It’s a Small Press World after all

Blimey, July? Anyone care to enlighten me as to where the year has gone?

It’s been a funny one. A bit of a preparatory year for me, where a lot of work has been done but, as of yet, I don’t feel like I’ve got masses to show for it. Rest assured, there’s work in the pipeline, but I think it’s going to be a few more months of frustrating waiting before those ever elusive publishing dates in 2018. Watch this space for more announcements on this front, but forgive me while, for now, I play those cards close to my chest,

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Game on

 

What HAS occurred so far this year though, while the book illustration thing tonks along quietly in the background, is my annual jaunt back into the small press UK comic scene.

In late 2015, the clever comic prophets at the comic community website Broken Frontier announced the start of their ‘Six Small Press Creators to Watch’ scheme, brought together in the form of one, marvelously affordable anthology; The Small Press Yearbook.

As well as longer comics, provided by the 2016 six names deemed worthy by BF, they also called on other small press artists to contribute short narratives to the cause. Enter your truly, who was more than happy to pen a little something for the guys at BF, given how supportive they’ve always been of my work right from the start back in 2011.

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A spread from my comic, Catch from the Broken Frontier 2016 Small Press Year Book.

The 2016 Yearbook was a great success and the project continued into 2017. The new batch of names was announced…and guess who was one?

So I got to work again, penning a longer story for the 2017 anthology. At 10 pages, I think it’s actually the longest short (ha) I’ve ever made!

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A spread from Green Tea my 10 page comic in 2017.

It was pretty nice getting back to comics again, after submerging myself in children’s books for so long. I do try to keep my work in the two fields pretty complimentary of each other, but I do find that the process is different. I dance between the two which, hopefully keeps the work in both parties pretty fresh.

In lieu of the release of the 2017 year book, I was then asked by the London comic store Gosh! to take part in their 2017 Free Comic Book Day events in May. They had a kid friendly, family day of activities planned, and had asked a number of artists from across the comic world to adorn their (rather large) glass windows with artwork for the day.

I’ve never painted a window before. I had no idea what it would be like to work vertically on a transparent surface. Especially when there was a queue of comic fans and their kids right the way round the store, watching you doing it!

So I went with the blobbiest, simplest shape I could think of, while still staying within the boundaries of the ‘Reinterpreting children’s book characters’ brief. (A brief I approved of greatly, by the way.)

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Pic pilfered from the Gosh! facebook page.
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Pic pilfered from the Gosh! facebook page.

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Pic pilfered from the Gosh! facebook page.

 

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It was a great day, and the image came out well too. Each character brought a unique flavour to the display and it really embodied the spirit of the day, and comic scene generally. I met some great people and can finally scratch ‘window drawing’ off of the artist bucket list.

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Lizzy Stewart’s ‘Where the Wild Things Are’
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Wonderful display, this side by Dan White, Eleni Kalorkoti and Lando.
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Pic pilfered from the Gosh! facebook page. Eleni Kalorkoti’s Matilda.
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Matilda and Long John Silver…as a crocodile.
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Dan White’s immense mutant ninja turtle.

 

I was happy to see, in early July, that the Moomin was still strutting his stuff when I returned to Gosh! for the launch of the 2017 yearbook, appropriately held on Small Press day.

Disclaimer: I stole all these pictures from the Gosh! Facebook page. Don’t judge me.

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Broken Frontier summed up the event perfectly here, so I won’t go on too much about it, only to say what a visual FEAST the yearbook is and how strongly I would urge you to nab a copy if you can. It’s full of vibrancy and really is a testament to the strength of the UK comics scene. I’m damn proud to be apart of it, actually!

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Both year books of small press championing.
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The phenomenal story from Kim Clements. Who’s mind I want to live in.
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Ellice Weaver, cover artist and incredible talent.

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Pick up both 2016 and 2017 year books here, and be sure to watch out for next years offering. It’s undoubtedly going to be incredible.

 

And finally, my other small victory from 2017 so far, is my ongoing voyage into the deep, dark depths of social media. I’m glad to say it’s actually going okay!

