Portraits and Caricatures.
Traditional pencil drawings, Ink and watercolour paintings and digital artwork.
Tony Healey is a London based illustrator originally from Wales. After graduating from Swansea College of Art, he moved to London and began working as a freelance illustrator; initially for BBC Current Affairs. Since then, he has worked extensively in media and publishing, and currently supplies weekly profile portrait illustrations for the Financial Times.
BBC, Esquire, Penguin, Radio Times, Reader’s Digest, Time Out, The Observer, The Daily Telegraph, The Financial Times, The Times, The Washington Post, VogueRead more
Editorial, Publishing, Advertising, PackagingRead more
- Garrick/Milne Prize 2005 for theatrical portraiture – shortlist
- Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2006 – shortlist
- Welsh Artist of the Year 2007 – shortlist
- D&AD Award for Illustration 2010
- AOI Best of British Illustration Images Annual 25, 26, 28, 30, 31, 33, 34, 35, 36
- AOI World Illustration Awards 2014 – Self-Initiated Work – shortlist
Illustrating the future
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Where is home?
I was born and grew up in Wales. It’s still home in my heart.
Describe your illustration style in one sentence
21st Century Vintage. My work is created using traditional techniques on paper which is then scanned and turned into digital artwork.
What themes do you enjoy exploring in your illustrations?
People, portrait, character.
What techniques do you use?
I am old-school. I still begin every job by making marks on paper with a 4b pencil. Then, depending on time and budget, it could be ink/watercolour on paper or I might go straight to digital artwork. Whichever technique I use, I’m aiming for controlled spontaneity, trying to make the final work look natural and effortless.
Which projects excite you most?
Personal work. The self-initiated, experimental work that might take me out of my comfort zone, where I can take risks and make mistakes because the only person that I have to please is myself. It doesn’t matter if I end up not producing anything worthwhile, any time spent in the pursuit of excellence is not wasted. I think that this kind of work is key to a long-lasting career. For too long, I have been spending the whole of my time doing client-only work and not set aside any time for personal projects. Watch this space!
What is your dream gig?
Many years ago, I was given a copy of R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country illustrated by Robert Crumb (published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc.). Anyone who is familiar with Robert Crumb’s work would probably also know of his passion for music, which shines through in the illustrations in this book. If there is anyone out there with a similar project in mind, please drop Sylvie a line – I’m in!
Where, when and how do you best create?
I gave up my London studio space during the pandemic and I now work from my home studio. Like most artists, I am always searching for the ‘flow’ state when I work. Hopefully, most of us will have experienced this hypnotic state where you become so totally immersed in the work process that time seems to fall away etc. I tend to work in total silence when I’m at the ‘blank page’ stage of a job but, that said, I love music and will sometimes work with music on once the job is in progress.
How has your style evolved since you started?
I have never consciously thought about a direction for my style. I suppose if I stood back and looked through all of the work that I have done over my career, a pattern might emerge. Even now, I don’t like to think of my style as ‘fixed’ and I hope that it will continue to be a slow, steady, ever-changing process. The most important element is always solid drawing, there is no hiding behind style when it comes to drawing.
What do you find most challenging in your practice or in the illustration industry?
Distraction! Distraction is the enemy of creativity! Making art is not easy – it requires all of your brainpower and uninterrupted time. Modern life is full of distractions to rob you of your focus. It’s one of the reasons I steer clear of social media.
How as being an illustrator changed your life?
Illustration IS my life. I have been drawing since I can remember. I knew from about the age of five that this is what I wanted to do.
Name a tool you can’t live without!
Tell us about a project you worked on that was meaningful to you as an artist.
Quite early in my career, I was commissioned to illustrate a series of 96 sheet posters for an advertising campaign for The Times newspaper. Each poster featured a portrait of one of the newspaper’s regular columnists. The campaign proved to be a fantastic showcase for my work (96 sheet posters are huge – over 12 metres x 3 metres) and the feedback was better than anything I could have imagined.
What influences or inspires your art?
No single thing. Anything and everything. I like to quote Chuck Close on this:
“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and go to work.”
What would you tell your younger self?
Draw, draw and don’t waste time! Do your 10,000 hours. Drawing will be your passport. It will take you on to art college and, over time, to a lifelong career as an artist and illustrator. It will take you to London, and your work will be seen all over the world. You will meet and work with so many talented, creative, interesting people, many of who will become lifelong friends. Drawing will be your life.
Why do you think art speaks louder than words?
I would only judge an artist on their work, rather than what they say about their work.