Getting creative with illustrations in design

27 May

Posted in Art

We’ve tapped into our love of creative design and commissioned a selection of talented illustrators from the Central Illustration Agency (CIA) to help showcase our beautiful fine graphic papers.

Launched this month, our first mailer features the work of artist and founder of the CIA, Brian Grimwood, who’s frequently described as the man who changed the look of British illustration.

Brian believes that commissioning original illustration can bring something fresh and unique to your work, and he’s certainly done just that within our new Crush mailer! A wrestling fan himself, Brian has used Sumo wrestlers to represent the Crush range. A perfect juxtaposition of both the contents of the paper and the images getting crushed!

Favini’s first mailer is launched on Crush with illustrations by Brian Grimwood


The Central Illustration Agency was set up over 30 years ago almost by chance. Brian had taken on an agent to help promote his own work, only to receive several calls within the first week from other illustrators asking to be represented too. For Brian, it seemed a natural progression to set up an agency, which today represents 89 illustrators.

Brian took some time out to talk to us about the CIA and illustration.

A little respect

When the CIA first started, other agents used to ask, ‘Why do you think you’re special?’ I used to say, ‘Well, I can draw and you can’t.’ It was tongue in cheek, but it was true. It meant that we were able to gain the respect of the illustrators we represented.”

Individual style and ideas

Brian believes illustration is all about developing a visual language and an individual style, “I know how others draw, but in my mind I’m thinking, ‘How would I draw a tree? How would I draw a bird?’”
Developing this individual style is all part of what makes an illustrator’s work unique, but there’s also got to be ideas and concepts behind your designs, “You’ve got to have something to say as an illustrator and ideally something unique to say,” says Brian.

“You’ve got to have something to say as an illustrator and ideally something unique to say.”
Happy accidents

Serendipity plays a part in the illustration process, Brian finds these ‘pleasant surprises’ are often created by the accidental use of a brush, how the paint lays when you’re using it, or by changing pens or brushes. “My brushes get distressed because I don’t wash them, but when I use them again they are wonderful and cloggy. I might have made a double line when I’d intended to create a single line  – that’s an accident in itself. I discovered that by repeating  ‘accidents’ your style becomes yours,” he adds.

Room for thought

From the feedback he receives when posting pictures on his Facebook page, Brian can see that people engage more with his freer illustrative work than tighter designs, “Freer work allows the viewer to be included in the process. They can fill in the lines and the gaps and that makes them feel they are participating.”
Brian is a true advocat of freedom within illustrative work. Even in the earlier days of the CIA, Brian would encourage the illustrators to use their preparatory drawings, in a move away from the then fashionable slick finish achieved by airbrushing.

“Freer work allows the viewer to be included in the process. They can fill in the lines and the gaps and that makes them feel they are participating.”
The good and the great

As an experienced artist and agent, Brian is the perfect person to ask how to judge a good illustrator from a great illustrator? “I’ll quote Picasso,” says Brian, “‘Poor artists copy, great artists steal,’ I wake up every morning with that thought in my mind. If someone copies, it doesn’t have any soul, if you steal it, it’s got more edge.”

Putting technology into the craft

With over 30 years running the CIA, Brian has seen a significant change in how technology has influenced illustration, but does technology hinder the craft of illustration? “The computer has blurred people’s styles. It can take away individuality so that everybody’s drawings look like a computer drawing. The trick is to use the computer as a tool and to keep the individuality in what you are doing.
“I use technology all the time, but as a tool. I draw everything in black and white and scan it in. Then I mix it up and play with it. It’s a bit like doing a lino cut – I’m playing with the layers, which is the basis of art – it’s a layering process.”

So, the possibilities are endless… “It’s unbelievable. You can do anything,” Brian enthuses. “I think to myself, what if Picasso had had a computer. He would have pushed the barriers. I suppose that’s my remit.”

Brief encounters

A detailed brief for an illustrator can restrict the thought process and the ultimate result. But what’s the ideal brief for an illustrator? For Brian it’s three short instructions: “’Here it is. Get on with it. Do your thing.’”
“Quite often people say ‘just do a Grimwood’, which is the perfect brief for me. It means that they see something in my work that they like and they want a bit of it.”

If you’ve enjoyed finding out about illustration and Brian’s work, you could receive your very own copy of ‘Grimwood on Crush’.

Request it now at

What’s coming up?

Sign up to receive the forthcoming mailers illustrated by CIA illustrators Ed McGowan, Mads Berg and Martin Haake. Here’s a taster of their work:

edward mcgowan map illustration for Favini

Ed McGowan’s handcrafted illustrative style with bright colours and rough textures


Mads Berg Illustration for Favini

Mads Berg’s modern art deco style with vintage graphics


Martin Haake Happy Planet illustration for Favini

Martin Haake’s style demonstrates his admiration of folk art

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