Part 1: Getting Started

Exercise 1: The History of Illustration


This exercise was an introduction to the history of illustration over the past 5o years. I was asked to select two illustrators, one from a list provided and another contemporary illustrator of my choice, and then compare them with regards to the style, production methods and historical and cultural context.

Choosing the Artists

Unfortunately I had not heard of any of the illustrators on the list, but after viewing examples of their work online, I found that three of them appealed to me the most: Edward Bawden, Kathleen Hale and E H Shepherd (whose work I did recognise). I was initially going to choose Hale, but after further research I found the that the images I was going to emulate (Orlando the Marmalade Cat) used lithography and I have no experience with this way of working. Similarly, I also really liked Bawden’s Linocut prints and the fact that I have no experience with this technique did initially put me off attempting to replicate the style. However, after further consideration I concluded that I should use this course to experiment and learn new techniques. As a result, I chose Edward Bawden as my first artist.

In terms of choosing a contemporary illustrator, I am quite ignorant at the moment as I generally just know what appeals to me rather than being able to name particular artists (I am addressing this by becoming more aware through reading and visiting exhibitions). However, one example of an illustrator whose work I am drawn to is David Roberts. I first came across his work in the book series The Bolds by Julian Clary. I particularly like character illustration, especially those which anthropomorphise animals and which have some humour in them – Roberts work ticks both these boxes.

Edward Bawden: A Brief Biography

I found this short documentary about Edward Bawden on Youtube, featuring an interview with the artist himself, which was gave an excellent insight into his ways of working.


Edward Bawden was born in 1903 in Essex. He studied design at the Cambridge School of Art and then the Royal College of Art. He later went on to teach at the latter as well as being a successful commercial artist, producing work for London Transport, Twinings and Penguin Books, among others. Bawden became friends with his contemporary Eric Ravilious whilst at the RCA. During the Second World War, Bawden was an Official War Artist, producing watercolours of events in France, the Middle East and Africa.

Cairo, the Citadel: Mohammed Ali Mosque c.1941 Edward Bawden 1903-1989 Presented by the War Artists Advisory Committee 1946

Bawden worked in many different media and has been described as a painter, designer, print worker, illustrator and graphic artist. He did not have a signature style approached each project as a new problem to be solved. Bawden saw himself as a pattern maker – he stated that he had no sense of form. It was not until the Second World War that he regularly depicted figures/portraits on a large scale. Bawden is perhaps most well-known for his Linocuts produced in the 1960s, including those that depicted various London monuments, such as ‘Six London Markets’ (1967).

Covent Garden Fruit Market 1967 Edward Bawden 1903-1989 Presented by Curwen Studio through the Institute of Contemporary Prints 1975

In his later life, Bawden was created a number of illustrations of cats (when he was a child he would copy drawings of cats by the artist Louis Wain) and of his home.

Emma Nelson by the Fire 1987 Edward Bawden 1903-1989 Purchased 1987

Edward Bawden died in 1989.

David Roberts: A Brief Biography

David Roberts was born in 1970 in Liverpool. He studied fashion design in Manchester. He went on to work as a fashion illustrator and milliner before realising that children’s book illustration is what he really wanted to do. He has illustrated over 150 books for many acclaimed authors, including Julia Donaldson and Jacqueline Wilson, as well as writing/illustrating his own books, such as Dirtie Bertie. He began illustrating the The Bolds series in 2015.

David Roberts illustration for  Stinky Finger’s House of Fun (Jon Blake)
(Hodder & Stoughton, 2005)

Roberts works in different mediums including pencil. watercolour, pen, ink, crayon and pastel. He says his process for starting a project is to read through the text first and, depending on the type of book, will either decide on what would be most interesting scene to illustrate or, for a picture book, will work out the page layouts and the placement of the text. He also works out whether the illustration needs to just illustrate the words or expand on them visually. Next, Roberts considers colour, style and composition. Robert says he usually has fairly firm idea of what he thinks the final image will look like after reading the text for the first time.

