Illustrator Edward Tuckwell on ideas and influences

How do you create a single scene that moves from African heat to arctic ice? Illustrator Edward Tuckwell discusses his work, inspiration and a globe-spanning challenge for De Beers’ Pursuit magazine.

Anna RonayEditor

What was the brief for your Pursuit magazine illustration?

I was tasked with creating a continuous mining scene, which moved from the heat of Botswana to the arctic ice of Canada and from open pit to coast. The feature was about safety across De Beers sites, so these elements had to be layered into the illustration and annotated in the final piece.

How did you approach the brief?

It was difficult to figure out how to make it work as one scene. I started by sketching and mapping out the landscape, which gave me a structure. I used colour to indicate the changes in climate and added further structure by using a light casting shadow across the left-hand side, which allowed me to include darker, richer colours. The coastal elements weren’t as challenging, but I was careful to maintain the sense of scale by matching heights accurately.

How did you create the sense of scale of the mining pit?

I was struck by the vastness of the open pit mines when looking at photo references and I enjoy playing with that sense of scale. I added a close figure to the foreground, which contrasts with the size of the tiny workmen in the distance and the large trucks in the pit. I wanted to make it graphic without losing too much detail, which was a fine balancing act. I think the layering of the land works well set alongside the sculpted rock formations.

What are the main influences on your work?

Film, in particular science fiction, is a strong thread in my life and my work. I watched Indiana Jones as a child, which was a gateway to directors Stanley Kubrick and Ridley Scott. When I’m working, I imagine myself as a director and use techniques such as cinematic framing. I can play with ideas without a massive team or budget, and would like to transfer that to films one day.

How has your style changed and developed?

My style has become more refined, sharper and crisper. Some elements have remained, though, such as my use of block colours. My background is in screen-printing and printmaking techniques, and those influences can still be seen in my work today.

What’s the best brief you’ve had?

Can I choose two? My favourite personal brief is for a friend and colleague, Ben Smith, who edits a bi-annual film zine. Each issue he asks a group of people to make a piece of artwork from a film starting with a different letter. Issue ‘G’ has just been released in which I produced a piece for The Godfather.

In terms of commercial work, I enjoy creating illustrations for literary magazine, Granta. I’m sent the short story and that’s my brief. I set the scene and create a world for the reader. It’s a very free way to work.

Find out more about our work for De Beers here and view more of Edward Tuckwell’s work here.