 

little-dogThis year saw me amass my first 1000 followers on both instagram AND twitter! So I held some giveaways of greetings cards, zines and comics to thank everyone accordingly.

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Instagram Prize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Twitter winner announcement doodle!
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My Instagram winner!

I’d like to make giveaways more of a regular thing (they made me feel warm and fuzzy inside) so please to follow me on my various social media outlets to get the low down on how you can bag future prizes.

Find me on twitter here, Instagram here and facebook here.

Right oh, I think that more or less sums up things this end. Can’t wait to share what’s next in my list of things.

Toodles!

Catch up! Illustrating heroism for the London Museum

Continuing with my, long coming, round up of my illustrated shenanigans before the end of the year, I wanted to end with a little insight into what was arguably my favourite project of 2016.

Since joining forces with my wonderful agent towards the end of last year, I’ve been working on a number of projects within the field of publishing. Jodie (aka, SuperAgent) is a literary agent, so specialises in the field of kid book illustration, which is my unquestionable passion. So that works quite well. The only down side of the scenario, is that everything moves SO SLOWLY! I’m desperate to share all the odds and ends I’ve been up to, but have been totally sworn to secrecy by the lords of the Publishing World.

That was, until Summer this year, when Jodie was thrown a total curveball of a job. The London Museum had been donated a medal by the family of a wonderfully brave member of the bomb disposal unit in the early 1940s. The curators at the LM wanted to display it in a new part of their wartime exhibit in their Docklands site. Along with the medal, the family had letters, photos and journal entries from the man himself, Mr Richard Moore.

In an ongoing attempt to reach out to all ages, the Museum were after a comic illustrator to translate the transcript of the journal into a short, quickly absorbed, illustrated story. The journal was so rich with detail and powerfully human, they feared the full effect of Moore’s experience would be lost if it were to be displayed as text. We all know attention spans are short these days . Furthermore, they wanted it done and dusted within a couple of months! Finally a quickfire job!

Aware of my past flirtings with the comics scene, Jodie sent them my comic portfolio and BAM! Back into the comics fray I did go!

And WHAT a fab experience it was! It was unbelievably humbling to be trusted with a gig like this, not only because it was the first time my comic work has gone pro, but also for the richness of the subject matter!

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It’s always a challenge to take a long piece of writing and edit it down into manageable chunks, LET ALONE when you have to factor in imagery. But then to have the added pressure of capturing the bravery, fear and reality of a REAL man in such extreme situations is a whole other ball game. I’m always moved, grateful and, actually – a touch surprised, when anyone wants my illustrations to represent their work in some manner, but to be trusted with a part of a real person’s history is utterly humbling.

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In the research stages, I drew directly from photographs to get a loose idea of facial structure of the men. Then I could later work from these drawings, developing the faces in my drawing style.

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I started by tackling the words. I knew I wanted Moore himself to narrate and therefore the text in the comic should come directly from the journal. I took the bulk of the narrative and broke it into sections, removing any scenes that didn’t move the story along, while trying to keep in as much detail and life as I could from Moore’s entries. Small, human details were important to maintain the relationships of the disposal unit, but some experiences felt repetitive, especially regarding the number of bombs they units disarmed.

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This was a pretty nerve wracking task. I felt entirely impertinent, erasing anything at all, but the guys at the Museum were supportive and honest. They provided me with as much historical material as they could (they’re very clever, knowledgeable chaps you know)  and after a few meetings, we had the bulk of the narrative sorted.

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I’d wanted to book end the comic with one of Moore’s original letters to the wife of his friend and mentor. Not only does this frame the 6 page story nicely, adding come comfortable closure, but it really emphasises the relationship between the two men – a vital component of the journal.

Once this structure was developed, I started to work out how to split this narrative over the six page limit the Museum had stipulated. This is my favourite part of making comics, because I think the flow of a narrative is the most vital part of telling a story and holding an audience. I changed the structure for the final two pages to highlight the chaos of the events, where previously the artwork had fit within a fairly straightforward grid format.

