Nigel Owen

Job title
Head of Illustration
01326 370740 Ext: x1740

My role as senior lecturer and head of Illustration at Falmouth University has always been inextricably linked with my career as a freelance illustrator. Both inform and support each other. The ability to remain relevant and conversant within the rapidly shifting sands of the design and illustration industries has become something that students now expect. For me this connection has been mutually beneficial and self sustaining. Not only does the student attain knowledge of their subject and valuable insights into current and established industry practice but I, as their tutor, am constantly reinvigorating and stretching my own knowledge of the subject.

Having initially started using acrylic paint as my primary medium I have moved between 3D assemblage, relief printmaking, gouache and inevitably onto digital media. Having graduated in 1989 from Central Saint Martins I am one of a generation of illustrators who have witnessed at first hand the seismic shift in the industry that occurred when Apple introduced computers that freelance illustrators could actually afford. With the addition of Photoshop and Illustrator the circle was complete. For me, working with layers in Photoshop has allowed me to pursue ideas further than I had been able to previously. Understanding that colour, texture and composition are truly under my control has freed up more time to focus on visual problem solving. For me as an illustrator, the ‘end justifies the means’. However, always at the heart of my work has been the desire to replicate something of the craft of traditional processes such as reduction relief printmaking (both lino and wood cut). It’s really important that the digital process is not allowed to suck the life out of these beautiful processes.

The main focus of my freelance career has been editorial illustration. I have worked for most of the major UK daily newspapers while also working for other major editorial clients in the UK & the US such as New Scientist, The Lancet, International Herald Tribune etc. The fast turnaround and often conceptual nature of the editorial brief can often push the illustrator to their limits but the experience can be hugely satisfying. A significant aspect of my career as a freelance illustrator has been the need to embrace sound business practice: A good understanding of how to market oneself, nurture strong business connections, be fully aware of important issues surrounding contracts, copyright law etc. all while while balancing the books. Having worked in a number of studio environments including the renowned ‘Big Orange Studio’ I have gained significant experience of contributing ideas to a ‘collective’. 


YearQualificationAwarding body
BA (Hons) Graphic Design 2:1
Central St. Martins College of Art & Design
Art & Design Foundation
Grimsby School of Art & Design

Honours and awards


Shortlisted and exhibited in the International 'Bodegas Terras Gauda' competition


Bronze award for 'Book Cover' Illustration in the AOI 'Images' Awards


Silver award for 'Editorial Illustration in the AOI 'Images' Awards

Membership of external committees

External Examiner at Kingston University (MA Illustration)
External Examiner at Leeds College of Art (BA Illustration)

Research interests

Research interests and expertise


  • Documenting visual problem solving strategies that are used within the field of Illustration with particular reference to how these are used by students. Potential outputs include: published research paper, exhibition, archive of projects, book proposal potential.
  • An exploration the use of maps within culture. This theme stems from my interest in map making as a result of the numerous commissions that I have undertaken in the area in recent years. Potential outputs include: published research paper, exhibition, possible conferences.
  • Alternative approaches to the delivery of narrative. This theme is specifically practice based and will revolve around the development of multiple characters and the subsequent mapping of their personalities and histories across an imagined community. Potential outputs include: an exhibition, research paper, website.

Academic subject specialisms:

  • Conceptual Thinking / Visual Problem Solving
  • Professional Practice for Illustrators
  • Editorial Illustration
  • Book Cover Illustration
  • Map Illustration
  • Hand Rendered Type
  • Advertising Theory
  • Book Binding / Book Arts
  • Colour Theory (Josef Albers)
  • Relief Printmaking (Lino & Woodcut)
  • The crossover of digital and traditional / autographic styles of image making
  • Sequential Imagery: Pace & flow within narrative illustration 

Research topics

visual problem solving
forms of alternative narrative

Research outputs



Group show, ‘The Brain Unraveled’, Slade Research Institute, London


Group Staff Illustration show, Falmouth Arts Centre


Central Illustration group show, London, New York


Central Illustration group show, London, New York


AOI Images (bronze award – Book jacket illustration)


‘Celebrity’, CIA group show, London, New York


AOI Images (silver award – editorial illustration)


‘Alphabet’, CIA group show, London


Two man show, Dragon International, London


Four Artists group show, London


Boxing Clever group show, London


Martin X group show, Central St. Martins, London.


Martin X group show, Central St. Martins, London.


Positive Designworks group show, London.


Positive Designworks group show, London.


Tram Depot Open Studios show, London.


Tram Depot Open Studios show, London.


Le Cafe Du Jardin, group show.

Professional engagement