Toby Atkins | Tweed Wearing Japanophile

'Relishes the impending doom of a deadline, enjoys wearing tweed and distrusts ducks...'

Artist Toby Atkins self potraitToby Atkins is a London-based artist and freelance illustrator. He graduated from Norwich School of Art and Design in 2008 with a 1st class BA (hons) degree in Graphic Design - Illustration. His work centres around a firm grasp of historical styles and techniques that enable him to gently satirise modern society in a uniquely comical manner. His diverse artistic interests include anatomical illustration, mythology, anthropomorphism, the Blues, ukiyo-e print masters, Akira Kurosawa films, and 50's graphic novels. History of art directly informs his approach to each brief; his love of drawing forms the foundation of his versatile use of media.

Toby's first collection is now available on HATCH click here to take a look.

Geisha Punk - Toby Atkins  Samurai Punk - Toby Atkins

We caught up with Toby to ask him a few questions.

H: Toby before we talk about your art….couple of things.......'tweed and distrusts of ducks?'
T: I started wearing tweed in the early 2000’s, I have always used old photos as reference for my illustrations and so when I came across the occasional suit in a small shop I’d fall in love. Now it’s been in mainstream fashion for a few years I feel a little lost as to what to wear! As for ducks, they’re clearly up to something, it’s in their beady little eyes...


H: Where does your interest in art come from?
Probably from my family. My Mum’s house is always covered in paintings, drawings and postcards and absolutely full of illustrated books. My Dad and I used to draw together, he’d name an animal and we’d both draw it from memory, it started training my imagination and it’s still a lot of fun to do with some mates after a few beers. 

H: In your bio you mention interests that include - anatomical illustration, mythology, anthropomorphism, the Blues, ukiyo-e print masters, Akira Kurosawa films, and 50's graphic novels.......what's the story behind each one?

Toby Atkins Stag Beetles
T: There isn’t really a story to be honest, they’re just a few of my core influences. They don’t all fit nicely together but in my head it all sort of works. I’ve never stuck to one way of working, I am always looking for new ways to draw based on finding some new piece of ephemera that inspires me and these subjects tend to be regular 'go-to’ sources for me. I’m happy with being eclectic, and not prescribing to what an illustrator should do, which is to have a portfolio full of one style so it’s easier for art directors to 'pigeonhole’ you. If you can work in a variety of ways do so, musicians tend not to have this problem they can be multi-instrumentalists and play a variety of music, so why should an artist be any different?

H: So what exciting project(s) are you working on right now? 
T: At the moment I am doing a few sketches for a series of mono-tonal samurai punk prints. Sort of Edo samurai, meets London punk scene with Mad Max and Akira vibes. Each print is featuring a different member of the band, so far it’s been a lot of fun to work on.

Utamaro - Toby Atkins

H: What would be your dream commission?
T: Though a lot of my work features singular images I really love graphic novels and so I’d love to have the opportunity to have one published one day. An advertising campaign for an international brand though would be nice too, I'd really love to see my work on a billboard...

H: If you could make a list of your favourite contemporary artists, who would you pick?
T: I absolutely love Shaun Tan’s work, he is a creative powerhouse but he is particularly inspirational to me because through his work I learnt that an illustrator can work in as many styles as they want to and yet still be successful. Mike Mignola, James Gurney and Aaron Horkey are favourites of mine as well as the mangas of Otomo Katsuhiro and Miyazaki Hayao.

H. Banksy…..any thoughts?
T: I think he is an interesting figure politically. He uses his art to highlight our core problems as a society in a succinct and powerful way that is instantly accessible and memorable, that’s impressive.

H: If you were to tag yourself on HATCH, what 3 words would you use?
T: Imaginative, Eclectic and a bit Daft?!?

H: Outside of art what feels like love to you?
T: I love to go on long excursions in Japan with my wife when we are visiting my in-laws; long drives past rice fields, winding mountain paths, lined with cedar trees, playing with the dogs, cool autumn nights, alpine air, onsen steam, the feel of tatami and the roar of rivers.

H: How would your friends describe you?
T: Shorter than average… You’d have to ask them I guess, probably that I’m pretty stubborn, it’s a family trait!

H: We are bombarded everyday by bad news, what one thing would you change in the world if you could.
T: Probably to end the destruction of the world’s habitats to protect the creatures of this planet. I love animals both as subject matter for my work and just to observe. I once met David Attenborough, a personal hero of mine.

H: Ok last one......tell us a secret?
T: I’m scared of ghosts, totally irrational I know! Oh and dark water but I think they’re both due to an overactive imagination.

We are delighted that Toby has joined the Hatch family and we will be adding more collections of his work over the next 12 months. Join our mailing list here to get updates about upcoming shows and new artists.



  • I love this work

  • I must say, in my opinion, Toby Atkins is one of the UK’s finest and most talented illustrators. His work is so refined and a personality and character that truly is warm and genuine. Each new work I wait to see with sheer excitement! What an artist. Pure talent packed inside a wonderful man.

    David Wertheim

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