Thursday, August 13, 2020

Drawing Pontefract

We are very pleased to share this special guest blog post by graphic designer, Georgina Westley about her recent exciting commission for Pontefract Museum.

Back in 2019 I was commissioned to create a piece of travel poster art for the town of Pontefract. This artwork was to be part of an exhibition celebrating the local artist Charles Pears, who hailed from Pontefract. Charles (born 1873) was a British painter, illustrator and poster artist, who during his illustrious career created artwork for London Underground and British Railways.

Charles Pears’ artwork of Paignton features in one of the books I use for inspiration and education.

The exhibition was planned to start in May 2020 but due to the Covid19 pandemic this exhibition has been postponed and the museum hope it will now take place in May 2021 (tbc). So to fill a little gap, those curating the show thought it might be interesting to give you a bit of an insight into who I am, why I was commissioned and how I go about creating this style of artwork.

My name is Georgina Westley (born 1976) and I have been working as a graphic designer for many years, but it was about 7 years ago that I created my first travel poster. At the time I had been enjoying playing about with linocuts (mostly aeroplanes) and my sister-in-law Beth asked if I could create her some artwork of Emley Moor mast. I felt that a linocut print would look too heavy and I’d always admired the travel poster artwork of the 1920s/30s era so I decided to give it a go.

My sister-in-law Beth with her framed artwork. What started as a quiet gift can now be found in many homes around the country.

Beth was really happy with it and passed on lots of positive feedback from her friends, who wanted to know if they could buy one. Around that time, my husband was made redundant, which - whilst horrid at the time - was the push I needed to get my artwork out there, seek new places to draw and begin selling online. I now have over 80 prints in my collection and an inexhaustible list of places and hobbies to get started on.

I love my job, so I was really honoured when Pontefract Museum got in touch to commission me to create a modern day travel poster to commemorate Charles Pears. My brother and his family live in Yorkshire - in fact they used to live in Pontefract - so even though I’m a *whispers* southerner, I am familiar with many of the beautiful towns and villages of Yorkshire.

The museum staff went on a recce for me and took a great selection of photos of the main square and I chose the photo below to form the basis of the artwork.

Great photo to work from but those empty market stalls will have to go.

I think it’s good to be able to see the original photo as it helps you see what I have left out, what I have put in, the colours I have changed, the exaggerated shadows, and where I have forced the perspective to make it as dynamic as possible. You will also notice the big fluffy cloud that I drew to lead the eye and mimic the angle of the church. However, my brother commented that due to the cooling towers at Ferrybridge there was often a big white cloud framing the town, so that was a nice bit of serendipity.

The finished artwork

Working with Pontefract Museum was thoroughly enjoyable. They gave me such a good brief in the first place, I was able to pretty much hit the mark on the first proof. The only changes made after this stage was a lightening up of the cobbles to make it feel more positive, a few pesky pigeons and the addition of flags to introduce a bit of colour. I hope at least some of you noticed the liquorice colours I chose for those flags.

Framed and ready to hang

I am looking forward to visiting the Charles Pears exhibition when it hopefully resumes and am hoping to come and give a little talk as part of the event so keep an eye out for that if you fancy hearing more. But for now, let me leave you with a few other pieces of artwork from Yorkshire - I’ve cropped them to make it a little harder.

The shapes and shades of Yorkshire. Do you know where these are?

For more information on my work, to buy prints or to contact me please visit:

Many thanks to Georgina for her post and the wonderful poster design. If you would like to find out more about Charles Pears and see some examples of his work, check out our online exhibition on Art UK Curations - we've brought together some of our favourite pieces from collections around the UK.

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