Category Archives: Career News

Dinosaur Construction Kit: T.Rex – Illustration Process

Around 12 months ago I was contacted by the lovely people at Egmont to see if I’d be interested in illustrating a dinosaur book they were developing – illustrating dinosaurs, er, yes please!

As the book is now out (released last month), I thought it would be a good time to share a little on the process of creating the artwork for the book.

The Cover:

After receiving the script for the book, the first thing I was asked to work on was the design/look and feel for the cover. After researching what would be our competition on the book shelves, I had a clear idea in my head of what I thought might create a strong brand for the book series (this is where my background as a graphic designer comes in handy).

Rather than working on numerous ideas, I thought it would be more efficient to run this initial idea by the art director first – luckily they loved it.

Below is the initial sketch and the finished cover (if you look closely at the finished cover, you can see a sneak peek of the cover for book two too).



Spread Roughs

The next step was to take the script (and notes from my Art Director) and draw up some quick rough sketches for the 9 spreads.


Based on feedback, these were then amended and drawn up a little tighter.


Once approved, I added some quick Photoshop colour behind my sketches for final approval, then we were ready to jump in to the final artwork.


Final Artwork

Here are the first three finished spreads from the book – you can see that even once the roughs have been signed off, slight tweaks like the sky colour and other elements of the layout still sometimes need to change as the book evolves.

Sometimes major changes may be needed and if you have a great Art Director (which I did on this book in Faith Booker from Egmont), you have to trust that they know what they’re talking about. Every suggestion that Faith made, resulted in stronger spreads and eventually a stronger book.




T-Rex Model

Paper engineers blow my mind. I’m so in awe of what they do and the model that comes with this book was no exception.

Following the cover, the model was the next phase of this project and illustrating a flat surface that will be folded to create a 3D object is always a tricky thing, requiring such a different mind-set (because you aren’t creating the edges of your artwork and every edge needs to include bleed – which can look a little weird when you’re working on it). Luckily, having already designed the look of our T-Rex on the cover, the process of Illustrating all of the parts of the model ran more smoothly.

As challenging as this part is, it’s equally rewarding to see the final model dressed in your illustrations – my kids loved this part too as they got to play with models prior to publication.


Couldn’t resist sharing this photo – my little boy Samson (age 2), particularly got in to the spirit of things when posing with his model 🙂


This book is part of a series and I’m happy to say that book 2, with the mighty Triceratops as its star, has already been Illustrated and is with the publisher preparing to bulldoze its way on to the bookshelves sometime next year.

Here’s a sneak peak at the star of the show…


It was such a joy to work on these books with Egmont from start to finish and enabled me to tick a box on my illustration wish list. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of Illustrating dinosaurs!

I’m also thrilled to say that our T-Rex book made it in to the shortlist for the Junior Design Awards ‘Innovative Children’s Book Of The Year’ too!

September 2013 Desktop Wallpaper

Download the September 2013 Desktop


It’s a bit of a special one this month as today is the publication day of my first children’s pop-up book through Sterling Publishing.

So, I’ve decided to not have a calendar on this one and instead fill it with some of the creatures that appear in the book.

Apologies for this being a little late too, swamped with work for a exciting Illustration job I’m doing for a new series on Cbeebies. Unfortunately, I can’t share anything I’ve been working so far, but I’ve basically been working on the Illustrations for an animated segment of 20 episodes of this new show. If your kids like bugs, they will love this new show!

To download your copy of the September desktop, please right click on the version you’d like and select “Save As…”:

Spring Fling 2013


In October last year, I was contacted by designer Tim Bremner on behalf of Spring Fling, Scotland’s Premier Arts and Crafts Open Studios Event, to Illustrate the wrap-around cover for their 2013 event brochure.

I explored a couple of different directions, but in the end we went with grasshoppers in different colours so they could be used as a branding device to denote the different routes on the open studio tour.

grasshopper animal rough

grasshopper rough

Once the composition and Photoshop colour rough had been approved, I moved straight on to final artwork and began collaging the grass…


…before individually collaging each of the grasshoppers.


All of the grasshoppers and the grass were then pulled together in Photoshop, where subtle shadows were added beneath each of the grasshoppers to ground them in the scene.

Spring Fling 2013 Book Cover



The Illustrations were also used on both the guide map and in the Spring Fling app too.



The whole project was really fun to work on, with great clients and art direction throughout. Special thanks to designer Tim Bremner and Spring Fling project manager Leah Black.

Here’s what designer Tim had to say about my involvement in the project:

I worked with Jonathan recently for the first time on the brochure cover of the Spring Fling Arts Festival. Having made contact with Jonathan my first impressions were that he was very friendly, enthusiastic and pro-active right from the start.