This is also where I develop any motifs, graphical cues or repeated visual themes that might help in the telling of the story.

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The final artwork is beginning to develop based on my many, many drafts!
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Original sketches from the final spread. I like to draw all over everything then arrange the composition on screen in a digital collage.

 

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Draft of the first page.

Once I’d worked and reworked the storyboard into it’s finished – yet still loose and ugly -state, I could focus on characters, artwork and colours. I like to work with a limited palette, and allow the colours to communicate the mood, adjusting the dominant colour based on the events in the story.

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I drew pages and pages of faces to get the characters right. Taking breaks to draw rabbits. Obviously.

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Interestingly, while I’m an illustrator, the illustration component of a project like this is probably the fastest part. I think visual storytelling is so much more than the image itself.

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Draft prior to real characterisation…

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The final page.

The George Cross exhibition opened in September.

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The photo above my comic is the real Richard Moore receiving the medal. So there’s no leeway on my characterisation!
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The medal sits in a glass display unit in the wall.

There’s a lot of reasons why this project is close to my heart. It’s my first comic to have been written for use in a professional context, it was my first attempt at a biographical piece and it was written on a tight deadline.

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But more than all of these things, it marks a really interesting transition of the nature of learning material. We all have seen the rise in popularity in comics, with small press talent and events rising up to challenge the big guns of Marvel, DC and the like, but for a prolific, historical museum to turn to the graphic novel, really marks a widespread understanding of the communication potential of the format. And I’m proud to have been a teeny, tiny piece of this movement.

The Story of the George Cross is a permanent part of the Museum’s Docklands site. The press release for the opening is here.

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For more of an insight into my working process on the work, check out this wonderful review and interview about the work with the brilliant Broken Frontier comics community site.

And if you do HAPPEN to be in East London with a spare minute or two, do have a look. Richard Moore’s story is a magnificent example of true heroism in times of incomprehensible difficulty. Regardless of my involvement with the project, he deserves a slice of your time. His story puts an awful lot into perspective and I am humbled to have been privy to his words.

All images of The comic Dear Mrs Ryan belong to the Museum of London. All shots behind the scenes are property of Rebecca Bagley.
Photographs taken by Rebecca Bagley, Jodie Hodges and Andy Oliver. Cheers for everything guys.

Catch up! Eds, Ads and Drawing for money

Right so, along with being completely and utterly inspired, by the publishing talents, I also did some things this past few months that, dare I say it, actually generated a bit of revenue.

Turns out drawing for money is actually a thing. Weird.

While the publishing and book work is ever ongoing and I’m DYING to share, unfortunately I’ve been sworn to secrecy that end. Luckily, lots of little, much faster jobs have been floating around which I CAN let you in on. KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED FOR FURTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS!

For now though, I popped back into the field of editorial illustration for a bit recently, providing more work for Union Features Magazine. Yet another fab issue is now out in the world and I suggest you have a look.

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This time, I was lucky enough to attend the launch party and actually meet the geniuses behind the mag, of which all thee issues to date have been sublime. I’m chuffed to be their one and only illustrator and am happy to report they are as great in person as their work (I mean that too, it’s definitely not just the crates of Sailor Jerry present at the launch talking.)union3

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It’s nice working on Union, because it offers such a different kind of subject matter from my usual. Ordinarily sitting pretty in the picture book bracket, I love to see my simple, child friendly style tackling the harder matter of a men’s lifestyle magazine! It’s challenging trying to marry the two, but it’s also a lot of fun and I like to think it still works. union

Then, for something quite different, October to November also saw a little flirt with the world of Advertising. I was contacted by the Icehouse, a talented bunch of designer folk who had a campaign to work on for a new pre-prep department that was opening in Monkton School. They needed some illustrations to work with their campaign, which I was more than happy to supply. Quite apart from anything else, their office had a nice garden and they made me really good coffee.

I’ve worked on three images, which are now beginning to surface as the campaign goes live.I’ve found two of them sitting in the pages of magazines (a double page spread in one which was most pleasing!) and I was also shown the flyer design, which I think really makes the most of the drawings.

