V&A Illustration Awards: In Conversation with Daniel Dzonu-Clarke (Student Runner Up, 2012)

National Art Library
March 16, 2020

Daniel Dzonu-Clarke is an illustrator and painter who has a keen eye for design. He was nominated Student Runner Up, 2012 for his sensitive book ‘Heygate Memories’.  His ability to combine strong geometric shapes with a gentle presence, into designs of elegant simplicity is expertly done. Bolstered by a strong colour palette, these elements combine to create a visual treat.

Guest artist design for Real Skateboards

What made you want to become an illustrator?

Growing up with skateboarding in my life, I was always attracted to the graphics on the boards and I would create my own with stencils and spray paint. I started doing this around the age of 11 and it led to an interest in drawing, which I delved into further when going to college and studying graphic design.

It was only then that I realised that illustration was an actual profession, and that I could get work making those graphics.

So, after college I enrolled in an illustration course at Camberwell University and during this time I made my first graphic for a skateboard brand called Blueprint.

Product range for the Barbican

What does Illustration mean to you?

For me it’s having an idea and being able to get it down on paper.

Sometimes it will feel like what you initially thought of, but sometimes it might not and that can be a nice surprise.

Have you ever felt discouraged, if so, how did you overcome that feeling?

Definitely, it’s the biggest hurdle to getting started on a new piece of work. I sometimes question if I’m wasting my time with illustration and whether I should be using that time to do something more meaningful. I’ve found ways to work for clients that mean something to me and do good things, but I still find myself questioning it. It’s only when I put pencil to paper that it goes away and I remember why it’s so important to me.

Being able to think of something and visualise it in front of yourself is such a simple yet special thing.

How did it feel to be nominated Student Runner-Up for the V&A Illustration Awards?

Really good, even if it was runner up, haha!

What projects and commissions have you been working on recently?

I’ve been working on some collaborations, some skateboard graphics for example and a few editorial pieces. At the start of the year I went on a long train ride from Berlin to Rome and back, while traveling I was keeping a sketch book and drawing loads. I’m now working these up into a series of paintings which I’ll publish as a book this year.

Cover design for Clerkenwell Post

How do you overcome creative blocks?

Stepping outside and wondering about with my sketchbook. It’s the only way I’ve found to get around it.

Macba Museum

Which of your projects has been an important factor in developing your personal style?

It’s always been drawing trips where I’ve kept a sketch book.

One trip I made to Rio a few years back brought a whole new colour palette to my work and encouraged me to draw more natural landscapes.

Why should illustrators enter the V&A Illustration Awards?

It’s a good way to get your work out there.

Poster for Colorama

What is the most poignant piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Get away from the computer and experiment more.

After finishing Uni I was using programs like Photoshop and Illustrator a lot which was good for finishing up art works, but it caused me to drift away from experimenting with different materials and techniques. Since receiving this advice I’ve taken it on board and found a new renewed love for painting and collage.

To see more of Daniels’s work visit his website or instagram feed @danieldclarke 


Entry to the V&A Illustration Awards has now closed.

The V&A Illustration Awards 2020 shortlist will be announced in April. The display will be open Tuesday 2 June – Sunday 13 December 2020.

A short history of the V&A Illustration Awards and a complete list of past winners can be found on our website.

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