Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 9, 2019

Illustrator Saturday – Amberin Huq

Amberian Huq is a freelance illustrator living and working in London. She specializes in narrative storytelling, concept art and character designs. She is a graduate from University College Falmouth with a degree in Illustration in 2008 and has since been living and working just outside of London creating and painting under an organized heap of paper in my studio.

Her work plays with perspective, colour and light to create environments that tell a story through their composition. She also loves to create characters with personality and energy whether that be through what they are wearing, expression or gesture.

Here is Amberin Discussiing Her Process:

I usually start with sketching out a really rough idea of what the image is going to look like. I also add some values to get an idea of lighting and depth.

This is a second sketch where i’ve looked at the shape of the trees in order to make the image more interesting and also flow a little better. I wanted the whole finished look to have a soft dreamy quality and straight trees don’t really lend themselves to that feel.

Next I add some rough colour down. This can often take a bit of time as it’s the part of the process you really nail down the feel of the piece.

When i’m happy with the rough colour I start adding some shadows and texture so bring the illustration out a bit. I use a range of brushes but I like to keep the strokes quite loose.

Once i’ve added the shadows I got ahead and add the highlights. I’ve put some yellow into the highlights to make it feel a bit warmer.

Once I’m happy with the background I draw in the characters. I have usually mapped out where I want the characters to sit in the initial rough stage. In this case I have framed them between two trees so make them stand out and laid them on a bit of highlighted grass so that the eye is drawn to them.

The I add colour and tone.

Next I draw over the black lines in order to soften their edges.

By the time I had finished I wasn’t that happy that there wasn’t as much warmth as I wanted in the image. So I played around with the levels in photoshop to add a bit more yellow to the midtones until I was happy. I have learnt less is more with this tool but I was pretty happy with how it finished up.

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating on an off for the last 10 years doing small jobs here and there. I was mostly focusing on earning and saving money in those ten years. I only recently taking the idea of trying to make it a career in the last four years. I’ve really focused on becoming a better artist in those four years.

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

My first commission was a bit of a curve ball. I was hired by Half Moon Theatre for Young People in East London to create a show for teenagers. It was a great experience as they brought together lots of different types of artists to create a 30 minute work in progress show. I worked with a dancer and a beat boxer to create a show about mental health and the pressures on the young people. I have worked with them on and off for the last 10 years so it was a great first commission.

Have you always lived in the UK?

I have lived most of my life in the UK after a brief one year where I lived in Bangladesh. But I’m firmly fixed in Surrey for now.

Why did you choose to attend University College Falmouth for a degree in illustration?

I chose to go the Falmouth because the illustration course had a great reputation and it really was a great course. And the allure of living by the sea may have had something to do with it as well.

Did the school help you find illustration work?

They didn’t directly help me find work however they did give us the tools on how the industry works and how to go about looking for work. In our third year we had a professional practise module which made sure we had a portfolio when we graduated and that we had had real life practise contacting publishers and agents so we vaguely knew what we were doing when we left.

Do you think College influenced your illustrating style?

It laid down the foundations for my style. I’ve always loved playing with scale and depth and creating images with atmosphere. However, my work has changed a lot in the last 10 years to the point that my portfolio from when I graduated to now is completely different. Changing to completely working digitally definitely made a difference to my style.

I see that you are represented by The Organisation. How did you connect with them and how long have they represented you?

I just sent them my portfolio last summer via email. I’ve only been with them for about 5 months. Sadly they have closed now due to personal circumstances so i’m between agents currently but they were so helpful in giving me a direction for my work in the short time I was with them.

Was the Angelo Tito Ship painting your first commissioned work?

It wasn’t my first commissioned work but it was the first commission of this type for a child’s birthday. I’ve done a couple more since then, they’re a lot of fun as they are inspired by the families memories themselves so they can throw in a lot of weird concepts. But it’s great fun to weave them altogether into a piece.

How did you get to exhibit your art at Half Moon Theatre?

I have worked with them a couple of times and when they had a refurbishment allowing for an exhibition space they asked me to exhibit. It was my first solo show and I was very excited to be the first artist to exhibit there.

Pickled Pepper Books looks like a cute bookstore. Do you still exhibit your illustrations there?

Yes, I love that bookstore, it’s such a lovely place and they put on a lot of events for kids there. I only exhibited there once but it was a great experience. I recommend people going to visit it.

Was the Book of Dragons your first illustrated book?

It was definitely my first published comic.

I see that you have illustrations for a graphic novel on your website. Have you published a graphic novel for children?

I haven’t but I would love to. It’s something on my illustration bucket list. I would love to write and illustrate a graphic novel for children. Maybe I should start writing!

uld you like to write and illustrate a book?

I have written and illustrated a children’s book. It was published by Five Mile Press in Australia and it was called ‘A Bump in the Night’. It was a long time ago and I’m not sure it’s in stores anymore. My style has changed a lot since then but it was definitely a great experience.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

I have. I would love to. There’s something about letting images tell a story without words which I find really interesting.

How many books have you illustrated?

I’m not sure, i’m not counting. I’ve created work for children and for older people but a large chunk of my most recent work has been for Little Angel Theatre illustrating promotional illustrations for their productions for children.

