We love being able to share the work of some fantastic artists at Design Instruct. Today, we have Stuart McReath sharing his thoughts on editorial work, London, and being an effective freelancer.

Award-winning illustrator Stuart McReath’s body of work is impressive. He’s been published in such esteemed publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Royal Mail, and The Times, just to name a few. He’s also won D&AD awards and AOI awards for his surreal and darkly symbolic illustrations. Suffice it to say that Stuart McReath has the kind of career most of us dream of and we are so honored that he would allow us to interview him for all of our readers.


Check out Stuart McReath’s interview below. To see more of Stuart’s work, visit his portfolio here.

On how he got started:


I am originally from Salisbury in Wiltshire (near Stonehenge). After growing up with a keen interest in art, I decided to go to Art College in Southampton where I was fortunate enough to have some really great lecturers who inspired and encouraged me to think seriously about a career as an illustrator. I completed a degree at Leeds university which allowed me develop my work and folio. After graduating, I moved to London and started getting some quite good commissions early on. I was signed by a large  international Artists agent which gave me real understanding and insight of how the industry works.

On the process of his editorial work:

The process of working on editorials can vary quite a bit. In some cases I may be emailed the article (sometimes unfinished) with a few notes from the editor outlining the main focus of the story/article. This process more often than not involves  me reading the brief several times, then working up a few ideas, then presenting the art editor/director final sketches. The amount of sketches is agreed beforehand and worked into the overall budget.

Whereas on other occasions the editorial team may have worked out exactly what they want me to do and send me a sketch for me to work up as a full colour illustration.

On his most rewarding experiences being an illustrator:


During my career, I have been very fortunate to have some great commissions – financially through advertising and others that I have received awards for such as those for the Royal Mail (D&AD Award) and The Times Education (AOI Award) to name a few. Every commission is rewarding in its own way but recently I have completed a really rewarding commission – it was an annual report for the RNLI (The Royal National Lifeboat Institution). I was completely amazed how brave and selfless their volunteer lifeboat crews are so it was a true honour for me do to something for such a great cause.

On how he gets his work done:


I use a mixed media mainly. Recently I have been using and experimenting with a variety of print and ink techniques, I find this is usually a great starting point that inevitably ends up in photo shop where the work gets worked up digitally. I have found art directors/editors generally tend to prefer final artwork in digital format also as it is so much quicker to make alterations and overall changes.

On London and finding inspiration:


London is a great place for any creative person, I think it’s just the sheer scale of inspiration you can draw from around you. There is always something new to see and new to do, so it inevitably keeps you mind and work fresh without stagnation. I have recently moved to the south coast which is great and one of the great benefits of being freelance means you can live anywhere. Many of my clients are international now with probably most of my commissions from the USA.

There are lots of places I would love to live and work, I have spent quite a lot of time in South East Asia so it would be quite easy for me to trade the English rat race for a beach hut studio overlooking the pacific ocean. No problem.

A piece of advice:


I would say be flexible, reliable, and accommodating – it’s really important to build good professional working relationships with people. With freelance work generally you only need a few good clients that use you regularly so it’s important to be easy to work with.

Show Stuart some love in the comments below and visit his portfolio to see more of his fantastic work.


Isaac is the Co-Founder and Chief Editor of Design Instruct. He has experience in various design and art related fields including design, illustration, and photography. He's in charge of making sure that Design Instruct publishes high quality content that professional designers and digital artists demand and expect. Get in touch via email and on Twitter as @designinstruct or @IAMTHEGUBE.