Fiction Ed’s Blog: “People’s Friend” Artwork Through The Years

"The People's Friend" Artwork

We’re very proud of “The People’s Friend” artwork you see in every issue of our magazine.

But did you know that when the “Friend” launched in January, 1869, our fiction stood alone, with no illustrations at all?

“Friend” archivist, Barry Sullivan, explains. “Discounting sheet music and the title banner, the very first illustrations in the magazine appeared in March, 1880, to accompany a very un-”Friend”-ly sounding article, “Electric Shocks And Their Uses”.

“This started a trend towards illustrating some of the more scientific or complex articles, but illustrations for fiction pieces lagged behind, somewhat.”

The first fiction illustrations

The first fiction illustration appeared in a Christmas number – Wednesday, December 19, 1883 (price, one penny). The story was “Among The Heather; Or, Romance In The Glens Of Arran” (below).

Photograph courtesy of DC Thomson Ltd.

Fiction was illustrated in our Christmas numbers for the next few years, and by 1887, drawings did start to appear in the main weekly magazine, albeit sparingly.

By 1900 the magazine effectively had two covers – a ‘wraparound’ for ads (as in the edition of Monday, January 1, 1900, below), and then the front page itself.

"The People's Friend" artwork

Photograph courtesy of DC Thomson Ltd.

Around this time, our poems began to feature illustrations, too –

"The People's Friend" artwork

Photograph courtesy of DC Thomson Ltd.

With the advent of our annuals, some lovely cover artwork would appear – such as the Annie S. Swan Annual of 1932 (main image, above). Here’s Annie’s annual from 1925:

"The People's Friend" Artwork

Photograph courtesy of DC Thomson Ltd.

“This “Friend” annual from 1947 (below) features a little Scottie who first appeared on annual covers of the late 1930s, then disappeared during the war years, before making a welcome return,” says Barry. “A  welcome hark back to more peaceful times.”

"The People's Friend" Artwork

Photograph courtesy of DC Thomson Ltd.

More recent changes

Here’s how our covers looked at the beginning of the 1960s:

"The People's Friend" Artwork

Photograph courtesy of DC Thomson Ltd.

“Until the 2000s, the magazine worked with mostly hand-painted illustrations, with only one or two artists sending in work digitally,” says Fiction Team’s Alan. “We also used transparencies from picture agencies, who held banks of stock artwork.

“In the office, we had folders of ‘spec’ artwork – like a picture library.”

Nowadays, artwork is sourced in one of three ways – commissioned from one of our team of illustrators; taken from our artwork archive; or sourced from a picture library.


The style of artwork isn’t the only thing that’s changed – deadlines used to be six or eight weeks. Now, they’re more likely to be six or eight days!

How artwork has changed

“We have certainly modernised the artwork in the magazine,” Alan explains, “but hopefully, we continue to capture the heartbeat of the stories.

“The stories and artwork complement each other, the latter inviting the reader into a story.

“We still have traditional artwork in the magazine, watercolours for example, but even then the work goes through a digital process.”

Moving forward

“We feature a mix of traditional and modern illustrations,” says Commissioning Illustrations Editor, Manon. “Moving gently with the times, and always thinking about what would appeal to our reader.”

“Here’s one of our more modern illustrations, by Sarah Holliday.”

"The People's Friend" Artwork

Illustration by Sarah Holliday.

For more from Fiction Ed Lucy, click here to read her blog.

If you’re interested in reading “The People’s Friend”, we have a great subscription offer available right now. Click here to visit the DC Thomson Shop for more information, or to buy.

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!