NEWS: Northern Festival of Illustration | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Rob Flowers

Given that Hartlepool’s Northern School of Art is the region’s only specialist art and design school, it seems fitting they’re at the forefront of the biennial Northern Festival of Illustration, which returns to venues across the Tees Valley between Saturday 1st June and Sunday 15th September. This will be the third outing for the festival, which has attracted scores of art lovers in previous years.

One of this year’s biggest draws (no pun intended) at Hartlepool Art Gallery is the first showing outside London of a series of illustrations by Chris Foss, the illustrator behind Dr Alex Comfort’s best-selling 1972 book The Joy Of Sex, which featured numerous illustrations based on photographs of Charles Raymond, who provided colour paintings for the work, and his wife in intimate positions. A range of black and white works for the book from Foss will be on display and, in his capacity as a well-known science fiction illustrator, as will a series of his illustrations for the Bandersnatch Black Mirror episode.

Artist Chris Riddell OBE will showcase his often thought-provoking political cartoons from The Observer; the cartoonist is well renowned for his Goth Girl and The Edge Chronicles books, and is the proud owner of the British librarians’ annual award for the best-illustrated children’s book.

If you’re feeling withdrawal symptoms after Avengers: Endgame, then never fear; Thomas Chamberlain-Keen and Axel Sauerwald from Atomhawk will be on hand. The company create concept art for movie studios and game developers, including for Marvel, Aardman and Warner Bros and will be displaying some of their works.

Illustrator and comic artist Tor Freeman will be creating a huge mural for Hartlepool Art Gallery especially for the festival, as well as showcasing work from her Digby Dog series; and there’ll be work on display from illustrators Derek Brazelle and Rob Flowers, Jack Teagle, Nicholas Holmes, Donya Todd and many more.

Those wishing to get further involved can join a symposium on the opening day at the Northern School of Art, which will feature a series of master classes from some of the world-renowned artists involved in the festival. Key figures from the world of contemporary illustration will discuss their practice; Rob Flowers talks about his obsession with toys, folklore and ghoulish creatures; Nobrow Press’ Sam Arthur will dispel the myths around how to survive in the publishing world; Atomhawk Design’s art manager Darren Yeomans talks about life behind the scenes at a digital art and design studio; former Dandy and Beano illustrator Keith Robson will talk about his incredible career and freelance illustrator and lecturer Frances Moffatt will get into the knotty subject of creative contracts.

This year’s festival will also feature artists shortlisted for The Northern Illustration Prize, with a panel led by Chris Riddell and Derek Brazell, who is renowned for illustrations in several successful children’s books, and who will also be displaying new works at the festival.

Beyond the exhibitions, a series of workshops will take place in museums and a variety of other locations across the Tees Valley area. In a move to further integrate work produced by the public, pieces crafted in these workshops will be featured as part of a large artwork to be constructed on Hartlepool’s Waterfront on Thursday 20th and Friday 21st July.

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