Following in the rich tradition of observational and reportage drawing, the hustle and bustle of the city provides rich inspiration for illustrators.

The city with its diverse people, architecture and environments are full of creative possibilities. From realistic depictions to urban spaces from the artist’s imagination, the city is a vital and exciting place to create illustration.


Phoebe Swan: Bloomsbury Farmers Market

Phoebe was commissioned by Decision Technology, a consumer research company, to make some new artworks to display in their office. The company’s staff gave Phoebe ideas about places that were of interest to them, such as nearby Bloomsbury Market. The work was made by drawing on location, and then creating final designs using print and digital techniques. This charming illustration shows the tranquil calm of a special, hidden place in the inner city.

Phoebe is an author and illustrator from London who is inspired by nature, patterns and cities. She has a first in BA Illustration from Camberwell College of Arts, and an in MA in Children’s Book Illustration from Cambridge School of Art.

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Guang Lim: Crowded Times

Guang Lim’s illustration was inspired by a visit to New York City. It captures the crowds, and the geometric shapes of the buildings, accentuated by limited colours, and bold lines. The work was created using brush and ink, then scanned and coloured in Photoshop.

Guang Lim is an illustrator from Malaysia, currently based in the United States. He studied illustration at California College of the Arts, graduating in 2019.

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Leah Kwak: The City

This work was made as a portfolio piece. These experimental illustrations explore the juxtapositions of many different people who coexist in the city; rich and poor, happy and sad, some at work and others at leisure. The work is made using digital mark making to imitate handmade marks. The work has been researched through observation, to highlight the many ways in which cities are uniquely diverse.

Leah Kwak is a recent graduate in Illustration, from Sheridan College in Canada.

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Lizzie Knott: The Way For All

Inspired by historical research undertaken for a University dissertation, this series of images is inspired by past London Underground posters and campaigns, reworked to reflect the diversity of London in 2020. The work was made using observational drawings, and then worked on in gouache using limited, bold colours. The images were then worked on in Procreate, to add texture.

Lizzie Knott is a recent graduate from Cambridge School of Art, UK. Originally from London, she mainly uses digital mediums to carefully quirky characters with a range of typography.

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Mason London: Kiefer – Bridges and Superbloom animations

Mason London was commissioned by Stones Throw Records to make a series of animations to promote the release of two records by LA musician Kiefer. The animations capture a sense of the city that is nostalgic and transient, Kiefer unexpectedly playing the piano in the middle of the subway train. The work was made in Illustrator and Photoshop and composed in After Effects.

Mason London is the pseudonym of Joe Prytherch. Born in London, he’s currently living in Uppsala, Sweden and is a freelance designer, illustrator and animator.

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Joi Wen: The City

This work was made as a portfolio piece, exploring the theme of city and people, capturing the business and pace of life in the city, and the blur of the crowd. This unusual approach explores how the city homogenises people (as opposed to celebrating their diversity), and uses a limited colour palette to communicate this. The work is made using paper cuts, collage and dry brush media, finished in Photoshop.

Joi Wen is an illustrator based in China. She creates colourful and delightful illustrations for advertising, magazines, books and products.

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Sam Wagstaff: Getting to work; the right way

Created in response to the theme of commuting, this illustration is intended to offer ideas of ways to improve the daily task of travelling to work. The piece was started as pen and ink, and then scanned and coloured in Photoshop, with the black lines creating swathes of shadow and detail to add depth to the illustration.

Sam Wagstaff is an Illustrator from North Yorkshire, UK, currently studying at Manchester School of Art.

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Yaning Wang: Chimneys and Wells

Yaning Wang’s graphic illustrations tell a story of a supreme chimney that mysteriously collapses. Drawn digitally, the illustrations were worked on in an experimental way to create a vast unknown, surreal world, with plenty of detail and unusual textures to draw the viewer in.

Yaning Wang is an illustrator from Beijing, China. He mainly provides illustrative services for advertising companies, including Mercedes Benz, Mazda, Volkswagen, Nike, Coca Cola.

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Anny Peng: Mind The Ghost

Originally made for a college project around communicating London’s identity, Anny’s work is inspired by the iconic London tube, combining scenes from the underground with stories from the city’s ghostly past. Following research, the illustrations were printed using risography to bring the works to life in a colourful, yet handmade way.

Anny is from China, and currently studying at Central Saint Martins, London, UK as a Graphic Communication Design student.

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Yichen Liu: Imaginary Town

The place where Yi Chen lives is small, so these illustrations offer a way to travel through the city using her imagination. The illustrations are made using gouache, pastels and collage, creating a whimsical journey through the artist’s imagination.

Yi Chen Liu was born China and grew up in a northern town. She is currently studying at Shandong Art Institute.

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