Once we had agreed on which direction to take, everything went very smoothly and he went straight to final artwork without any further changes.

Jonathan fulfilled the brief perfectly and the client was very happy.

March 2013 Desktop Wallpaper

Download the March 2013 Desktop


To download your copy of the March desktop, please right click on the version you’d like and select “Save As…”:

The magnificent Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna is one of the main victims of our over fished oceans and due to its popularity, particularly among sushi eaters, it’s numbers have become critically low 🙁

BBC Wildlife Artist Of The Year 2013 Entry – Work In Progress Pt.1

BBC Wildlife Sketch

For the past 2 years I’ve entered the BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year competition and have been lucky enough to make it through to the finals each time (with my Golden Eagle in 2011 and my Grey Heron in 2012), receiving commendations from the judges.

This year, I’ve really thought about what was lacking in my previous two entries and tried my best to come up with something that would give me the best chance of finally bagging a win. I realised that there wasn’t much movement, drama or story in my previous entries so have tried to incorporate all three elements this year.

For my 2013 entry I’m going to be creating a collage of a Great Grey Owl and so far I’ve finalised my sketch/composition (see above) and have transferred the drawing to the art board ready to start collaging.

BBC Wildlife Collage

You’ll notice that at the last minute I decided to change the right wing of the owl to a more horizontal position rather than vertical. I thought this made for a better composition and also a more imposing figure as he bears down on his prey – I did keep the tilt of the body though to show how he silently corrects his position as he goes in for the kill.

The final collage measures a whopping 80 x 45cm (the largest piece I’ve ever worked on) and the deadline for entries is the 28th February, so I better get my skates on.

I’ll post more pics on the blog as the collage progresses.

90 Animal Collages In 6 Weeks…

After a grueling 6 weeks of furious cutting and sticking, constantly hoovering up tiny bits of paper all round the house and 90+ animal collages later, all the final artwork for my first children’s pop-up book is now with the publishers.

It’s been a lot of hard work and many late nights, but I’ve loved working on such a diverse range of creatures and it will be very exciting to see my first children’s book on the shelves.

The book has a tentative release date of February 2013.

Here’s a look at a number of the original cut paper collages before their digital polish…

I’ll be running a competition to win a copy of the book once it’s released, so keep you eyes out on the blog, facebook page and Twitter for details.

Children’s Wildlife Pop-up Book

I’m currently working on a rather large children’s wildlife pop-up book containing 70+ animals, all of which need to be cut paper collaged.

The deadline is super tight which means a pretty relentless schedule of Illustrating into the small hours every night for the next month, but I love the subject matter and am very excited to be working on my first pop-up book.

I can’t share much due to contracts, but below are a few snippets of some of the animals I’ve been working on so far…

Featured Project: The World Association Of Zoos & Aquariums Commemorative Poster

I was recently commissioned by the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums to Illustrate a commemorative poster to help celebrate their 77th Anniversary.

Other than receiving a list of species to include (some lovely ones I’d not collaged before so I knew it was going to be a fun project), I was given full creative freedom to create the design. After scribbling down a few initial ideas, I decided to make the ’77’ out of trees and then have the creatures interacting with it.

Below is the initial scribble of a sketch and a neater version with rough Photoshop colours that I submitted for approval.

Once approved, it was time to move on to the final cut paper collages – here are a few work in progress pics…

The main body of each of the Illustrations were created using a traditional cut paper collage technique with a few final details being added digitally afterwards (mainly details that would be too fiddly or time consuming to do digitally as I was on a deadline for the work).

Below is an example of one of the collages before and after the digital details were added. This crocodile was probably the one that was enhanced digitally the most, as I ran out of the magazine clipping textures I needed for the tail detail.

Below is a selection of some of the other final creature Illustrations.

And finally, here are the final Illustrated posters (portrait and landscape formats) along with a cover graphic for the WAZA Facebook page.

…and the WAZA Facebook cover graphic

This has probably been my favourite job to date, not only getting to collage a number of my favourite creatures, but working for a great client that does great work for conservation around the world.

The exciting thing from a marketing point of view is that WAZA will be using this image throughout the rest of the year while celebrating their 77th Anniversary (including at their annual conference in Melbourne, Australia later in the year) – which means my name and contact details and a copy the poster will be going out to 300+ top zoos around the world (couldn’t wish for better exposure to my target market than that :).

“Jonathan designed a stunning illustration to celebrate WAZA’s 77th Anniversary. He worked very hard and very quickly to design a beautiful image that has exceeded our expectations.

This illustration followed us during months, as a beautiful poster but also as a design for our website and a cover for our newsletter.

WAZA was honoured to have this beautiful illustration and is very grateful to Jonathan.

