Featured Illustrator: Deborah Allwright

This month's featured artist is London based illustrator Deborah Allwright. Since her debut book commission Grunter, Debbie has established a long and successful career illustrating picture books with a string of successful titles, her latest being Doctor Molly's Medicine Case, written by Miriam Moss. See a wide range of her work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery.

Banner Art

Howdy! A big YeeHaaaw to everyone! My banner art is rustled up from the picture book She’ll Be Comin’ Round The Mountain by Jonathan Emmett. The Wild West scenery and horses fuelled many of my childhood fantasies and Jonathan’s reworked text was a perfect theme for me to indulge in! Those rolling hills and sun-scorched canyons invite a warm palette. I wanted the land to glow with dry dusty heat. The train funnel billowing steam, swirling around the wagons to give drama just like the classic cowboy films.

Personal Path

Far from the Wild West, I grew up in London. M y daydreaming gained shape when leafing through my granddad’s book collection. The glossy photographic books on African wildlife and exotic birds were my favourites and I would try to draw them. Encouraged by my family, I had an endless supply of paper off cuts brought from granddad’s workplace. The paper was on the slim side so I drew only long thin animals such as snakes, flamingoes and giraffes! Perhaps the restricted format pushed me to consider new ways to tackle my subjects as this led to drawing comic strips, folding the long paper concertina fashion. I loved comics and created my own, making up puzzles and funny fake advertisements.

While studying art and design, inspired by the wave of sparse graphic designers on the rise, I explored screen printing and graphics. Whenever possible I’d bring a drawing element into the work. I found the work of Chloe Cheese (what a great name!) and Ralph Steadman’s anarchic style inspiring. Steadman had illustrated The Cherrywood Cannon which influenced my early attempt to create a picture book character of Rick, a rat living in the Lower London Underground! I had realised my passion for book illustration.

Author of Martha No! Ed Hardy and myself invited to The Heart of Hawick Children’s Award. A rare experience to do the class event with the author.

Adventures in Storyland

The opportunity to develop a children’s book character for Templar Publishing came whilst working on card ranges with a fantastic creative team at Camden Graphics in London. I was thrilled and very fortunate to be working with the writer and art director Mike Jolley! The freedom to express and unfold the drama in his story of a bad-mannered pig was enormous fun. Splattered with exuberant painting and collage, Grunter, the Story of a Pig with Attitude!, formed my early picture book style. Luckily the splatter and collage worked and I was offered another book with Templar, and so the start of a mini conga line of characters and cast danced on as fortunately I found more publishers interested in my work.

Exploring night scenes for The Night Pirates.

The Night Pirates by Peter Harris was a text of dreams! It was sparse and rhythmic. It would have GIRL pirates and I relished the opportunity to try and capture the night time setting. The addition of collage to the artwork helped create interesting shadow and silhouette shapes. Although the style revealed itself quite quickly, it did prove to be a challenge. On holiday, skiing, I had injured my knee and being unable to straighten the leg meant hopping around my studio, pirate peg leg style! My leg was stuck with little pieces of collage paper and glue. It was a messy business, but the right pieces were stuck down! The Night Pirates book has since toured as a stage show and has been published in languages as varied as Hebrew and Scottish Gaelic. It has a pop-up edition and has now reached its 10th anniversary.
From sketchbook work for The Night Pirates.

Most of my earlier artwork for books are painted in inks, acrylic and with paint rollers. I have since moved from the drawing table to the tablet for adding collage interest. I love creating textures and patterns, working from a small plan chest filled with interesting scraps that I’ve found or experimented on. Sources of patterns include the backs of playing cards, sweet wrappers and match books.

Scrapbook of ideas for patterns and textures.

I might introduce a texture early on in the rough stage of a new book so the editors and designer can see how the final art might look. Bringing the characters to life is my main interest. I like to try and make a stand out feature, be it the super size hats for the Night Pirate girls or little Martha who has her wayward hair in enormous bunches. I paint most of the artwork and characters in inks or acrylics with some pencil detail and then scan into the computer to make adjustments and add patterns or textures. Delivering the whole book digitally can sometimes mean I have more time to make any final changes but usually the deadline is waving!

Rough for Martha No!

Final art for Martha No!

More artwork from picture book, Martha No! Written by Edward Hardy.

I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with many talented authors. They have given me the starting point of an adventure where each new book becomes an opportunity to experiment and learn how to tell a story in pictures. 


Check the Featured Illustrator Gallery to see more examples of Deborah's work.
Her website is here, to follow her Blog click here. 
For enquiries please contact her agent Claire.


  1. Wonderful work - so much life and humour in it! Also love the story of collaging with your peg leg - adding real texture in every sense to the Night Pirates.

  2. Just spent an enjoyable time perusing your gallery. Love your work! Especially night scenes.

  3. Great article, beautiful artwork, I love pirates so thank you for cheering up my day!

  4. Thank you for looking in! Painting is a sticky business today in the heat!

  5. Really terrific work Deborah, I love the energy of your characters!


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