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I can’t wait to see them all three in situ. Walking around the city has become pretty exciting, just in case I see another ad! Having been so heavily occupied with publishing, I hadn’t considered pursuing advertising illustration but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. Working with the design team was a joy, and finding the finished campaign, all dolled up by the designers and nestled in glossies has been a real kick.

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In one day I found TWO local magazines whose recent issues contained the ad!

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Also, and this is mega sad, I LOVE seeing my work printed on different papers. Every magazine has a different stock and it all alters the look of the work.

I should stop now before I admit anything else really lame.

I have no shame.

NEW Etsy Store and Christmas SALE!

So, having truly ingratiated myself with social media this year or so, with full on love affair with Twitter, increased and growing commitment to facebook and more recently a shiny, new Instagram, I have FINALLY opened an Etsy store!

Having rekindled my love of taking part in conventions and arts fairs again in October, I’m getting digital with it, with the grand opening of my new shop! Woot woot!

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I plan to sell all number of printed, illustrated things, primarily prints, cards and zines so keep your eyes peeled for fresh new doodles! Also, if you have requests for prints from my website portfolio, don’t hesitate to get in touch and I’ll see what I can do.

In keeping with this exciting news AND the fact that it’s that generous time of year I though it only fair to run a Celebratory SALE! I’m selling my Christmas Cards off for just £1 with first class shipping on all items in store right up until Christmas!

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If you, like me, have left things shamefully late, get involved and pick up some neat new bits and pieces!

My Store is BagleyArt, so stop over and say hello!

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Catch up! Zines and things the Bristol way!

Continuing with my mass recap of the past few months, I needed to throw in a holla to the comics world! I’ve been doing lots of things recently, and early October not only kept me busy getting inspired, but also saw me taking a jaunt back into the comics world. I’d fallen out of conventioning and whatnot, concentrating mainly on the publishing shebang BUT when you hear about an indie zine fest pretty much on your doorstep…well I figured why not?

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The standard, late night of a hand made sesh.

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The BCZF was a ball. It was everything I’d enjoyed about conventions to begin with; passionate people from all walks of life getting together and sharing what they make. There were students, seasoned pros, newbies and hobbyists and everyone stopped to have a natter. I met ARMFULS of friendly folk and saw even more jaw dropping artistry.

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The venue was ace. It was an old fire station so I felt like I’d fallen out of Ghostbusters (the original. Let’s not talk about the new one.)

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My Table. It’s always so neat looking right at the start…

A bunch of my old mates from the early days of London zine-ing were kicking about to catch up with (special mentions have to go to the incredibly talented Rozi HathawayRozi Hathaway, Ed Chevertone and Aisling Marray; TEAM EXTOIRDINAIRE and, as ever, the wonderful Andy Oliver of Broken Frontier who has the nose of a frickin’ bloodhound when it comes to new, comic talent!) But I also had the joy of adding more shiny, new names to my ever evolving list of inspiring people I’ve been lucky enough to get to know.

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Huge thanks again to Lee, who not only makes awesome, authentically oldschool zines, but who put up with my mad natterings the whole day like a REAL sport (and they really were quite mad.)fest4

So yeah, my return to the convention scene was ace. My work has transformed a lot since the old days, but people were as welcoming of my new stuff as I could have hoped for.

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Last minute scoring, folding, packing and swearing aside, zine fairs will always hold a place in my heart and I would ALWAYS encourage curious artists to give them a whirl.

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Catch up! Children’s Literature Festival

So, it’s that time of year again when the winter has silently snuck up on us like a seasonal ninja and we’re caught, rabbit in headlights, totally unprepared for the looming new year. Perhaps it’s the hovering threat of ‘resolutions’ in the back of my mind, or perhaps it’s the fact that I swear it was August less than a month ago, but either way it’s around now I need to take a break, breathe and look over where on EARTH the second half of the year has gone.

The next few posts will be a few snapshots of how my 2016 has developed. I can’t promise I’ve learned loads, but I can promise I drew some things.