David Roberts cover illustration for  The Bold in Trouble (Julian Clary)
(Anderson Press, 2018)

Further Thoughts on the Artists

I thought that Edward Bawden’s watercolours did seem slightly old-fashioned, perhaps due to the colours (they are quite subdued) and the decor, but this did not cause me to dislike them at all and it was only after further thought that I decided this. I did not think Bawden’s Linocut prints looked dated and, to me, looked quite contemporary. I’m not sure if this due to the technique of linocutting which limits the variation in style? I enjoyed the wit Bawden incorporated into many of his works and the ‘simplicity’ of many of them. I found it very interesting to learn more about Bawden.

As previously stated I was attracted to the fun factor of David Robert’s illustrations and his personification of animal characters (although I do enjoy his human characters as well). I like the expressiveness of the characters, which do not require words to interpret, as well as the fact his illustrations are equally strong whether in colour or black and white.

My Versions

I chose to make the subject of both versions of the illustrations my cat. As stated above, Bawden, in his later years, focussed on cats and David Roberts uses animals in a great deal of his work.

I decided to attempt the Linocut printing first. I purchased a Lino printing kit from Cass Art. I started by drawing a pencil version, trying to create similar style to Bawden’s.

Example of on of Edward Bawden’s Linocut prints with a cat as the subject. Source:
Pencil drawing

I then traced the design and transferred this onto a sheet of Lino. I kept it simple, as I knew I would be cutting around the lines. Next, I used the Lino cutting tool to cut around the design. Once I was fairly happy with the result I could apply the ink and print (see below).

Lino Cut Printing Process

I was actually quite pleased with the results with this being my first ever attempt. I also think I managed to replicate a fairly similar style to Bawden, whereby it is possible to see the influence of his work.

Final Linocut Prints

Next, I tried replicating the style of David Roberts by sketching rough versions of cat illustrations he had created for the book ‘Dear Tabby’.

Front Cover for ‘Dear Tabby’ books. Source:
Attempting to copy the style of David Roberts illustrations for ‘Dear Tabby’

I then went to implement a similar style into my own ideas.

After further thought, I decided to go with the idea for my elderly cat reading the paper.

Rough sketch of final idea

I could not seem to get the back legs to look right, so I decided to add to the idea of her being a senior lady, by covering her with a blanket. I drew a pencil version first which I then went over with a black fineliner.

Pencil Version
Final Version

I was happier with the concept for this illustration rather than the final outcome. I felt the lines should have been cleaner. I do think it was quite a good attempt at replicating David Roberts style.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed this first exercise, particularly finding out about the various illustrators, which has reinvigorated my keenness for research. I am also very pleased that I decided to experiment with Linocut printing, something I hope to incorporate into future work and experiment with. As previously stated, I think I made a fairly successful attempts at replicating the two different styles used by the illustrators.


Anderson Press, (n.d.). David Roberts. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 November 2019].

Anderson Press, (2017). How to draw hyenas with David Roberts | the Bolds. (video) Available at: [Accessed 7 November 2019].

Anderson Press, (n.d.). The Bold’s Great Adventure. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 November 2019].

Bell, E. (n.d.). Edward Bawden (1903-1989) Play with Me. [online] Victor Batte-Lay Foundation. Available at: [Accessed 6 November 2019].

Goodreads, (n.d.). Dear Tabby by Carolyn Crimi, David Roberts (illustrator). [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 November 2019].

Hallett, F. (2018). How Edward Bawden modernised the watercolour. [online] The Economist. Available at: [Accessed 6 November 2019].

Inexpensive Progress, (2017). Edward Bawden Documentary. (video) Available at:  [Accessed 6 November 2019].

Rogan’s Books, (n.d.). David Roberts. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 November 2019].

Tate, (n.d.). Edward Bawden. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 November 2019].

The Fry Art Gallery Blog, (2018). Edward Bawden. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 November 2019].

The Great Cat, (n.d.). Edward Bawden, CBE RA (1903-1989, British). [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 November 2019].

Walker Books, (n.d.). David Roberts. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 November 2019].

Wikipedia, (n.d.). David Roberts (illustrator). [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 November 2019].

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