Featured Illustrator: Deborah Partington

This month's Featured artist is Cheshire based illustrator Deborah Partington. A winning contributor to the fabulous SCBWI Undiscovered Voices 2016 anthology, Deborah's work explores a wide range of characters, in techniques exploring hand-painted watercolour to digital. See more examples of her work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery.

From a young age I've always loved drawing. Copying images from the front of Disney DVDs was a good way to pass a rainy day. I was also very interested in animation and particularly loved the work of Wallace and Gromit creator, Nick Park, to the point of wanting to be an animator. I even had a Plasticine Wallace and Gromit set! This led to me studying A level Art and then a foundation with the intent of studying animation.

My older brother studied animation a year ahead of me and it was through watching him that I decided it wasn't for me. So, I looked at a prospectus to find something more suitable and stumbled upon general illustration. I'd never really thought of it before but since I always loved the written word and the pictures that go with them, it appealed to me. I applied and got onto the general illustration course at NEWI University.

The children's illustration course students sat in a studio directly opposite, as did my very good friend. It was here that my love for children's illustration grew. In my final year of general illustration we had to come up with our own topics and I decided to concentrate on children's illustration. I can remember going into town to research children's books and coming across Oliver Jeffers’ How to Catch a Star, being recommended the Spiderwick Chronicles by a fellow student and admiring Tony Di Terlizzi's illustrations. It reminded me somewhat of Arthur Rackham's illustrations who I'd discovered earlier and loved. A representative from Little Tiger Press brought in some children's book proofs, seeing for the first time Catherine Rayner's gorgeous book, Augustus and his Smile, got me really excited about children's illustration.

Tony DiTerlizzi The Spiderwick Chronicles ©Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Catherine Rayner Augustus and His Smile ©Little Tiger

Oliver Jeffers How to Catch a Star ©Harper Collins Children's Books

Back in my university days I started working in acrylic. It wasn't until my final year that my tutor introduced me to watercolour. I fell in love with it instantly. I liked the looseness of it and the marks that would be left in the paint, the darker outline with a lighter middle.

University work for Thumbelina

After university I took a break from drawing, worked in retail, had a family and my artwork went on hold. After a few years, I found myself as a single parent with two young children and no job. I started to draw again. It helped a great deal, so I enrolled on a business mentoring course with the hope of making illustration my career. I did a few commissions for friends, mainly of animals, and started developing a style, something I always struggled with at university.

Badger Watercolour
Flamingo Watercolour where I started drawing the eyes differently.

I joined SCBWI quite soon after and found it inspiring to read all the articles. In 2015 I entered the Undiscovered Voices 2016 competition at the very last minute! I think it was at about 5 minutes before the deadline when I hit the send button. I was shocked and surprised to be longlisted and even more so when I got the call telling me I was shortlisted. That year I was also included in the SCBWI Illustrators Showcase, all very exciting!
Undiscovered Voices 2016 Illustration

With the purchase of my Wacom tablet, I began to work digitally in 2013. As much as I loved watercolour, I think I may now actually prefer working digitally. Thanks to some brilliant brushes by Kyle Webster, I now feel I've developed a style that allows me to have a watercolour feel to my work along with the ease of being able to experiment and let loose more without worrying about making a mistake. I can just hit the back button!
The Hatching. SCBWI showcase

Hello my Little Friend. First proper attempt at digital

I also like that I can flip my work so I can see it with a fresh pair of eyes, allowing me to see errors I'd otherwise miss from staring at it too long. I work in Photoshop and tend to paint like I would normally using the brush and blend tools. I used to find it quite difficult coming up with ideas, but since joining twitter I've discovered a great creative community. Taking part in colour collective and animal alphabets helped generate ideas and gave me a starting point. Seeing all the wonderful artists involved truly inspires me each week and has helped me generate portfolio pieces I am proud of.

Dragon Sketch and coloured up version in watercolour for Colour Collective

Animal Alphabets pieces

During this summer I plucked up the courage to send my work off to agents and was very happy to get representation from Beehive Illustration agency. I'm hoping this is the start of exciting things to come!


See more of Deborah's work in her Featured Illustrator Gallery
Deborah is represented by Beehive Illustration
Her website is here, and Email here.
Twitter: @debillustration


  1. great work Deborah, fun, lively and refreshing.

  2. Lovely article, all the best wishes for fun clients & great success!

  3. I love your work! Have to admit the watercolours are my favourites!

  4. Great article, Deborah! Your work looks fabulous x


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