Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 29, 2018

Illustrator Saturday – Philip Hurst

Philip has been working as a freelance illustrator for over 20 years having obtained an illustration degree from Kingston University in Surrey.

He has worked for a number of publishers in the UK, Europe and America and commissions include children’s book, educational books and editorial magazines.

He lives with my wife and four children on the Romney Marsh in Kent, England, and when not working enjoy exploring the Marsh, walking Harry the dog or sea fishing.


Below is from “Maybe not Cat”.

The original idea for the book came to me when I visited America.  The couple I stayed with had lived in Manhattan in a high rise flat. They had a cat that never went outside and viewed the world from a window. The happy part of the story is that they moved to up-state New York and bought a house on a large double plot which had a small wooded area. Evenings were spent on the raised deck area drinking Gin and Tonics. The cat however, still viewed the world from behind the insect screen. I suspect it had agoraphobia.  In the book the character tries out different life styles and suffers the consequences of the down side of his choices realizing in the end that he had it good anyway.

I generally start with a thumb nail sketch and work more detail in from here. I tend to view all images together to see how the book will flow and think about where text will go.

When I am happy with the layout I will then think about colours to suit the mood I want to convey and work until I have a finished image. I’m always mindful of the age range the story is pitched at.

Finished illustration

Interview with Philip:

How long have you been illustrating?

Long before I left University. My parents encouraged both my brother and me to paint and draw from an early age. I remember getting red oil paint on the carpet. Thinking I was in trouble I did the only thing a child could do. I put a mat over the stain. I never did get into trouble. I had great parents.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

I sold paintings and drawings in a local gallery. From this I received commissions and so it began. This was back in the 1980’s.

Did you choose to go to college to study art?

I did go to college and I’m glad I did. I started with a foundation course at the Kent Institute of Art and Design in 1991 and then went to Kingston University in Surrey to do a degree. I chose Kingston because I had paid them a visit the year before and was shown round by the course leader, Brian Love. He spent ages with me, probably his whole lunch break. He was absolutely wrapped up in his subject and I found his passion infectious. I did my foundation year and went back to find him on the interview panel. He remembered me and offered me a place.

How do you find illustration work?

I have two websites, my own which is online but still being developed and . This site has been a great investment for me and has more than paid for itself over the years. In the “old days” I would struggle up to London with my portfolio and visit art directors. I may only see them for a couple of minutes and then struggle back home.  (A two hour train journey).

When did you decide that you wanted to illustrate for children?

About 1988 I had a holiday in France. I worked as a commercial property negotiator and was training to be a Surveyor. I needed that holiday. After a few glasses of wine I had that eureka moment and decided to illustrate a children’s book. It was exciting to send the story and images to publishing houses even though they all rejected it. The seed was sown.

Have you made a book dummy to help sell a book idea?

I have, until now, worked on other people’ books so the need to produce a dummy book has never arisen.

Is The Kid Who Changed the World your latest illustrated book?

No I recently worked with a local authority to produce an educational story with a social worker from their children’s services department. We produced an educational story aimed at Looked after children in foster care. I think the plan is to role it out to other local authorities.

How did that contract come your way?

The contract for the Kid who Changed the World came via the website.

Was Fire Cat by Pippa Goodhart your first illustrated book?

No, I had illustrated a nativity board book for Dalmatian Press out in the USA. I had a one week deadline, the same week my first son, Matthew was due to be born and I was selling a house. I managed with help from my wife, my agent and lots of coffee. Matthew was born a couple of days after sending off the finished artwork. I’d like to say that I caught up on my lost sleep but 17 years on I still haven’t.

How did you get that job?

My agent, at the time had an office in New York. The work came via them. I remember a phone call at 3 in the morning offering me the job.

Do you have an artist rep? If so, who and how did you connect? If not, would you like to find one?

I did but not now. I went through a stage when earning regular money to support a growing family (4 children) was important. Some months I wouldn’t have any money come in. I worked elsewhere teaching art for a while, illustrating went on a back burner. My agent and I went our separate ways.

Would you illustrate a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

Yes definitely. So long as they understand the process, the financial commitment and the story is stimulating and strong.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own children’s book?

Yes always have. I have several manuscripts at different stages of development in folders. “Maybe Not Cat” is the main focus at the moment. I showed it to Walker books a few years ago and received positive feedback so I think it has potential.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

Yes I recently had an idea which would fit well with this format or even an animation. I watched a beautiful short animated film called “The house of small cubes”. Very inspiring and nostalgic. It conveys the mood and feel, that I want for my story.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I have always loved using oil paints ( using RED near a carpet makes me nervous though). I love the smell of Turpentine, it takes me back to my childhood. Now I use liquid watercolour and pencils on Langford paper.

Has that changed over time?

My technique has evolved over time; I use a more traditional watercolour technique now. When I left college I would use a glaze and then work back into the image. The down side of this was that I lost some of the control over where the ink would end up. The flip side of this was that an accident could enhance the image in a spontaneous way. Quite nerve racking if you are working to a deadline.

Can you tell us a little bit about your studio?

My studio is situated in an annexe to our house. It doubles as an “Oasis of calm” where my wife and I can escape the children. It looks over the garden and fields beyond. My end is very occasionally tidy…but not often.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I feel that I am always working. My mind I guess is always full of ideas and I have numerous sketch books on the go at any one time to at least get the idea on paper before I forget it.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

Yes, many photos. When I did the “Fire Cat” I met Pippa Goodheart at the Tower of London and had a tour, even ending up on the roof of the White Tower. Absolutely fascinating.

Do you think the internet has opened doors for you?

The internet is a very useful tool for research and for communicating with publishers. However, I do miss the physical, face to face contact. Skyping for me just isn’t the same, it’s a poor substitute. I miss going to London and the pace and atmosphere. The internet does make the world market place much more accessible so overall I welcome it and am beginning to embrace it more.

What do you think is your biggest success?

My biggest success is getting married and having children. In terms of illustration I think my biggest success is still being active in the market place 25 years on.

Do you ever exhibit your work?

The only time I have exhibited was when I was at University. I was shortlisted two years on the trot for the Macmillan book Prize and my work was shown at the Royal College of Art in London.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I have many ideas both written down and in my head. So my dream would be to get them all published. I would like my work to move someone, either get them to laugh or cry or inspire them in some small way. I think that would be very satisfying.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a picture book about our sun and solar system. I am finding it challenging but I loved the concept when it was pitched to me. Watch this space…

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy- a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

My only tip would be to experiment. It’s worth putting this time in. When I looked at going to college to study illustration I tried to by-pass doing the foundation year and go straight onto a degree course. I was advised not to by Brian Love at Kingston University. Good advice. The experimenting I did in my foundation course led me to develop the way I work now, even if I didn’t see the relevance at the time.

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

When I become a successful writer/illustrator I will let you know. In the meantime enjoy the ride and keep trying I think persistence will pay off.

Thank you Phillip for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure you share your future successes with us. To see more of Philip’s work, you can visit him at: Website:

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Philip. I am sure he’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Really nice interview, I especially liked the paint progression in Maybe not cat.


  2. Nice work! Thank you for sharing!


  3. great article, Philip 🙂 I, too, was less than enthusiastic about the first year in art school, but unlike you, the courses offered didn’t involve anything that helped further my art so was soured to art school at that time and was never able to go back. I’m glad it worked out well for you! 😀


  4. Wonderful interview. Philip, I’ve read THE KID WHO CHANGED THE WORLD and have seen Norman’s statue in Iowa where there is also a museum. (I grew up in Iowa.) Great illustrations!


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