21 Draw review. The new 21 Draw Illustrator’s Guidebook will be packed with more art and tutorials from top industry illustrators, so make sure you head over to Kickstarter and show your support for the project.
Since its launch in 2011 Gumroad has fast become the one of the most popular platforms for creatives to sell their digital content. However, Gumroad is purposely designed without a centralised area of search and discovery, instead the emphasis is on the creators to direct their audience. Which makes it impossible to just stumble on all that great content. You can find some good stuff in the Gumroad Collections section, but that really does not even scratch the surface of how many gems the site has.
So I took it upon myself to put together a list of 28 Gumroad creators you really should know:
Comics & Sketchbooks
1. Carey Pietsch – Many of the Brooklyn-based illustrator’s acliamed comics, including her Keepsakes stories.
2. Anna Cattish – The popular comic artist and character designer is currently selling a special digital edition of her Sketchbook 2014.
3. Edward Ross – A small collection of comics from Edinburgh-based comic book artist, including Filmish: A Graphic Journey Through Film.
4. Eric Grissom – A Couple of free comics from the writer and letterer of the comic series Deadhorse.
5. Evan Dahm – Comics and sketchbooks from the creator and illustrator of the Rice Boy webcomic.
6. Ian Andersen – A host of comics from the cartoonist behind the daily auto-bio journal comic, Citric Journal.
7. Ian Lawrence – A collection of sketchbooks from the North Carolina illustrator and tattoo designer, Inkloose.
8. Lucy Bellwood – Many nutical-themed comics from the ship-sailing cartoonist.
9. Maré Odomo – Comics and drawings from the Seattle illustrator.
10. Natalie Nourigat – Sketchbooks from the Eisner-nominated writer and cartoonist.
11. Polly Guo – Both volumes of Houdini & Holmes, from the New York-base comic artist and animator.
12. Rachel Kahn – Comics and drawings from the illustrator and concept artist.
13. Retrofit Comics – A publishing house, founded by Box Brown, features an array of comic from various illustrators.
14. Sam Bosma – Currently hosting his highly praised comic, The Hanging Tower.
15. Sarah Horrocks – A small collection of comics from the writer and artist.
16. Will Terrell – The sketchbooks of popular YouTube illustrator.
17. Yale Stewart – More comics from the creator of webcomic JL8.
Tools & Tutorials
18. Adam Duff – Digital painting tutorials from the Canadian concept artist.
19. Alexandre diboine – Character design video tutorial that includes the brushes used.
20. Dave Rapoza – In-depth video tutorials from the phenomenal freelance illustrator and comic artist.
21. Eytan Zana – Beautiful landscape video tutorials covering colour, light and composition.