We really hope that we can work together again in the near future!”

Carole Lecointre – World Association of Zoos & Aquariums

I also have prints of the WAZA posters for sale in my Society6 print shop, with 50% of all profits going to WAZA.

Next on the drawing board is my very first children’s pop-up picture book for Quarto Children’s Books. The contract has been signed and page roughs are already in progress. I won’t be able to show any of that finished work for a while, but watch out for a few sneaky snippets here and there on the blog and a new feature project when I’m able to show the final book.


BBC Wildlife Artist Of The Year 2012: Commended Finalist

After a busy 2 days with 8+ hours of driving, scorching sunshine and a day out at Peppa Pig World, we finally made our way to Marwell Wildlife to find out how my ‘Grey Heron’ collage did at this year’s BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year 2012…

I didn’t win, but did receive a commendation from the judges.

I was initially disappointed not to win, but after sleeping on it I’m now actually quite pleased with the result, especially as some of the people I was talking to had entered 4 or 5 times to no avail – so to be commended 2 years in a row isn’t bad at all.

It also gave me a boost that Sophie Stafford (Editor of the BBC Wildlife magazine) sought me out personally to say hello and tell me she really liked my entry and the Illustration promos that I’d sent her a few months ago.

Having to drive down to Marwell for the results also gave us the chance to take Mali to the nearby Peppa Pig World too (we’re all big fans of the show).

Seeing her face meeting Peppa and George (two poor souls dressed in huge costumes on a scorching hot day) was priceless and made the long and tiring trip worth while.

This picture of Mali pretty much sums up how we all felt after a busy few days.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their kind messages of support both before and after the results – they really did all mean a lot to me.

Cover for Penguin India

Towards the end of last year, I was commissioned by the Indian arm of Penguin to create a quick Illustration for the cover of a book by renowned Indian poet Vikram Seth.

The brief was pretty strict, with a description of exactly what they wanted, but as I hadn’t collaged water before it was still a fun project to complete.

From receiving the brief to delivery of final artwork, everything completed within 24 hours, so It was also good practice in completing a high pressure job with a very tight deadline.

Below are pics of the printed cover along with the final Illustration I created (the shells were part of the original brief, but they decided to remove them from the Illustration when it went to print).

Got a little kick out of seeing my name next to the Penguin logo too 🙂

BBC Wildlife Artist Of The Year 2012…Finalist!

I quietly entered my ‘Grey Heron’ collage in to the BBC Wildlife Artist Of The Year 2012 competition in early February and am happy to announce that I got the email today to say that I’ve made it through to the finals for the second year running.

Last year I reached the stage of Commended Finalist with my Golden Eagle collage, so lets hope I can go one better this year and win the British Birds category.

So, it’s off to the Marwell Wildlife Park again on 24th May with my framed collage for final judging – keep your fingers crossed for me.

Here’s my entry – ‘The Grey Heron’

January 2012 Promo Mailers

Trying something a bit different with my first promo mailer of 2012…

Rather than sending a single postcard, I wanted to send a number of images to each prospective client. Taking advantage of their printfinity system to have different images on the front of each card, I used moo’s business cards and selected illustrations from my portfolio that would be relevant to each prospective client (I also created a few new Illustrations where I didn’t have something relevant to use).

Once printed, I placed them in a plastic business card holder strip, trimmed the holder to size (sent 4 cards to some contacts and only 3 to others) and sent them off with a hand written note to each dream client – ensuring that my branding was consistent throughout.

The strategy behind sending multiple, smaller cards was that prospective clients would then have spare copies to pass around to other people in their department and spread the awareness of my work.

Fingers crossed…

Total cost of printing, business card holders and postage to 16 carefully chosen contacts was around £40.

Here are the finished cards showing the 10 images that I chose, along with the back of the card with all my details etc

Here are the wallets for the cards trimmed to size…

And finally, the hand written note along with the relevant set of cards for that prospective client…

Gallery Debut

After what seems like an eternity at the framers, my Golden Eagle, Grey Heron and Winter Hare original collages are back and now available through Trent Galleries.

This marks a new venture and outlet for my work and I’m excited to be taking this step with a well renowned Gallery.

If you’re interested in purchasing any of these original wildlife collages, please contact Andrew at Trent Galleries.

Sea Life Children’s Pop-Up Book

I recently received another commission from the ‘Dino Pop-Up Book’ client – this time sea creatures!

After the fun creating the collage dinosaurs for the previous project, this time I got to work on traditional collages of a Great White Shark, a Hump Back Whale, a Sea Turtle, an Angler Fish (such weird creatures) + another 12 or so fish.

