Falmouth 1st Year Illustration Students Visit London (2017)

Once again Falmouth 1st year Illustration students have been in London this week to visit a variety of art directors and designers at a wide range of companies as well as attending a fantastic Illustration Forum, held for the 1st time at The City Literary Institute.

Classic London skyline

The first visits kicked off on Monday with Tilly and Tom taking eleven students to MacMillan Children’s Books where they were met by Chris Inns and Lydia Coventry. Chris and Lydia were able to provide incredibly useful insights into the process of commissioning and the process of children’s book publishing.

Chris Inns at MacMillan Books

Tom then went on to take another seven students to visit Pete Fowler in his studio in East London. This is a rare opportunity to visit the creative hub of the artist responsible for the iconic Super Furry Animal album covers (amongst many other remarkable professional and personal projects)… inspirational…

Rachel and Nigel visited Egmont Children’s Books. The team at Egmont we’re really welcoming, and gave great presentations firstly on cover design for 7-12 age range and then a second presentation on Picture books. Both were hugely informative and valuable. It was also fantastic to see how well the former Falmouth Illustration Graduate, Laura Ellen Anderson is now doing with numerous books that she has either written and /or illustrated for Egmont.

Egmont visit+ Laura Ella Anderson’s Barbaric Ball

The afternoon continued with two editorial visits to The Guardian (Sarah Habershon) and time 1843/Economist (Gary Cochran). Both visits shed light on the unique challenges of this fast paced area of the industry. A genuine optimism for the future of Illustration seemed to be the message. Despite the pressure of the shift to online platforms, there seems to be little drop off in the appeal of Illustration. Yes the market is more competitive but the knowledge gained from these kind of visits will hopefully give Falmouth graduates an edge.

Visit to the Economist’s new offices

At the end of the day Tom and Tilly took a small group students to visit innovative agency, ‘Lover’s Creative’. This was something of an unknown for us but turned out to be a great visit. The team at Lovers Creative champion the illustrator within the creative process, actively seeking out work that an illustrator wants to undertake rather than what they feel the need to take on. This subtlety different view of what the future might hold for illustrators was a breath of fresh air for those that were on the visit.

Lover’s Crelative visit

Just after the Penguin Books

Tuesday started with our yearly visit to Penguin Books. Three former Falmouth students now work as art directors/designers at Penguin. Two are Illustration alumni (Richard Bravery and Jess Hart) and one, a Graphic Design alumni. This is always a great opportunity to open up the process of book publishing from the perspective of the illustrator. Having studied the subject at Falmouth before going on to do an MA in typography at LCP Richard was able clearly communicate what his team are looking for in an illustrator. A really useful visit.


Tom then took a group of students to Us Two Games. This is an award winning digital games company that are famous for developing the game ‘Monument Valley’.

Us Two Games visit

For the first time we have asked students to organise a visit of their own to an established illustrator. Researching, contacting and then arranging a meeting like this is a significant challenge and something that until now we have only asked 3D years to do before their own study trip to New York/London, however it has to be said that the 1st years have done a great great job this year. While it was never going to be the case that everyone would succeed in securing a visit a good number of visits did take place during Tuesday afternoon, with some surprisingly high profile illustrators agreeing to meet our students. These included amongst others; David Foldvari, Roger Dean(!), Alexis Deacon, Will Grill, Katie Ponder.

Students, after visiting David Foldvari

Wednesday started with Tom taking students to Harper Collins. A team of art directors were on hand to discuss the publishing process with our students. Thanks to Tom’s cousin Dominic Forbes for helping to organise this visit.

The Harper Collins visit

Nigel took eight students to see Little Brown Books. This was a new visit but one that we hope we can build on. Art directors Ellin and Bekki were incredibly generous with their time and had helpfully put together a presentation specifically for us. Again the publishing process was outlined to the students and also how they as art directors source their illustrators. This is invaluable knowledge for an Illustration student and only something that can come from someone who commissions Illustration. It was also refreshing to see the importance that Little Brown place on connecting with Illustration courses. Many Thanks to senior Art Director Sean Garrehy for organising this visit.

The Little Brown visit

Tilly took 6 students on the long trek out to see Caroline Thompson at Arena Illustration Agency in Stratford, east London. This is an annual event on this study trip but Caroline and Tamlyn are always so welcoming. Arena are one of the long established London agencies, covering all areas of the industry but with a strong rosta of young audience artists on their books including a number of former Falmouth students.

Later in the afternoon, Tom took students to visit the well known illustrator Rob Ryan at his studio. Rob is of course something of a phenomenon due to the hugely influential success of his papercut work. It was great for students to see his process and to discuss his approach with him. Many thanks to Rob for being so welcoming.