Are you doing freelance illustrating full time or do you have a day job?

I have a day job working in a school and I work on my commissions in the evenings and at the weekends. I would love to be illustrating freelance though and that is the goal. So i’m keeping my fingers crossed for a good year to push me forward.

How did your illustration get in AOI Images 36 – Best of British Illustration?

I admitted my work for consideration. It was a surprise to find out that I had been shortlisted which was great. It was my first taste of moving forward since I graduated which was fun.

Has exhibiting your art ended up in any illustrating jobs?

I didn’t necessarily gain any commissions but selling work to people who appreciate your work is a bit of a buzz. The exhibitions led to other exhibitions though and meeting some wonderful and interesting people as well.

Have you done any book covers for novels?

Only for self published authors.

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

I would, but it would depend on what the project was and if it was something i was passionate about.

Have you worked with educational publishers? Which ones?

I haven’t but wouldn’t say no in the future.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? Which ones?

I have illustrated for children’s magazines. I did a lot of work for Stew Magazine and recently for Highlights magazine in the US.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

I have. As I said before there’s something really interesting about telling a story through just pictures. One of my favourite books is The Arrival by Shaun Tan, it really inspired me. I have one idea which I am developing so hopefully that will see some light soon.

I went to The Hungry Ghost Corporation and enjoyed seeing your Robot in their video. Other than providing your illustration for them to use, did you have a hand in the making of the video?

That was for HitRecord which is an open source production company run by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s great as projects get put up and people then put up work that fulfil the brief which other people can take and turn into something more than what it was to begin with. So I didn’t add anymore to the piece other than the character design but it was pretty cool to see what the other artists at HitRecord did with it.

What do you think is your biggest success?

I’m not sure, I don’t necessarily feel successful, I feel like i’ve got more to do and hopefully I will have the opportunity to do so.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I work digitally now. I know that might seem like cheating but the depth of what you can do now is incredible. Working with textures and brushes has really pushed my work forward not to mention the fact that working digitally is much more flexible in terms of playing around with ideas and compositions.

Has that changed over time?

It has, I used to work in ink and acrylic paint. I used to love mixing paints and dry-brushing the paint onto the canvas but I moved away from that after I discovered working digitally.

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

I do. I try it draw a little every day even if I haven’t got any commissions on. Usually in the evenings because of the day job. I’m always looking o develop and keep getting better and trying new things and you can only do that if you keep drawing. If there’s anything I can say to people who want to illustrate it is to draw everyday.

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

It depends what the project is. If the subject is something I’m not very confident about then I will do some research. I almost always use photo reference for my work especially when it comes to lighting and creating a certain tone. Photography is a bit reference point for me.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely. Social media like twitter and instagram has made such a difference. It has made quite an isolating career choice feel more open. I have met a lot of illustrators and artists through social media and it’s a great way of discovering new work to inspire my own. It has such a great reach and means people who wouldn’t normally see my work get to see it which then leads to opportunities.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I use Photoshop.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

I do. I got a Wacom Cintiq a couple of years ago and it changed everything.

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

My dream at the moment is to work consistently and to give up my day job. Anything on top of that is a bonus.

What are you working on now?

I’m actually working on pushing my character and black and white work as I would like to move into illustrating fiction work for an older audience.

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

Work hard, draw everyday, expect to fail but keep going anyway. Give yourself a day to mope if you’ve received rejection but then wake up the next day and move forward. Always look to develop and listen to what people who have been working in the industry for a long time say, they know what they’re talking about. Work on your relationships with the people who commission you as it makes a difference when it comes to repeat work. Don’t turn in work late, that also makes a difference. The biggest thing I would say is that you are resilient. It’s not always easy but it’s worth it when it works.

Additional Process:

Planet Bee Bookcover

I did a bookcover for a local author. It’s finally up on amazon so can share it with you now but I thought i’d take this opportunity to go through my process. It’s not very detailed or very scientific but I’ve got half an hour to kill.

This is the final image but it started off as just a scribble.

I don’t usually block in the tonal values at this point in time for personal projects but because I was working with a client and wanted them to have a good idea of what I was pitching I thought it was necessary.

Next comes rough text placement and some added shading.

A couple of design tweeks and some more shading to help the client envisage what the cover will look like. It also helps for me to roughly layout lighting and tonal values so I have to spend less time figuring it out when it comes to the final thing.

Next comes the issue of colour palette. Working digitally means that this is quite a fast process.

After a colour palette has been agreed I can do another really rough colour pass over the initial pencil drawing to sort out highlights and tones. Once this is ok’d by the client it’s time to trace the drawing, clean it up, scan and then get to work on the final render.

You can find the book at this link.

Thank you Amberin for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure you share you future successes with us. To see more of Amberin’s work, you can visit her at: Website: @amberinhuq –

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

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Wonderful colors and creativity! It’s great to get to know you through your work. 🙂


  2. Beautiful work, Amberin. I like the juxtaposition of curves and angles. (I lived in West Byfleet, Surrey for 4 years!)


  3. Reblogged this on Freelance News and commented:
    Amberin Huq, Stew Magazine, University College Falmouth


  4. I love the romantic feeling in all these illustrations!


  5. Amberin, your work is SO beautiful and imaginative 🙂


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