Sneak peek of award-winning Hartlepool illustration festival

Eye-catching work by artists from all over the world will go on show as the award-winning Northern Festival of Illustration returns to Hartlepool this weekend.

Thursday, 30th May 2019, 16:44 pm
Some of the work on display in Hartlepool Art Gallery.

Thousands of visitors are expected to pour through the doors of Hartlepool Art Gallery to marvel at the work of more than 25 world-renowned illustrators, cartoonists and comic artists.

The festival, which is organised every two years by the Northern School of Art, begins on Saturday, June 1 and is set to be the biggest yet.

Some of the work on display in Hartlepool Art Gallery.

It centres around an exhibition in the art gallery along with workshops and masterclasses.

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A prestigious competition held as part of the festival, The Northern Illustration Prize, has received entries from illustrators and artists from every continent apart from Antarctica.

Appropriately for Hartlepool, the theme of the competition has been 'monkey'.

Pat Chapman, The Northern School of Art’s Vice Principal, said: "We have grown each year. In 2017, we had just over 73,000 visitors to the festival throughout its run and I'm hoping we will get similar numbers.

Hartlepool born illustrator and teacher Keith Robson in front of a display of his work in the Hartlepool Art Gallery. Pictures by Frank Reid.

"Around 30% of them came from outside of the Tees Valley. This year we are partnering with the Crossing the Tees literary festival and are working with museums across the five Tees Valley boroughs.

"One of the main aims is to bring illustration to everybody and show it is more than than just comics and graphic novels."

Illustration programme leader Ben Clowes, who first came up with the idea for the festival, added: "We will have work on show by some of the most influential and regarded illustrators in the industry through to established and emerging artists, who have put themselves forward for the competition running alongside the event this year, as well as work from my own students and the degree programme’s alumni."

The festival exhibition features some of the original illustrations by Chris Foss from the 1970s book The Joy of Sex on display for the first time outside of London along with his stunning science fiction work.

One of the pieces of work on show.

Leading children's illustrator Tor Freeman has done an original mural in the Art Gallery.

Tor, 42, from London, said: "I came to the gallery last year and thought it was beautiful and I like the work that the school is doing and I like the people.

"I think the festival is going to be fantastic this year and it is great to be part of it."

Another artists whose work is on display is Hartlepool's own Keith Robson who has worked for the likes of The Beano, Dandy and many more.

Artist Tor Freeman from London with her comic strip mural.

He said: "As soon as I realised what a comic was and that somebody must draw them it was what I wanted to do.

"It has been a lifelong passion. I used to sneak Hartlepool into my drawings when I could."

Work from Chris Riddell OBE, the political cartoonist for The Observer and author of The Ottoline books, Goth Girl, and The Edge Chronicles, also features.

To launch the event, internationally-renowned illustrators will present a day of masterclasses on Saturday, June in the art school’s lecture theatre at Church Square, Hartlepool.

Illustrators Rob Flowers, Sam Arthur, Darren Yeomans of Atomhawk, Keith Robson, Jimmy Turrell and Frances Moffatt will be appearing at the free event, offering an insight into key figures in contemporary illustration, whose work forms part of everyday life through advertising, editorial, products, games, film and TV, to books.

For further information about the festival, which runs until September, visit

Some examples of Keith Robson's work.