Featured Illustrator - Duncan Wilson

This month's Featured Illustrator Duncan Wilson has been inspired by comics and graphic art throughout his life. His own work combines hand drawn and digital techniques that explore humorous fantasy for children. See more of his work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery.

I like to work with fairly fantastical subject matter but always with humour and a sense of the down to earth. For example, my ongoing Pixie Tuesday project is intended as a modern guide for seeking out magical folk and looks at how they have adapted to the modern world and brought elements of it into their own culture. 
My Pixie Tuesday project is an exploration of magical folk 
and how they have adapted to the modern world

My work relies heavily on incorporating my initial pencil sketches as much as possible. I find that in my own practice it is essential to capture as much of the initial idea as possible. A quick sketch in a note book or on the back of an envelope may not be technically perfect, but it is often in those ragged shapes and angular lines that you will find energy and a sense of inspiration. The further I go from those sketches with redrawing, the more overworked and self-conscious I find my work becoming. That is why I work digitally, so that I can scan my ideas in, mix them up and compose them onscreen.
I try to incorporate as many of my early sketches as possible 
in my finished work

My entry into illustration has been a bit roundabout. I studied Fine Art at Exeter College of Art and Design before working as an art director, a computer game designer and a creative director in the technology sector. Although none of these roles really taught me about drawing, they have taught me a lot about understanding the needs of the customer and finishing work to the highest level of quality.

Alongside my career I also found myself studying a Masters degree in Writing for Children at the University of Winchester. It was at this point that I began to develop my illustration portfolio. Words and pictures have always gone hand-in-hand for me and as I began writing (and you do a LOT of writing on that course) I also found myself drawing little visual accompaniments to go alongside them. That’s where the inspiration for Pixie Tuesday came from. Every week I would publish a new pixie online and write about it. I did that solidly for two years (so there are a lot of pixies to look at, should you wish to visit my blog!) and I’m still adding to them when I can. 

Undertaking an MA in Writing For Children was pivotal in getting me 
back into drawing
I grew up in the 70s and 80s when comics were everywhere and amazing artists like Mike McMahon, Cam Kennedy, Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid filled their pages. These artists particularly inspired my black and white work. Later on I developed a love for more ‘grown up’ cartoonists working in pen and ink like Willie Rushton and of course the great Ronald Searle. Right now I’m a massive fan of David Robert’s work.
Comics were a big part of my childhood!

I am still inspired by artists working in comics. Jamie Smart, Mark Stafford and Warwick Johnson Cadwell are three talents that really stand out for me.


As far as my process goes, I like to work on paper first - never directly on screen. I have a stash of cartridge paper that I draw on as I like the feel of its tooth against the paper. I really can not stand drawing on smooth paper!

If I am working in black and white I will draw directly over the sketch in two or three different width Rotring pens. My work uses a lot of cross hatching and I rarely use solid black. If I do, though I will generally use a soft-tipped brush pen.

I’m a real sucker for cross hatching

For colour work I scan my sketches into my mac at around 400 dpi giving me a little leeway should I want to enlarge the image slightly before going to print. I use the path tools in Photoshop to block in all of the shapes before pasting various collected textures into them and overlaying lots of colour at different opacities.

You can find out more about my colour process in this article I wrote for a recent artist ‘blog tour’.


I have two tips for anyone starting out:

Set yourself achievable goals.
When you're starting out try and temper the inevitable grand ambitions with smaller, more achievable ones. Set yourself small, fun tasks that you can be sure you will achieve. My goal was to produce one picture each week and put it out online with a short piece of text and before I knew it I had established a good working routine, with the added bonus of a growing body of work.

Committing to a regular, achievable task can help you realise a 
substantial body of work

Don’t waste anything!

Keep your sketches, keep all of your ideas. You never know when you will need them, especially if you are on a deadline. Put them somewhere safe where your kids will not colour them in (it happens!) or better still, scan them into your computer. If you do scan them in, do so at a higher resolution than 300 dpi to give you more flexibility with how you use them.

Try not to waste anything you draw!


See more of Duncan's work in his Featured Illustrator Gallery
email is here or contact him via Twitter @WellingtonDrawe.
His Agent is Lemonade Illustration 


  1. Thank you, Duncan, for a very interesting read. I particularly agree with your careful preservation of that raw energy contained within your initial sketches. I too find that if my initial words, written freely, are overly tampered with, they run the risk of becoming squashed and lifeless.

    1. Thanks, Nancy. I find if I start reworking I just end up trying to get back what I had there in the first place - and the process goes on FOREVER!

  2. Lovely work, and inspiring influences Duncan!

    1. Thank you so much, John. Just checking out your blog. Incredible work!

  3. Loved the advice to "Put them somewhere safe where your kids will not colour them in" - it's wonderful looking at your work. Thank you.

  4. Shana Nieberg-Suschitzky13 April 2015 at 17:34

    I think your work is fantastic & unique! I particularly like the soldiers in chainmail, they're great. I also laughed when reading your advice that Candy quotes above. I colour digitally alot now as well, and it must seem really tempting to young children when you have lots of black and white drawings to think, "ooh, perfect. Ready-made drawing to colour...!"

  5. Love your work Duncan! Excellent stuff. It has a really lovely organic feel to it, if that makes any sense, and a great sense of design.


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