September – Children’s Literature Festival

Don’t hate me, but I LOVE Autumn. Yes it cold, yes the days stat getting shorter but I am a sadist and love that I get my city to myself again when the kids go back to school.

Haha suckers, I finished AGES ago.

But September and October are especially lovely because it’s when the Bath Children’s Literature Festival rolls around. Which I love.

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Although I didn’t get to see as much as usual (due to, ironically, having too much work to do in the field of Children’s Literature) I did manage to score two wonderful talks by a couple of heroes from the field.

Those of you familiar with Hamish and the World Stoppers by the unapologetically British author Danny Wallace will be familiar with the creative magic of Jamie Littler. His characters are full of subtle details and nuances that are the perfect visual vehicle for Wallace’s tone and the book, in my opinion, is enriched ten fold by his interpretation of its time altering world.

Not that he’d tell you that. I tell you, a more modest talent you will not find.

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littlertriangleBut humbleness aside, Littler did a stonking job of holding the stage, even without his extrovert counterpart. If his flawless live drawing wasn’t magic enough, the interaction with the audience had every kid grinning to ear to ear. Given the rare opportunity to command the hand of a professional illustrator, the creative, imaginative and frankly weird suggestions of the kids were flying as the audience created their own adventurous character for Littler to illustrate.

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Part drawing, part storytelling, part comedy act and part workshop; this talk was inventive and a lot of fun. So really, pretty much everything kid lit should be.

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But if that wasn’t enough, I was also lucky enough to attend an event by the infamous Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell.

I’ll be honest, until fairly recently I didn’t really know what  Laureate was. But I was very excited that Riddell had kindly decided to bring his medal. And it was a very nice medal.

chrisridellticketchrisridellmedalHosted in the festivals most grand venue, it was strange to see the small figure of a single man, his projector and a sketch pad in the middle of such a large stage (even if he does have a medal.) But the second that man’s pen touches paper, he becomes the size of mountains.

It comes as no surprise that the prolific Riddell can live draw like a champ, but his ability to ad lib to questions from the audience, while doing so is a thing to behold. Relaxed, funny and frankly, totally charming, performing apparently comes second nature to this guy. His answers to every question was insightful, elaborating on details of his life and artistic journey and expanding even the most simple of inquiry into an adventure worth drawing about. The added incentive of giving away the drawings he made to the questions he answered had kids jiggling in their seats with anticipation each time he reached for a card. The hall was completely silent, aside from the reactionary giggles. We were in the palm of his hand, and I have no shame in admitting it.

There are reasons some people get famous for what they do.

I think that’s enough said.

 

 

 

Utter Nonsense! The Cheltenham Illustration Awards 2016

Those of you who are kind enough to connect with me on the old Facebook, will know that I recently had the honour of being picked to be included in the 2016 Cheltenham Illustration Awards, hosted by The University of Gloucestershire!

That’s pretty neat eh?

What’s EVEN NEATER, is that is week I received by magic of the good old postie, a copy of the Award’s 2016 Anthology of my very own! Woop woop!

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As you can see, it’s a beautiful (classy hard back!) compendium of incredible talent, both students and established folk. On taking a look inside, I have been genuinely blown away by the incredible work of all of those listed, and am even prouder to have been picked to display alongside them.

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My little example of nonsense as it appears inside this beautiful collection.

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It’s always a wonderful thing to see your work in print, but I was genuinely impressed at the quality of this lovely book; both in content and in print. It was a lovely surprise to have been selected and even lovelier to have such a wonderful present out of it!

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I also spied some familiar names! This guy (Stephen Collins) is a brilliant talent in the world of comics. Look him up!

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chelt1My favourite part of any anthology is discovering all those new names and talents to pop into the inspiration memory bank. This collection is bulging with them, it’s going to be a busy evening ahead, finding them all on twitter!

To find out more about the Cheltenham Illustration Awards, do check out their website and blog.

To enquire about this beautiful anthology and maybe even grab one of your own, contact eevans@glos.ac.uk

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