Illustrating Our Bursary-Winning Story

Smiling man in dark checked shirt against Spanish background.

Ged Fay talks about illustrating our bursary-winning story, ‘Fossils’, by Léonie Gregson.

​How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been working as an illustrator since leaving art college in the early 1980s. My first commission for DC Thomson was in fact for “Jackie” magazine, in 1984!

Illustrating is still my full-time job, but I also work as a photographic retoucher, sell artwork online, design book covers, and do graphic design work online and here in Spain.

In addition to illustrating stories, over the years I have also illustrated serials and book covers for D.C. Thomson, mainly for “The People’s Friend”.

How do you go about illustrating a story?

I start by picturing potential scenes in my mind as soon as I read the brief. I’ll do a quick doodle, and basic composition sketch.

Then I read through the full story, making notes about the prominent characters, important details, and anything else I can incorporate into building the scene.

Most of the time, the finished illustration ends up fairly close to those initial rough sketches.

I then send in the illustration to Manon and await approval.

How did you approach ‘Fossils’?

I was honoured to be asked to illustrate ‘Fossils’ – many congratulations to author, Léonie Gregson, for a beautiful story.

As the artwork was needed on a tight timeline, I jumped right in. I read the brief carefully and made notes on special points or features to include. The composition came together quickly, and I like using the Rule of Thirds as a guide for use with the 16:9 format.

I searched for reference images of the Scottish coastline for backgrounds and character photos to work from, making adjustments like eye and hair colour.

Using Photoshop with a digital pen and tablet, I sketched out the rough composition, set tones, added colour layers for the background and characters separately, and rearranged elements as I went.

I wanted a dramatic sky to complement the dramatic crashing waves, so I added elements like a ferry and seagulls.

Timelapse video of illustration

Once the layers were set, I focused on details and final touches like colour grading maps and textures to bring it all together.

You can see my illustration coming together below.

What challenges are there, when it comes to magazine illustration?

The main challenge in illustrating for magazines like the ‘Friend’ is maintaining their expected style and quality standards.

From my early days, I was taught that “I’m only as good as my last job,” so I never become complacent.

I treat every new commission as importantly as my first, ensuring I uphold those high standards.

‘Fossils’ artwork online

Many of my illustrations, artworks and designs are available on various platforms and I also rearrange some compositions to fit standard book cover formats.

A digital download and prints in various sizes can be purchased here:

Overall Winner of bursary competition, Leonie Gregson

Leonie Gregson


Read more about our writing bursary competition winner Léonie Gregson, to find out how this win will help her writing aspirations and what inspired her poignant story… 

Léonie’s story is included in the May 4, 2024 issue of “The People’s Friend” magazine, and you can buy a copy of this issue now.

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!