Review: AOI Illustration Awards

By / Nov 3rd, 2013 / / No comments
Copyright Lesley Barnes

Somerset House has recently been host to the AOI (Association Of Illustrators) Illustration Awards Exhibition 2013. The awards are judged by a selection of industry professionals including creative directors from Random House, Walker Books and Wallpaper*. The awards are split into categories that represent the diversity of contemporary illustration: Advertising, Books, Children’s Books, Editorial & Social Comment, Public Realm, Research & Knowledge, Communication and Self Initiated Projects. Each category has two awards, one for professionals and one for new talent. So, in essence there is a category for every illustrator. It was nice to see, even at first glance, how hand-rendered illustration is still playing a large part in the digital age. A large black and white mural by Scriberia was drawn on the walls whilst an iPad next to it played an interview with the artist. iPads were situated throughout the three rooms providing extra information about the artists and their work, which gave the exhibition an extra dimension.

Walking through the three rooms, it was nice to see a variety of different styles. Although I could appreciate the work, some of the pieces were not to my taste, but to look at the exhibition as a whole it was a great event to showcase the breadth of illustration out there. Ultimately I would not say that it is showcasing the best in new illustration, more a decent selection as well as showing the potential and opportunities for illustration and illustrators. To view the exhibition from this angle makes it seem nothing short of incredible.

However, it was the last of the three rooms, which I feel held the treats of this exhibition. This is where you could find the children’s book and advertising illustrations. Although the work is split into categories, it’s easy to forget which you are looking at as you appreciate each piece as it’s own entity. I was particularly drawn to Lesley Barnes’ (‘Professional Winner’ of advertising category) posters for the Museum Of Childhood, commissioned by AMVBBDO. They stood out as they were bright, bold and fun. A world away from many of the more detailed, darker pieces in the previous rooms, I found Victoria Turnbull‘s illustrations from her book ‘The Sea Tiger’ especially intriguing and she nabbed the award of ‘New Talent’ in the children’s book category. I think that’s why this exhibition is a good showcase for illustration, as there’s the opportunity to see work from both already established professionals and up-and-coming bright young things.

This is a fantastic exhibition for illustrators to see what else there is out there, and how their work can be used in industry. I always feel it is good to actually go to an exhibition to see a selection of contemporary illustration. It’s so easy these days to stay home, go online and source illustration inspiration, but to have it all in one place, and somewhere as beautiful as Somerset House, is a real treat. Although the exhibition has now finished at Somerset House, I highly recommend you visit the exhibition on its next stages of the tour.

The exhibition will next be touring to: Swansea Metropolitan University, Blackpool and The Fylde College, Nuneaten Museum and Art Gallery, and Guildford House Gallery. Find out more at:

See Scriberia’s work at:

See Victoria Turnbull’s work at:

See Lesley Barnes’ work at:

Photos of exhibition courtesy of Sara Thomas. You can see more of her work at

This post was by Alice BowsherAlice is an Illustrator, and graduate of Bath School Of Art And Design. Now working freelance in Leicestershire, she loves most things that are funny and involve animals. She is also excited to be one of Ohh Deer‘s most recent bloggers. You can see her portfolio and find out more about her at

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