British illustrators reveal the icons that inspire them in celebration of Black History month

To mark Black History Month and Visual Trend History and Memory this October, we challenged three up and coming illustrators to each create two pieces of art featuring the people they believe have shaped, and are shaping, the UK’s black history.

Tasked with reimagining these icons combining old-world art styles with new technology, the first of our two illustrators, London-based Dorcas Creates and Josh OB, took inspiration from the pop art movement of the 1950’s to create a series of illustrations of their heroes using Adobe Stock and Creative Cloud.

Malorie Blackman & Alexandra Shepperd

Dorcas Magbadelo’s first illustration reimagines authors Malorie Blackman and Alexandra Shepphard.

**Adobe: Who are your icons and what made you choose them?

Dorcas: Malorie Blackman is an author with over 50 books under her belt, was awarded an OBE by the Queen for her contribution to Children’s Literature and held the position of Children’s Laureate from 2013 to 2015. Her novels are fiction and usually explore social issues in a dystopian nature, with many exploring race relations.

Alexandra Shepphard, who is a social media professional by day, recently followed her dream of becoming an author and wrote a novel called ‘Oh My Gods’ which is available nationwide, documenting a half-mortal teenager growing up in London.

Both of these women are currently doing incredible things in the literary world, and fantastic role models for today’s youth.

Adobe: How did you create your illustrations and why did you choose Pop Art?

Dorcas: I used a number of Adobe Stock image assets to create the background – including florals and a union jack (ID: 84805067, 192232908, and 80931362) – and then used ID: 106494506 to create the headdresses.

Why pop art?

Dorcas: Although the look and feel of my work is similar, I wouldn’t say my style is specifically pop art.

I have a vibrant illustration style that’s inspired by wax print fabrics, I grew up seeing daily. In my work, I always aim to showcase black women in a fun, positive light hence the use of bright colours and detailed pattern work. I love art that’s emotional and complex, however I also think there’s a need for pieces that bring joy to the viewer; particularly work for and by black women.

Nicholas Okwulu of Pempeople

Dorcas’ second illustration portrays Nicholas Okwulu, founder of Peckham-based social enterprise Pempeople, an organisation and shop that empowers the local community to learn new skills and share knowledge.

**Adobe: Tell us a little about the illustration and how you created it.

Dorcas: I chose to do something a little different with this illustration, positioning it on traditional African patterns, which I thought did a great job of communicating both mine and Nick’s African heritage, all of which were taken from Adobe Stock (ID: 186842364, 81860891 and 90009742). I also used Adobe Stock assets to create Nicholas’s jacket (ID: #186842075) and T-shirt (ID: 183625981).

**Adobe: What made you choose Nicholas as one of the icons you wanted to recreate as part of Black History Month?

Dorcas: Nicholas is creating an amazing legacy for my local community in Peckham. He’s the founder of Pempeople, a shop and community organisation based in the area that empowers the local community to learn new skills and share knowledge.

Some of the Adobe Stock assets used in Dorcas’s illustrations

Letitia Wright

**Adobe: Who is your first icon and what made you choose them?

Josh OB: I decided to bring to life British actress Letitia Wright in her role as Shuri in Black Panther, a big budget, Marvel blockbuster that took Hollywood by storm earlier this year by featuring an all-black cast in a story about a fictional town in Africa called Wakanda.

Letitia who is just 25 years old, grew up in Tottenham, North London and was born in Guyana, which are both a long way from LA, she got her breakthrough with Black Panther after her determination led her to email lots of agents for different roles, which I think is incredibly inspiring.

**Adobe: How did you create your illustration and why Pop Art?

Josh: I used the asset (ID:167733515) to add the African pattern to his illustration of Leticia, as well as Adobe Stock asset (ID:70609012) for the inclusion of the spears.

Adobe: Why pop art?

Josh: I believe pop art expresses true art. To me art is all about aesthetic, it should be something that the viewer enjoys looking at and that they can recognise. Pop art picks out the iconic moments in our current world, so can be considered as a sort of history, which is special to me.

Trevor McDonald

Josh’s second illustration is of news anchor Sir Trevor McDonald who is arguably a national treasure in the UK. The Trinidadian-British journalist was an ITV news reporter for 30 years and was knighted in 1999 for his services to journalism.

Adobe: What makes Sir Trevor McDonald a black icon for you?

Josh: Trevor was the first black man to have a regular news reading slot on national television. Many will remember Trevor’s News at 10 and look back at them fondly, he was the first black man they saw regularly on British television and he made ‘and finally…’ an unforgettable catchphrase.

Adobe: How did you create this image?

Josh: I used Adobe assets (ID: 186842220) for the African print background and (ID: 211310774 and 17069561) for the television and camera man silhouette showcasing Trevor’s role as a news anchor/presenter.

Some of the Adobe Stock assets used in Josh’s illustrations

Check out our final illustrator’s reimagining of some of the UK’s black icons, artist Keeks The Label, who took inspiration from the 19th Century impressionist era.

Do you have anyone to add to this list? Let us know who you think has influenced the UK’s black history at @AdobeUK! Or fancy creating your own artwork with Adobe Stock? Sign up to our free trail to get 10 free images: