Chris Madden

Chris Madden

(He/Him) • Manchester, UK

Biography Interview

Chris Madden is a graphic illustrator from Manchester, UK; he specializes in conceptual editorial illustration and also enjoys working on creative marketing and branding campaigns. He loves nature and animals and has illustrated a number of non-fiction picture books on the subject.

Chris is married with 3 children and a tortoise named ‘Sheldon’ and, when he is not making images, enjoys going on adventures with his family, playing video games and developing an unhealthy obsession with pottery.

Selected clients

Google, Wendy’s, Quarto Group, Adweek, RyanAir, Wall Street Journal, Audubon, The Barbican, The Economist, Monocle Magazine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, The Guardian, The Southbank Centre, The Financial Times, Wired, The Times, Waitrose, Morrisons, Reader's Digest, The Hollywood Reporter

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  • John Burroughs Association Riverby Award 2019

Chris Madden

Your pronouns

Where is home?
Manchester, UK

Describe your illustration style in one sentence
A bright, colourful mix of creative concept and humour.

What lights your soul on fire?
The sound of my children giggling in another room.

What themes do you enjoy exploring in your illustrations?
The most consistent theme I try to explore throughout my work is ‘fun’. I tend to work on assignments with quite dry copy, and on a wide range of subjects, so if I can inject a little bit of humour or fun while also delivering the correct message, then I feel like I have succeeded.

What techniques do you use?
I use a variety of techniques; beginning off-screen, I hand make all elements of my image, using pen, ink, brushes, cut paper and more. Then I scan those into my computer where I assemble and colour all the elements in Photoshop.

How much of yourself and your own story can we see in your work?
I think it is impossible to be a creative person and not express your own personality within your work. If your art is authentic, it is automatically an expression of your self.

What do you want to be known for?
I want to be known for being kind, inclusive and reliable.

Which projects excite you most?
Honestly, most of the projects that come my way excite me. After 13 years of illustrating professionally, I still can’t believe I get to do this as a job!
I love editorial illustration because each assignment is its own creative puzzle to solve. I still get a kick out of seeing my work in the real world…any project that ends with me holding a tangible version of my work is wonderful.

What is your dream gig?
I would love to make more books! I have a great love of food and drinking (both making and consuming), so I would jump at the chance to illustrate a cookbook.
Also, it would be very cool to see my work on a huge billboard, one day!

Where, when and how do you best create?
I am very privileged to have a studio at the bottom of my garden, so I can hide away in there any time of day to create. As long as I have a cup of tea and some music, I’m good!

How has your style evolved since you started?
I think my work fluctuates between bold graphic shapes and more intricately detailed images on a regular basis. I can work in a variety of different styles so if one begins to feel stale, I can gradually shift to the other. At the moment, I am enjoying more graphic elements again.

What do you find most challenging in your practice or in the illustration industry?
The most challenging thing for me, as a freelancer, is the uncertainty. Not having a solid idea of when the next job is coming in can be quite tough…even more so now I have children depending on me. However, this is something I have become accustomed to over the years.

How has being an illustrator changed your life?
Being an illustrator is the best job in the world; I can work from literally anywhere in the world with a Wi-Fi connection. No job is ever the same as the last. I was able to stay home and care for my children before they started school, while also working on editorial assignments and picture books. So many reasons…

Name a tool you can’t live without!
A pencil and a scalpel.

Tell us about a project you worked on that was meaningful to you as an artist.
My first picture book, ‘We Travel So Far’ was a big moment for me, accomplishing a childhood dream to see my name on the spine of a book.

What influences or inspires your art?
Anything and everything. I love to walk around observing my surroundings and finding a little spark of an idea from an unexpected source.

What would you tell your younger self?
It will all be worth it in the end!

Why do you think art speaks louder than words?
Art can convey a message, a protest, evoke a memory, make you laugh, make you cry, make you angry, make you smile…all without ever saying a single word.

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