simon pemberton

winner of victoria and albert museum editorial illustration award 2015

just found out my illustration for the financial times magazine ” the blackest Isles” has won the V&A editorial illustration award! the work was commissioned by shannon gibson who was great to work for. she said “just do what you do”, which I did and it worked out o.k!


ft weekend magazine - the blackest isles winner of the V&A editorial illustration award 2015


some more information on the commission below

to illustrate the F.T weekend magazine feature on the shetland isles capturing the icy colours, lighting and the texture of the weather after a stormy boat journey to the dark islands.

key ideas: to capture the colours, wind and weather of the winter boat journey undertaken by the writer “last night…the ship bucked and tossed as if we were on a fairground ride..the gale has dropped outside and it has started to freeze. weather is everything in shetland…we always know which way the wind is blowing”

Simon Pemberton’s oil sketches accompany an article by the crime writer Ann Cleeves, about her research journeys to the Shetland Islands, the northernmost region of Britain, 100 miles beyond Scotland.

Pemberton’s approach is traditional, beginning with pencil sketches and chromatic experiments. To create the unique textures of rugged landscapes and windswept seas, he applied acrylic paint with an unusual assortment of objects including feathers, twigs and dried seed heads. The lone ferryboat in the centre of the frame emphasises the scale and tidal ferocity of the sea and evokes the distinct sense of isolation explicit in the article.

The judges praised Simon Pemberton’s work for its “great painterly technique and wonderful colour”.


I grew up on the Wirral which is a peninsula next to Liverpool between the River Mersey and the Dee Estuary. I’ve gained a great deal of inspiration for this piece and for much of the other landscape work I’ve produced by being surrounded on three sides by water and wide, open, windswept beaches. Big skies and dramatic views across the Dee Estuary to North Wales and out to sea fill my memories and I still spend a lot of time there now. Growing up around water you are never happier than when you are in these wide open expanses.

thurstaston beach on the wirral looking over the dee estuary

texture has always been a major visual obsession and in the past I have built installations and collage work using found textures and objects, drawn back into them, painted over them and photographed the results – drawing on steel with a welding torch, collaging with slate and green leaves, feathers, pieces of wood or whatever seems appropriate! a love of texture still fuels my work now with the use of inks, acrylic paint, found textures and drawing all of which I will use to build layers of colour and texture in my work. I often draw in inks using feather quills, dried seed heads, twigs or basically anything that can produce an expressive mark.

The Blackest Isles contains much of these textural experimentations where I wanted to capture the wild landscape and even wilder weather in an intense and expressive way. It is purely an imaginative process fuelled by the evocative writing of the piece. It was a pleasure to illustrate and was very spontaneous. I produced very simple thumbnail line sketches to clarify a composition and then let my imagination take over describing the scene purely with texture and colour, trying to capture the cold, grey/green palette of the freezing stormy seas and sky during the boat journey to the islands described in the text.

ft_shetland sketches