Meet the winners of BBH’s Unsigned Prize for Illustration

Following an open call for submissions, BBH has selected the winners of its Unsigned Prize for Illustration, which aims to provide a platform for emerging creatives without commercial representation

The Unsigned Prize for Illustration was launched this year to support emerging illustrators, designers and typographers. An extension of BBH’s Unsigned initiative – which was set up to showcase creatives without commercial representation – it offers five creatives a chance to have their work featured in an exhibition at the agency’s London HQ. One winner will also be awarded a solo exhibition at print shop They Made This, along with mentoring to help curate their show, and the offer of commercial representation from BBH’s in-house illustration agency, Black Sheep.

BBH put out an open call back in June, inviting creatives to respond to the theme of ‘good news’ with an original or existing piece of work. After reviewing submissions, the Unsigned team have revealed the five winners for this year’s prize, with one overall winner to be selected after the exhibition, which is scheduled to take place in October this year.

Designer and illustrator Charlie Haydn Taylor was selected for his submission, A New Beginning, which shows a couple who’ve received some life-changing good news in the form of a new arrival.

A New Beginning by Charlie Haydn Taylor

Joshua Obeng-Boateng’s work, Sungazing, was created “to bring joy in tough times” and is described by the London-based illustrator as “an embodiment of daydreaming”.

Sungazing by Joshua Obeng-Boateng

Ellie Hawes’ vibrant submission was inspired by news that Belgian crane companies had been helping families stay connected during lockdowns by lifting people up to the windows of older relatives who were shielding in high-rise apartments.

Ellie Hawes

Patrick Thomas’ illustration depicts a positive aspect of life during lockdown, with an image inspired by sunny days spent outside. “The good news that I keep coming back to is that as a result of lockdown, nature is being allowed to thrive, and people are appreciating their time outside so much more,” says Thomas.

Patrick Thomas

Holly Arnold’s artwork, When This Is Over, combines a series of pencil drawings showing people coming together and embracing, which were created during lockdown. Arnold has been selling A3 prints of the artwork for £5 through Instagram, with proceeds going to The Ambulance Staff Charity.

When This Is Over by Holly Arnold

The brief for this year was conceived as a welcome relief from the negative news that has dominated 2020. Nnena Nwakodo, producer at BBH, says the agency was looking for thoughtful, emotive and joyful responses, as well as distinctive artwork and strong execution. “What stood out to us about the winning entries was the creative and original interpretations of the brief,” she explains.

Art director Stephanie Flynn says the team also found themselves drawn to work featuring faces and groups of people – a reflection of how our perceptions of good news and positive imagery have changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and how visual creatives have been responding to this in their work. “It will will be interesting to see how what we’ve all been through in 2020, will shape the look of work maybe even for the next decade,” Flynn adds.

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A massive congratulations to our winning five Pat, Joshua, Charlie, Ellie and Holly! ????????????⠀ ⠀ Their final submissions will be on show at our 2020 Unsigned exhibition, with attendees being given the opportunity to vote for their favourite piece! ⠀ The winner will then receive their own solo exhibition in collaboration with @theymadethistagram and artist representation by BBH internal agency, Black Sheep Artists. ⠀ ⠀ We wanted to say a massive THANK YOU for all the brilliant artists who submitted their work – It was so much fun to see all of your good news. Please check out the highlights section to view all of them in one place! ????⠀ ⠀ ⠀ @patgthom ⠀ ⠀⠀ @charliehtdigital ⠀ @elliehawesdesign @hollyarnold24

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As Stephen Ledger-Lomas, head of production at BBH points out, it’s a challenging time for creatives – especially those without support from agents to help promote their work. BBH is hoping its Unsigned programme can provide some much-needed exposure for artists who are just starting out, and help them connect with commissioners and agents who can help them land commercial work.

Offering some advice for other creatives looking to build their profile during the pandemic, Ledger-Lomas recommends that people continue to make and share work: “Throughout this time, it is important to stay true to the path you are on and keep building your style and personal brand throughout this time. The industry will emerge and recover and will need new diverse perspectives more than ever,” he adds.