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Simon Williams on Strathmore 500 illustration board

The 500 series heavy weight plate is one of our most preferred surfaces by professional illustrators, it is delightfully smooth and holds colour and water brilliantly. Widely published botanical artist Simon Williams took a few moments to give us his feedback on how he finds the papers, and also a little bit about his own practice.


"I have been an artist all my life from enjoying it at school to following it more seriously at the age of 16 enrolling on a National Diploma course in Natural History Illustration at the Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design. I studied further in this subject to a Higher National Diploma. I have always been based in the UK and my love of the natural world and horticulture combined with the interest in painting has given me a very decent career.

Although I trained as a Natural History Illustrator my main interest is in botanical illustration. I am inspired by travelling to exotic places and seeing the more unusual plants growing in their natural habitat then painting them for exhibition.

The main challenge is creating a 3 dimensional form to a plant subject on a 2 dimension surface. It is not the detail that achieves this but the lighting. It is down to the Artist to work this out to a point and a majority of the time I exaggerate the tones to give more impact and a better sense of realism and shape."

I always have an idea of how a painting is going to evolve. Most of the time artworks are planned out using layout paper, traced off several times and finally transferred to the final painting surface when I am 100% happy with the composition. That is the hardest part really and then I can concentrate with working the colour on. I Use a lot of Gouache for my paintings, a medium favoured by illustrators and designers for its vibrancy, opaqueness and good reproduction values. It is also a medium that handles well for the patient rendering of detail using a dry brush technique. This is a method a use nearly all the time for my illustration work whether its being produced using gouache, watercolour or acrylic gouache."

Simon is much in demand by students and course providers, which means he teaches all over the country. "I tutor courses right across the country in botanical and natural history illustration along with being a tutor for the Society of Botanical Artists distance learning diploma course. It is a great way to get out of the studio to inspire people and get inspired myself by watching someone produce a piece of artwork during a weekend residential course which is always relaxing and rewarding for the participant. Workshops and course are listed at"

Simon has has built such a strong, successful and active business in illustration, we asked him if he had any tips for up and coming artists:

"The choice to be an Artist is not an easy road. It has taken many years for myself and business to develop and after 10 years it has been worth it! Working self employed is great but it does require determination and in the early days to be thick skinned as there are many knock backs from approaching potential clients. It is all character building and sticking with it has proved to be the best choice."

portrait fieldbreaks

And finally before we let him go, we asked him for a bit of fun, if he was a Strathmore paper which one would he be?

"If I was a Strathmore product, I would be the Illustration 500 board for being smooth, easy to work with and very durable."

....and on that note, if you want to get in touch with Simon to find out more about his courses or where he is exhibiting next, do drop him a line.

 Simon Williams, Illlustrator

Simon's illustration work has been used within advertising at the RHS gardens, Wisley, in Surrey. Other artwork has been  published in a step - by - step guide on using gouache in the book, "The Art of Botanical Painting", in association with the SBA. Work comes from freelancing for publishers, studios and agencies.

"If I had to save one item from my studio it would be my hand crafted oak easel gifted to me by my Uncle."


#1 Ronald 2014-04-10 14:09
Very interesting! :-)


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