Rob Ryan in his studio

Having finished at Little Brown, Nigel winged it over to Borough Food market for a meeting between students and Folio Society Art Director Sheri Gee in Laithwaites Wine Bar. Before Sheri arrived students had the opportunity to take a good look at the large collection of Folio Society books that were sitting on shelves in the venue. Folio SocietyBooks are one of the prestige commissions that most contemporary illustrators desire to get. It’s great to know that Falmouth Alumni including James Boswell, Anne Marie Jones, Finn Nottman Campbell and Oliver Hurst have all achieved this accolade. The Folio team proceeded to give some great tips regarding what they are looking for in illustrator’s work (particularly useful with the House of Illustration/FS competition in mind). Top of the list was the need for students to strengthen their drawing ability with particular reference to the figure). Many thanks to the FS team and also of course for the glass of wine!

The Folio Society visit

Three visits took place on the Thursday morning. Nigel took students to Folio Agency (nothing to do with Folio Society). This agency is another of the long standing London agencies having been set up 40 years ago by Nick Dawes. Tucked away on the top floor of an old Victorian building in the heart of Holborn, this agency nevertheless has a huge international reach, representing illustrators all over the world, including former Falmouth graduates Owen Davey and Nick Radford. A further Falmouth connection is that Illustration alumni Kimberly Meech now works as a rep at the agency and it was her that met us upon our arrival. It was also great to hear the path that her career has taken since she left Falmouth.

Students having just visited Folio Illustration Agency

Tom took students to Profile Books, while Tilly took 12 students to see Sam Arthur at NoBrow/Flying Eye Books. NoBrow and more recently Flying Eye Books have become very influential within the industry, having championed new young artists and raising the profile of non fiction children’s books. A number of our alumni have worked on NoBrow/Flying Eye titles in recent years including; Owen Davey, Ella Bailey, Joe Lillington and David Doran. Many Thanks for Profile Books and Sam Arthur at NoBrow for being so generous.

Thursday afternoon saw students making their way over to Keeley Street and the City Literary Institute for the annual Falmouth 1st year Illustration Forum. This is a great new venue for the forum to take place in. The line up of speakers came together quite late in the day but actually couldn’t have been better chosen due to the range and nature of their work.

The John Lyon Theatre, The City Literary Institute

The afternoon started with a presentation by one of the big names of the Illustration industry, Brian Grimwood, founder of Central Illustration Agency. Students would have been less aware of Brian’s influential past but were soon captivated by his inspirational, entertaining and informative presentation and before too long were in no doubt of his talent. Hugely interesting discussions surrounding his use of the IPad were interspersed with amazing anecdotes about his time in drawing in Shanghai, collaborations with Chris Corr, encounters with his grandmother’s monkey and his friendship with David Bowie…

Brian Grimwood

The rather daunting task of following on from Brian fell to former Falmouth student, Owen Davey. Most current students were aware of the success that Owen has achieved in event years and it was great to hear more about his process. A really thorough presentation opened up all aspects of Owen approach to his work from developing ideas through research, the development of roughs and how they are subsequently translated to artwork. Particularly insightful were his thoughts on managing his work and dealing with clients from a professional practice perspective. Owen also discussed questions of ethics, particularly referencing the need to be culturally diverse in your approach to illustration and also inclusive in terms of race and gender. Important issue in the current political climate.

Owen Davey

Finally, that last slot was taken by former UWE Graduate and now successful paper artist / illustrator, Hattie Newman. The story of how she kickstarted her early career with her Fedrigoni Paper mountain project was amazing and an inspiration to students, hopefully making them realise that there is more than one way into the visual communication industry and that the work that they do needn’t be confined to the established norms and contexts. Her enthusiasm was infectious and much appreciated by the students.

Hattie Newman

Many thanks to Brian, Owen and Hattie and the City Lit for making the afternoon such a big success.

Brian Grimwood, Tom Barwick and Owen Davey

Finally the week ended up (as it always does) with a bit of a social get together in the Bar of the Generator hostel. Most of us were border line exhausted after traipsing around London all week but most seemed to revive after a quick half pint. It was great to chat to students about their week and what they have learnt from the experience. Of course Tom needed a little support from Nigel and Tilly to get up and sing but we did in the end! (In fact I think we all secretly enjoyed it!). Everyone has worked extremely hard this semester and this study trip has been a great way to finish the first half of the year.

Thursday night in the Generator bar

Thanks go out to all involved in the trip, including all the companies and illustrators that we have visited, you the students for doing such a good job in representing the course so well. The people that you have met this week will become the start of your professional practice network and the knowledge you’ve gained will be invaluable in the future. Thanks also go out to Brian Grimwood, Owen Davey and Hattie Newman for giving such entertaining and informative presentations. Thanks to Anna Kingsley and Rachel Martin for helping with the administrative side of things. Thanks also to Tilly and Rachel who have helped in organising and attending visits during the week. Most thanks go to Tom for the huge amount of effort that has gone into organising this trip. Until next year…….


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