I’m still mid deadline (everything is due at the publisher on 4th October) and it’s been a pretty grueling schedule, working until 3am for the past 7 days straight due to other work commitments, but with such lovely subjects to work on it’s also been a lot of fun.

The publisher will be taking both the dinosaur and ocean finished artwork to the Frankfurt Book Fair mid October so fingers crossed they get picked up and reach publication.

I’m not allowed to show the full sea creature spreads but here’s a sneak peek at the Octopus and Humpback Whale collages.

Right, back to work – there are magazines waiting to be turned into a Leopard Seal tonight!

Debut Gallery Work

After weeks of feverishly working away on Dinosaurs (hence the radio silence on Twitter), I finally squeezed in time to finish the 3rd and final large scale collage for my gallery debut.

Having taken them to be photographed this morning before dropping them off at the gallery to be framed, I finally have decent images of each piece to share here on the site.

As of mid-September the 3 collages will be on display and for sale at Trent Galleries in Newark, Nottinghamshire (UK).

The Grey Heron

Traditional cut paper collage / 580x450mm

The Hare

Traditional cut paper collage / 235x275mm

The Golden Eagle

Traditional cut paper collage / 480x350mm


Dinosaurs, dinosaurs, dinosaurs

I was recently commissioned by a publisher to work on 15 collage dinosaurs for a children’s pop-up book – being an avid dinosaur fan since I was a kid, this was pretty much a dream project and I loved every minute of it (even the late 2am finishes every night for the past 2 weeks). I’m practically a qualified Palaeontology Professor now after all my research 🙂

The publisher gave me permission to post one of the dino’s on my blog, so here is the T-Rex (one of my favourite ones to work on). Mostly traditional collage with a few digital details.

The encouraging thing is that this was the first commission I’ve received through a publisher finding me on my Hire An Illustrator portfolio. (For those interested in giving Hire An Illustrator a try, I’ll be posting a review of the service on my Illustration resource blog zero2illo in the next few weeks ).

No time to rest though – it’s straight back into the gallery collages as my deadline to take my 3 finished pieces in for framing is Tuesday. It’s an exciting time though as it feels like this art and illustration thing is finally starting to gather some steam and for that I’m very grateful.

BBC Wildlife Artist Of The Year 2011 – The Result

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you’ll know by now that my Golden Eagle collage didn’t win the BBC Wildlife Artist Of The Year 2011 Competition, but I did receive a commendation from the judges and am now finally able to show the full collage.

Traditional cut paper collage – 350x600mm

After getting over the initial disappointment, I’m now really pleased that I made it to the finals and received a commendation with the very first large scale collage that I’ve ever made and it has left me more motivated that ever to move forward with more gallery-sized pieces to exhibit and enter more competitions – including of course trying my luck at next year’s BBC Wildlife Artist Of The Year Competition.

I have a local gallery interested in my work, am halfway through the images for my new zoo illustration promo mailers and am currently working on a new, even larger collage of a Grey Heron – exciting times ahead.

Note: Thanks to William Attard McCarthy for letting me use one of his beautiful Golden Eagle photos as one of my references.

Recent Interviews & Features

It’s always flattering and a confidence boost when someone likes my work enough to want to feature or interview me for their website or blog and it’s always much appreciated.

Creative Sessions

I was lucky enough to be featured on the amazing Creative Sessions website run by the lovely guys at Envato a few months ago for their Digital Illustration Session. If you haven’t checked these amazing resources out, head on over to the site and have a peek – other great sessions in the series so far include Illustrative Lettering and Character Design.

Thanks to super talented illustrator Chris Leavens for inviting me to be a part of the awesome Digital Illustration Session.

Boxed In Design

I was also interviewed recently for Boxed In Design, a great resource site primarily geared towards designers with great interview, news and tutorials.

Thanks to Ken for the opportunity to feature on the site.

Psdtuts+ Digital Painting Demo

Way back in April 2009 I was approached by the awesome Photoshop Tutorial site Psdtuts+ to create a digital painting demo for them.

Below is the final illustration and if you’d like to watch the video (showing me creating the piece from start to finish along with my cringe worthy narration 🙂 here’s a link.


An Interesting Learning Experience

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to make comics for a living. I love the medium of sequential story telling and some of my favourite artists and inspirations are from the field of comics.

So, to my surprise, when I was commissioned to work in this medium…..I found out I hated it.

The subject matter was even one of my favourite subjects to illustrate (animals and nature) but the repetitive nature of drawing the same thing time after time, just left me bored and burnt out.

It was a hard lesson to learn at the time, but one I’m truly glad to have experienced as it helped me focus on the type of illustration that I do want to do.

Luckily the project was canceled and I was off the hook – but for those interested, here are a few finished pages from the first chapter including the cover…