Biro miniatures by Greg Gilbert

Working in blue biro, Greg Gilbert’s miniatures draw on city council photo archives and render elements from different times in exquisite detail. We talked to him about creating work in this unusual medium

Bus, miniature biro relief

[Update 10/02/17: Greg Gilbert was recently diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer that has spread to his lungs. He is unable to take the free immunotherapy drug available on the NHS (he is genetically incompatible) and so his fiancée Stacey Heale has set up a GoFundMe page to help raise the money for his treatment. If you would like to contribute to the fund, the page is at MS]

Back in January, we retweeted one of Gilbert’s images – Priest and Rabbit, a biro miniature – and discovered that he was in the middle of working towards an exhibition at Southampton City Art Gallery, set to open on March 20.

Gilbert has been working with the city council’s photo archive to create a series of biro ‘reliefs’ and acrylic paintings – four of the new biro miniatures are shown here. Inspired by Stanley Spencer’s reimagining of Cookham Village, the show will depict a “mythologised Southampton”.

“I’ve always been interested in the relationship between art and photography, particularly in the work of Walter Sickert and Gerhard Richter,” Gilbert explains. “And from the beginning I’ve used family photos as a source for detail and fragments.

“The idea of overlapping epochs, different eras bleeding through each other to create new associations has always fascinated me and working from the archive has given me a much broader palette with which to address this.” Gilbert says that adding a three-dimensional ‘relief’ element to each of the works helps to further emphasise this overlap.

Bench, miniature biro relief

The drawings also owe something to the compositional traits found in ‘icon’ painting, Gilbert explains. “Many of the pieces have absorbed elements of the illuminated manuscript, so there is also a clash between contemporary imagery and medieval design sensibilities,” he says.

Although he also paints and works in pencil, Gilbert’s recognisable medium of choice – blue biro – adds another element of friction to his work, particularly when applied to its historic source imagery.

“Working in biro is a tentative process and I’ve ruined many pieces trying to speed up,” he admits. “It’s a total investment, working inches from the card, my breath is in the ink. But I like the definite mark you can get from biro with even the lightest touch, as well as the uniform texture of the finished pieces. There is no real rehearsal for either the drawing or scalpelling – so there is a real sense of relief when each piece is finished.

“I only work in blue as I want the medium to be obvious and I also find it has echoes of faded newspapers and tattoos, which has parity with the somewhat haunted subject matter.”

Gilbert’s artistic talents aren’t solely confined to pen on paper either; he’s also the singer, guitarist and founder member of The Delays. You can see what they’re up to on Facebook, while two of their biggest tunes are here and here.

Having designed and drawn several of the band’s sleeves over the years, Gilbert started to present his art in its own right in 2013 – his website,, features an idea of the kinds of beautiful work he has made since then and is well worth checking out.

Greg Gilbert’s work will be shown at the Southampton City Art Gallery from March 20 until July 18. More details at Gilbert’s work can be seen at

Antlers, miniature biro relief

Train, miniature biro relief

More from CR

Ads of the Week

Alongside the great campaigns for Dulux and the Clinton Foundation that we’ve already featured on the blog, this week has thrown up some other advertising beauties to share with you, including work for Converse, Ray-Ban, Earth Hour, Ikea and, um, Tena Men…

CR March iPad edition: The On-screen issue

The March issue of CR, which looks at the world of creativity on-screen, is also available for iPad, where you’ll find all the print mag articles and exclusive additional content in Hi Res, our showcase gallery section, and CRTV, with video profiles of creative people, animations and other moving image work from around the world….

Designers use Everyday Things to promote Earth Hour 2015

To promote Earth Hour 2015 – a global lights-out event to raise awareness of climate change – WWF and environmental charity Do the Green Thing have commissioned designers and artists to create a series of products using everyday objects. Inventions include a functioning paper record player and some charming robot toys made out of stencils…

Under a black flag

Opening news bulletins all over the world the Black Standard of Islamic State has become a familiar sight: what is the significance of its design?

Graphic Designer

Fushi Wellbeing

Creative Designer

Monddi Design Agency