Beehive Illustration

Editorial Illustration

14 June 2022

In this Buzz series, we're going to take a closer look at a variety of different areas of publishing, examining the types of illustration you're likely come across throughout a whole range of diverse book formats! Whether you're starting out as an illustrator and want to find your niche, or you have ambitions to switch up your illustration focus to break into new markets, we hope you'll find this useful and inspiring! We'll be showing off lots of our favourite past projects, too, and chatting to some of the creators - so read on for some exclusive insights…

Last time, we looked at books for very young readers, so this time we're bringing you something completely different - a close look at editorial illustration! Although Beehive is mostly known for representing illustrators for children's books, we also have a whole host of talented illustrators working in editorial spheres. Let's find out a bit more!

Editorial illustration is truly all around us, from your favourite magazine to the online article you might browse in your lunch break. We're talking about artwork that exists in partnership with a text: describing its content, supporting key themes, and setting a tone. In today's digital world, there are countless platforms which feature illustration, including apps, websites, social networks and all forms of online media. But it's also an extremely important fixture of print media, too.

Editorial illustrations, then, really need to do a good job of grabbing attention, luring readers in to the subject matter and encouraging them to click or read on. Perhaps the illustration will need to conform to a 'house style', or fit with existing branding, which the art department who brief an assignment would consider. It might also be more trend-led than other areas of illustration, needing to keep pace with current aesthetic fashions, and meaning it resonates with readers in a world where so many forms of media are vying for our attention.

We had a chat with long-standing Beehive artist, Clive Goodyer, about what it takes to make it in editorial illustration. Clive says:

"I think the biggest challenge is to come up with fresh visual metaphors after you've used up the all the cliches (juggling, on a tightrope, on a ladder, stepping stones, board game, the weather, fortune teller etc). Finding a visual that draws attention to the article and makes it look exciting! Using original symbols and content is always a great moment (and a bit of a miracle)! There'a a real thrill with the speed and punch of editorial illustration - making a picture in the week and seeing people reading it on Saturday is super great, but it's next week's recycling, so keeping an eye on trends and styles to stay current is important. Keeping your style fresh and current is always a challenge especially as you get older!"

A selection of Clive Goodyer's editorial artwork, including covers for Whizz Pop Bang magazine

Editorial illustration can certainly be more 'conceptual' than other kids of artwork, and using metaphors to encompass the subject of an article is one way of producing visually interesting work. An artist might borrow idiomatic language and illustrate it literally to give a humorous twist on a topic, for example.

"The reader has to make a link between the illustration & the article pretty quickly, so something that references the main title or something in the first paragraph. If you pick up a detail in the last sentence the reader spends the whole article wonder what the picture has to do with the text!"

With editorial pieces, an artist's creative thinking really comes into its own! A brief might be fairly detailed, or it could leave more to the illustrator's imagination. One approach might be to brainstorm keywords and themes - which can be a challenge when trying to nail representing something abstract. Another challenge is deadlines: they can be extremely tight, especially for periodicals, so it pays to be organised and dependable. If an art director knows they can rely on you, it could hopefully mean regular work!

L-R: illustration for AirBnB by Andrea Castro Naranjo; cover illustration for Argentinian magazine, La Nacion, about home working during the pandemic by Javier Joaquín; poster for Barcelona en Comú depicting challenges of the climate emergency by Xavier Mula, also shortlisted for the World Illustration Awards 2021.

Want to see more? Why not have a look at our editorial illustration collection!