WIA2017 Research Professional Category Winner


Tobatron is a London based illustrator best known for his humorous and ironic use of information graphics. He works across many design disciplines and clients have included: The Guardian, The Times, FHM, Volkswagon, Sony, and Toyota. Tobatron is the alter ego of artist Toby Leigh.


Facebook: /TobyLeighArtist

Instagram: @tobatron_          

Twitter: @tobatron_          

Represented by: CIA – Central Illustration Agency

Project Title: Barbara Lisiki – Direct Action Expert

Commissioned by: Graeae Theatre Company

About the Project:

The piece was part of a collaboration between my agent Central Illustration Agency and the Graeae Theatre Company. Every artist at CIA was paired with a member of the theatre group and asked to create a portrait of that person. Graeae is a theatre company that breaks down preconceptions, placing deaf and disabled artists at the centre of what they do.


I was asked to create a portrait of Barbara Lisicki who has spent her life campaigning for the rights of disabled people through the use of direct action. The work needed to be more than a simple portrait. It had to disseminate what is required to be a ‘direct action’ campaigner and what specific skills/ methods Barbara has employed over the years. 


I started by spending an evening drinking tea and talking to Barbara in her house in north London. She’s very funny, incredibly brave and likes swearing sometimes.

I wanted the piece to include the nuances and mundane details that go into facing up to authority as a disabled person. I also wanted to capture the humour that underpinned many of Barbara’s stories/ experiences. I used the visual language associated with instruction manuals as a way to bring Barbara’s stories together. This style also reminds us of airfix kits and meticulously planned/ manufactured military operations/ weaponry. These seemed to sit perfectly with what Barbara has undertaken. The style also lent itself to the inclusion of text which helped embellish the narrative and explore the themes in more depth.


The piece was created using drawings, photographs, Illustrator and Photoshop.


Growing up in 1980s Britain, we were continually told by celebrity do gooders to help less able members of society by donating money to the likes of Children in Need and Comic Relief. It was a revelation talking to Barbara – a disabled person with a burning hatred for this type of patronising celebrity endorsed charity. She even campaigned against it, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “PISS ON PITY”. This made me feel a lot better about my secret hatred of Pudsey the bear.


6. At the end of the evening at Barbara’s house, she let me have a spin round her house in her electric wheelchair which was great. I did 6 laps.


Advice for aspiring illustrators would be to keep drawing, making, and doing. Even when you’ve not got commissioned work going on.