Oliver Raw

July 18, 2016

We are delighted to share an interview with Oliver Raw of Raw Illustration today, a self-taught freelance illustrator based somewhere between Sweden and Asia.

He works with clients all around the world and regularly designs for newspapers and magazines mixed with children’s illustration.


  • When did your interest in design first start and how did that come about?

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in drawing. Though I never formally studied art I always kept it up. Gradually – and rather stubbornly – I realised it was probably my main strength and that I should try and make a living from it.

chaplin cutout 3 medium res

Most early gains came from politely bothering people.

  • What steps did you take to get to where you are now as a designer?

Finding a style that suited me was the first step. I tested out various things and eventually hit upon something that worked for me. Then it was a case of sending out the portfolio to anyone and everyone. Most early gains came from politely bothering people.

buddha lowres

  • How would you describe your style?

A little bit of mid-century children’s illustration, something of the aesthetic of Japanese printmaking, bit of cubism? Or at least that’s the kind of artwork I enjoy most.

I used to work entirely digitally but these days I sketch by hand before working it up on the computer. I cut things out, paint textures and scan the lot. I guess you could call it “digital hand-made images”. An obvious contradiction but it sort of fits.

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  • What kind of designer do you want to be known as?

Well I’m foremost an illustrator. I think I’d like to be that rare thing: an artist and illustrator.

underwater car

  • What are you working on currently?

I’m learning about printmaking at present. After modifying computer pixels for most of my career, it’s nice to be working by hand again. I’m also developing a book of illustrations, which I can’t say too much about just now (sorry for being coy).

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  • What advice would you give emerging designers wanting to build their portfolios?

As I have not taken a course of study in illustration or design I can’t really speak for the value it has on one’s career. My best advice would be to look at as much art or design as you can and find the stuff that inspires you. Channel your influences to help you find your own voice. The goal should be to create a body of work that’s both consistent in quality and style.

wearable tech cut medium res

  • What would be your dream design gig?

I’d like to illustrate books. My own books even better!

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  • Looking ahead what are your major goals for the next couple of years?

I hope to find a balance between commission work and personal work while learning more about traditional techniques. I’d like to combine my illustration with some of my other interests, like writing and photography. A graphic novel perhaps?

boat cutot medium res

  • If you were a pattern what kind of a pattern would you be and why?

Can patterns be random? I’d be one of those because I like an element of unpredictability.



profileI’m a self-taught freelance illustrator from UK, based between Sweden and Asia and working with clients from around the world. Leaving England at 18, I headed first for Paris but I was soon lured eastward. Over the past sixteen years I have lived in India, Korea, China and Thailand.

I’ve been calling myself a freelance illustrator for the past seven or eight years and during that period I’ve worked regularly with newspapers, magazines, along with advertising and children’s illustration. I still can’t shake the travel bug and I often work as I travel.

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