Richard Sanderson: Illustration

by Kate Andrews | April 22, 2010

Richard Sanderson

Born and raised on a Suffolk farm in East England, Richard Sanderson moved to Bristol to study Illustration. After graduating last year he moved to London to embark on his career in the UK capital. Since then he’s worked with, amongst others, YCN, Zizzi’s, The Ride Journal, The Newspaper Club & Form Fifty Five and exhibited in London, Bristol, Amsterdam and Glasgow. We spoke to Richard this week to find out how his graduate year is unfolding.

Notes on Design: So, how did your career start?

Richard: I’ve been drawing all my life and thanks to the positive encouragement from my family it’s never stopped! After an unhappy experience doing Art A-Level, I reveled in my Foundation course at Suffolk College, Ipswich. All the freedom and encouragement to experiment, particularly in the screen printing, illustration and design modules, really put me on the right path. I ended up going to Bristol UWE (University of the West of England) to study a degree in BA (Hons) Illustration, where I met a wide variety of different people carrying out different practices. Living with graphic designers and spending a lot of time with textile designers was really inspiring, and has had a big impact on the way I approach my own practice. Since graduating, I’ve been living in London and things have been working out really well so far. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in a number of really exciting projects.

Notes on Design: Can you tell us more detail about those exciting projects?

Richard: Obviously some of the projects have to be kept quiet until they’re out, but I’ve had the pleasure of working with The Ride Journal for editorial work, working collaboratively with my good friend William Davis on a newspaper produced by the Newspaper Club. I’ve worked on a couple of things with London’s creative network YCN and exhibited work on London’s Hanbury Street (just off Brick Lane), and in Amsterdam and Glasgow. I’ve also got a few prospective projects/shows in the pipeline, but nothing’s confirmed yet …so, afraid they’re under wraps for the time being!

Notes on Design: How and why did you choose a career in Illustration?

Richard: I just love the challenge of interpreting a brief in my own way, using my own visual language to communicate an idea or message. Creating a response to an idea, or concept. But, if you’d asked me 4 years ago what I wanted to do, I’d be drawing for skateboard companies. Actually, that’s still totally true.

Notes on Design: Do you feel your degree prepared you for what the industry expects from professional illustrators, can you tell us more about your degree and the education you had?

Richard: My degree offered me everything I could of asked for really, we had 24 hour access to studios in my third year which was a great help. Our tutors were always on hand for advice and tutorials too, and we had some really informative guest lectures from Paul Blow, Peepshow, Paul Davis – to name but a few of the highlights.

I did teach myself a lot during my degree, but only through using the facilities at hand from UWE. The print facilities at UWE are excellent, I spent many hours there. There was a lot of fun to be had experimenting with different print techniques. Plus, Bristol is a lovely place and holds a special place in my heart now.

Notes on Design: What has been the pivotal piece of work you are most proud of?

Richard: I was recently commissioned by Zizzi’s Italian restaurants to do a 6x3metre mural at their Clifton Village restaurant in Bristol along with 4 different wallpapers. I’ve never worked on such a big scale before or done any repeat patterns so it was a great learning process. Adapting my predominantly fine pencil line to a larger scale with paint was particularly hard! The entire process was really satisfying in the end, and I’ve learnt two new ways of working that I really enjoy. After staring at this massive piece for days on end I can finally look back at it and be proud of what I achieved! I’m about to start working on another restaurant commission in Birmingham on a similar scale, which I’m looking forward to.

Notes on Design: What are you working on at the moment?

Richard: I’m working on a series of original pieces for a small show I’m having at a café, The Fat Cat, on London’s Stoke Newington Church Street, I’m working on a number of collaborative projects with Esme Winter, Thomas Ormonde and Lizzy Stewart and as mentioned earlier I’m doing another large mural in Birmingham for Zizzi’s.

Notes on Design: Do you have any self-led projects you’d like to tell us about?

Richard: At the moment I’m exploring the nature of my self led work, I’m obviously still drawing for my own pleasure, but in terms of actual self directed ’study’ I’m really keen to work as an illustrator of my own ideas and concepts, instead of drawing for myself. I intend to get a lot more depth and justified concept behind my work, challenging myself to communicate concepts rather than solely focusing on the visual aesthetic.

Notes on Design: Right now, what would be a dream project or collaboration for you?

Richard: So very hard to answer! I’m an admirer of many other illustrators and designers, but I’d love to do something out the ordinary, working with something entirely different from illustration in it’s traditional sense. I’d like to collaborate with a designer like Enzo Mari, or Dieter Rams. I’d have no inkling as to how to approach such a project, apart from an open mind to experimentation. That is what would make it so interesting!

Notes on Design: What was 2009 like for you, and what does 2010 hold?

Richard: 2009 was a life-changing year! I graduated from university, and moved to London from Bristol. 2010 has been and is promising to be really exciting. I moved into a shared studio in my home borough of Stoke Newington with nine other illustrators / designers including fellow UWE Bristol types; Hattie Newman and Pete Locke, along with Vicky Smith, Martin Wollerstam, Sophie Kern, Rachel Lattimore and Sarah Parker earlier in the year, and it’s been growing and evolving into something very special indeed. We have a great bunch of motivated people working here, each specializing in their own disciplines and approaches. I think having somewhere to come and work is really important, informative and inspiring.

To put it simply, I’m really enjoying living here and doing the job I do. I want to constantly challenge myself with new and interesting projects, and on that tip 2010 is going pretty well so far!

See more of Richard’s work at and follow him on twitter @richardjrichard


Designer and writer Kate Andrews was the original editor of Notes on Design blog, founded in 2007.


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