Nicola L. Robinson
This month's Featured Artist is Nottingham based Nicola L Robinson. From comic playfulness to high gothic fantasy, check the Featured Illustrator Gallery to see the full range of her sharp, graphic work!

Thank you very much for inviting me to be the featured illustrator for August! it's a real pleasure to be here on the brilliant Words and Pictures blog.

Banner image

I've chosen one of my favourite illustrations for the banner art, I apologise that it isn't in the least bit summery for August! It is titled Downtown and was a very loose idea I had for a dark picture book, inspired by my love of cityscapes. I nearly went mad drawing all the tiny windows... I was very pleased to win the Silver Award for Self Promotion at the AOI Images 36 awards with this.

Downtown - Silver Award winning illustration at Images 36

My journey

I'm an only child and I've always loved drawing, favourite things to draw as a child included dragons, monsters, dinosaurs and crocodiles and now at 30 things haven't changed too much... haha

Cover illustration (Floris Books)

I studied art at school at GCSE and A-Level along with History, Psychology and English Literature before going onto university to do a degree in Fine Art in Cardiff, where I spent a lot of time building cities out of cardboard. However, creating narrative images was my real passion and I started working as a freelance illustrator when I graduated. My work included designing beer labels and pump clips for breweries, concept art, poster art, private commissions and work for magazines and journals. 

Part of what keeps us going as illustrators is the thirst to progress and create new work

Eventually the dragons, crocodiles and monsters came back (they never left really) and I started moving into children's books, which I love. I got my first commissions by contacting publishers who had published 'similar' work to my own and politely introducing myself and my work, which led to my first commission and my work has grown from there. I've never had an agent.

Interior illustrations from The Cat With Iron Claws - Catherine Fisher (Pont Books)

My children's book work so far includes illustrations for covers, popup books, spot illustrations, decorative motifs and borders, character design, hand lettering and interior illustrations. 

The Cyclone - The Wizard of Oz (Tango Books)

Arriving in Oz  - The Wizard of Oz (Tango Books)

I've also written and illustrated my first picture book, The Monster Machine, published by Pavilion Children's books. It has been an amazing experience and the first time I've worked for such a young audience. I was thrilled to be shortlisted for The Read it Again Cambridgeshire Children's Picture Book award (receiving runner up prize) and to be included in the current Creepy House Summer Reading Challenge

The Monster Machine Cover (Pavilion Children's Books)

I'm always striving to improve and develop my work. It has taken a number of years to settle on a 'style' to call my own and I have a long way I want to go yet. I think part of what keeps us going as illustrators is the thirst to progress and create new work. Who knows what little character or new universe might pop up next?

My Process

I've always loved detail and do a lot of my work in pen and ink before adding colour using a combination of watercolour, inks and digital techniques. My finished work is usually quite precise but everything starts out very rough like this-

Downtown - Preliminary scribbles

At this point I have an image in my head of what I want and I'm trying to carve the space and composition out on paper. I'll often write words and phrases to help describe what I want to achieve.

Downtown - Pencil drawing

I'll then redraw, sometimes a number of times and when I'm happy, work in more detail usually in pencil to get a much clearer drawing, which I can present as a rough for clients or use as a base to ink and colour.

Here's another rough scrawl, this time a dragon (honest) -

Hairy Dragon - Rough thumbnail
and inked -

Hairy Dragon - Pen and ink

I love pen and ink and traditional media but I have found it increasingly useful to work digitally to supply artwork to clients, often working in layers particularly for pop-up books and covers where there are movable elements. Working this way also allows for slightly easier adjustments to be made. For example when a client decides the sky really does have to be blue rather than the brilliant tangerine you've painted it, or the teeth have to be rounded down.

Make work about things you love and have a passion for, create the kind of work you'd like to be commissioned to make. 



It may be stating the obvious but practise your art! Draw as much as you can and read as much as you can too, and read widely. I find as an illustrator having a broad range of interests helps enormously with charging ideas and adding new elements to your work.

When it comes to getting published it is a tough business, having a thick skin and dogged determination helps! But in the mean time keep developing your skills and getting your work out there. Make work about things you love and have a passion for, create the kind of work you'd like to be commissioned to make. Obviously within reason, and keeping your audience in mind!

Finally I can't underestimate how important it is to educate yourself on the business side of being an illustrator. Don't undervalue your work. You are running a business at the end of the day, so it is vital to understand things like fees, contracts, copyright and the day to day running of the business.

It can be a lonely existence, but there is a wealth of information out there to help you and organisations to offer support and advice. Join the SCBWI and if you're an illustrator I'd recommend the AOI too.

...and obviously enjoy what you do. I know I do :)

Sleeping Beauty (Don't sleep with your mouth open) Pen and ink

See more of Nicola's work on our Featured Artist Gallery Page.

and for more still try Nicola's own portfolio website
She also has a blog  

and is on twitter @NLRobinsonart 

Beaky Monster

Nicola's online print and card and shop Teeth and Claws can be found here.


  1. Such wonderful monsters! Love the watchful atmosphere to your Downtown, too.

  2. Many thanks for your fantastic work Nicola, such effervescent spookery!

  3. Great work and interesting to see you process from roughs to finals!

  4. Love your work, Nicola, particularly the Sleeping Beauty image, very funny. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Congratulations on being featured artist - very well deserved. Your style is fun and a little shivery all at the same time!

    1. 'shivery' yes! great word to describe Nicola's work Nick

    2. Thanks Nick! I will add 'shivery' to my list of words (along with the usual dark and creepy) not had that one before!

  6. I love your illustrations Nicola - the banner looks great!

  7. Nicola, thank you for sharing your work and process with us. I love Downtown - there is so much to look at and oh joy when I spotted the tiny characters on the bridge!
    Your monsters are wonderful but I also very much like your chickens.

  8. Hello all! Thank you so much for taking the time to look at my work and for the lovely comments, I'm really pleased you like it! I have a lot of fun making my illustrations, I do like adding little characters here and there too... (Well spotted Jan!) Hope everyone is enjoying the last few weeks of the Summer hols... :)


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