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Meet the artists creating portraits of Britain’s black icons

31 Oct 2018

Malorie Blackman and Alexandra Sheppard, illustrated by Dorcas Magbadelo

As Black History Month draws to a close, three up and coming black British illustrators recreate images of  the public figures they think are shaping the future, using a combination of traditional drawing styles and new technology.

The collaboration between Adobe Stock and each of these promising artists that form part of the next wave of the UK’s black art movement was part of Adobe’s History and Memory Visual Trends forecast which aims to let brands and creatives tell their own versions of the events that have sculpted modern Britain, letting those that are likely to put their own mark on the future visually walk us through the iconic giants that inspired them to live their best lives and let their gifts flourish.

From suffragette-like reimaginings of Dame Shirley Bassey and Diane Abbott, to a portrait of Malorie Blackman, Adobe Stock commissioned each artist to create a visual representation of the UK’s black trailblazers.:

Joshua Boateng

With a nod to the pop art movement of the late 50s that challenged the dominance of fine art with images of mass consumer culture, 19-year-old self taught artist Joshua Boateng also chose to honor one of the UK’s greatest newsreaders, Trevor McDonald and rising star Leticia Wright who’s making big strides in Hollywood and arguably gave us one of the best Black Mirror episodes to date. Boateng says both show that “history can be created now, whether you’re young or old, male or female”. He believes that “by looking at the characters that are writing the story today” we can appreciate our “everyday heroes”.

Dorcas Magbadelo

Dorcas Magbadelo is carving out a name for herself in art spheres with a niche that celebrates the beauty of black womanhood, from playful jewellery, badges and art prints to graphic t shirts and notebooks. She chose to centre her piece on acclaimed authors Malorie Blackman OBE and Alexandra Shepperd to shed light and pay homage to the role literary icons have played in shaping black history.

Having expressed an appreciation for those unsung leaders who work at a grassroots level to improve her local area of Peckham, she also created a piece focused on Nicholas Okwulu. As the founder of Pempeople she’s a fine example of someone committed to empowering individuals to lift up others through the sharing of news skills and knowledge within the south London community.

“Illustrating authors seemed an obvious route for me, as literature is key in almost all areas of modern history, and both Alexandra and Malorie are great examples from the UK,” Magbadelo explained. “Nicholas on the other hand is making waves and building a legacy at a local level in my area, and I wanted to pay homage to that.”


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I’m really excited to share that I was commissioned by @adobestock to create two illustrations for #BlackHistoryMonth encapsulating iconic black Brits using stock elements from Adobe Stock. For the second illustration, I chose to illustrate Nicholas Okwulu of @pempeople. For me, these icons aren’t just household names but also the people that have a direct positive effect on their local community. I had the opportunity to hear Nicholas speak at the @sassyappareluk relaunch event in September and I was struck by how passionately he spoke of his work at Pempeople, which empowers and equips local residents with skills and access to resources they need. Similar to the first piece, I chose to incorporate Wax Print fabric stock images from Adobe Stock into the illustration to create a vibrant image. #ad

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Kia Amoa

Looking to the 19th Century Impressionist movement for her take on the principal figures that have shaped the direction of black history for years to come, digital artist Kia Amoa places the legendary Dame Shirley Bassey and Dianne Abbott together in an illustration that symbolically draws you towards admiring the powerful minds of these women, while also including poet Benjamin Zephaniah in a trio of great black British men illustrated in a second piece.

Amoa wanted to capture “both male and female heroes from different eras, past and present, all of whom come to mind when I think of the UK’s black history.”


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Black History Month 2018: How many faces can you name? As part of Adobe Stock’s History and Memory visual trend, they challenged me to celebrate #BlackHistoryMonth by creating illustrations using Adobe Stock assets. We are taught so much American Black History in schools and tend to overlook our UK heroes, whose contributions are just as important. From celebrities to politicians, protesters, dancers, nurses, writers – these women’s achievements and contributions should be known to us and celebrated loud and proud. @AdobeStock has over 100 million premium, authentic assets to choose from and as a designer it was so useful to have a huge stock of photos, illustrations and vectors to incorporate into my work. #ad

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