Tony Allen: ‘I try to make each new artwork an improvement of the last’

Affinity user Tony Allen is Yorkshire-born but currently living in Kyiv, Ukraine. He explored various creative outlets before making illustration his main focus last year. We chatted to him about his career so far and what he would like to achieve in the future.
Tell us about yourself and your career so far.

I was first introduced to illustration as a viable career option many years ago when I attended York College. I received invaluable mentorship there, especially in my final year. I went on to study illustration at Middlesex University and had my first paid illustration commission a couple of years later. Last year I decided to double down on my career and take steps every day towards reaching my goals.

How would you describe your illustrative style?

I would describe my style as playful, humorous, and full of energy. It’s a hotchpotch of my interests, ranging from mid-century design to outsider art to contemporary illustration.

Being originally from York but now residing in Ukraine, do you notice any differences in the art scene between the two?

Yes, definitely. There’s a thriving scene in Kyiv with so many illustrators that I admire. I follow a page called pictoric.ua on Instagram, and there are some great examples from Ukrainian artists. I’m not very clued up on what’s going on in York at the moment, but Penfold Press is one of my go-to pages on Instagram for inspiration. Dan Bugg regularly works with a small group of highly creative established artists.

Talk us through a typical day for you.

On a typical day, I get woken up by my cat, go for a walk by our local lake, and then have breakfast and coffee with my wife. I check my emails and write to art directors that I would like to collaborate with. After this, I start my workday. We ideally go somewhere in the evening, even if it is just for a local walk.

What influences your creative subjects?

I am inspired by people and what I see around me. For the subject matter of my personal work, it could be a film, a song, or even a word that gives me an idea for a project. For client work, it could be feelings and associations from an article I am to illustrate.

“I started using Affinity Designer last year and couldn’t be happier. I would say that it has revolutionised my workflow.”

When did you first start using Affinity, and how has it changed the way you work?

I started using Affinity Designer last year and couldn’t be happier. I would say that it has revolutionised my workflow. Being able to switch rapidly between vector and raster was a game-changer! It’s by far the most intuitive and optimal software for the type of work that I want to create.

What is on your creative bucket list?

There are many things, but mainly, I would like to make the transition from part-time to full-time illustrator. I would like to take on a wide variety of creative projects and become a highly sought-after illustrator.

Do you have a favourite piece, and why are you so fond of this particular one?

I will go with one of the first illustrations I made since using Affinity. This is an illustration of my cat Diva on a summer vacation. I’m fond of this one because it includes my cat and has a relaxing holiday feel to it.

Who are the artists you most admire?

There are many great contemporary illustrators that I admire. It’s hard to pick just a few. It’s expanding every day. There are a few artists from the past that I regularly return to. These include Herve Morvan, Harry Stevens, and the Provensen’s. It’s a highly competitive industry, so I admire anyone that perseveres.

“The majority of my inspiration comes from life and observing people. I think that’s where the sustenance is.”

Where do you look for inspiration?

It might sound trite, but the majority of my inspiration comes from life and observing people. I think that’s where the sustenance is. As a secondary source of inspiration, I will look on Pinterest, Instagram, Behance, blogs, and artists’ websites.

How have you honed your style and skills over the years?

It’s a continual work in progress. I try to make each new artwork an improvement of the last. I’m grateful for the failures because there’s more to learn from them. I find it helpful to implement constraints. Such as using a minimal colour palette and a select few brushes. This helps me to alleviate choice paralysis and frees me to focus on the task at hand.

Finally, what would you say your proudest moment has been for your work so far?

Seeing my work printed in a publication for the first time will always be a proud moment.


To view more of Tony’s work you can browse his website, Instagram @lightmistedfog and Behance.