Illustration Becomes News Journalism

Going out into the world, seeing things, drawing them… This is journalism, as much as anything I ever did as a writer on newspapers and magazines.

This post is part of a series, introducing my book Psalms for the City.
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At best – to which I aspire, even if I’m not there yet – this kind of illustrated reportage can create ripples in the world.

Sketching A Man On Hunger Strike

One day, I went to Westminster to draw the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, on hunger strike outside the Foreign Office. I had no credentials, represented no publication. I just wanted to bear witness.

So I stood there and watched, drew some pictures – Richard Ratcliffe is the figure in the green hat – and went home to write up what I’d seen.

The drawings I made would later be printed and sent out to dozens of Members of Parliament. I can’t know what impact that had, but I did hear back from several MPs.


Making My Own Print Edition

Another project was drawn at a children’s hospice. My friend Julia van Beuningen had gone to play cello, and I was there to document the event.

Afterwards, I printed up a limited edition of A6 booklets. You can see what was inside it here, by “turning the pages” of this digital booklet:


Live-sketching At A Conference

Another time, at a conference where I was myself due to speak, I spent the time beforehand sketching the other speakers:

I was sitting in the back row, and assumed I was not being watched, but after I finished the last drawing, of Max Atkinson, the woman beside me asked how I did them.

I explained that I start with a rapid pen sketch in my notebook, and add colour on my iPhone photos app – marker pens are a bit heavy to carry everywhere, and the coloured pencils I have don’t produce such brilliant saturated colour.

Here is the original sketch of Max, just as it remains in my sketchbook: