Artist Interview with Brian Grimwood

Central Illustration Agency
6 min readDec 6, 2021


Renowned illustrator and founder of CIA, Brian has been working extensively across all platforms of commercial art for more years than is polite to mention. Credited by Print Magazine as having changed the look of British illustration, Brian’s loose, expressive visual language is strongly ideas-led and immediately recognisable.

1. How would you describe your style in 3 words?

Childish, unpredictable, and charming.

2. Having worked extensively across all platforms of commercial art — What has been your favourite project to date and why?

The development of the Johnnie Walker Logo in 1994. During that period, it was one of the most famous marks on the planet. I was extremely flattered to be offered this as no one had been allowed to touch the logo since the brand had started. So I did a lot of work and took drawings in for a meeting and they rejected everything. So I thought well that’s the end of that. Anyways a few months later in Toyko in a cab, when I looked up and saw this Johnnie Walker logo in neon about 40 feet high on the side of the building, looking remarkable like one of my rejected drawings. So I phoned up the design company and asked for a meeting where I was paid a rejection fee for the job!

3. As the renowned founder of CIA, can you tell us a little bit about what made you start the Central Illustration Agency? Where did it all begin?

The CIA started by accident. I employed Pam Oskam (who is now an art buyer at McCann Worldgroup) to represent me. Within one week I had six or seven phone calls from well-established illustrators asking if I had started an illustration agency. At first, I said no and then I thought why not? So, I said yes, and CIA was formed. That was back in 1983; we now represent 106 of the world’s top illustrators, animators and motion designers and have offices across the globe!

4. What is your current workspace like?

Here’s a sneak peak of my studio below. Ever since I was a little boy, I have collected things; a habit I inherited from my grandfather. I still have all my Dandy and Beano annuals along with most of my childhood toys.

5. How has the past year changed the way you work?

Due to the lack of commissions, Covid has really made me reassess my graphic concepts to update my version of lateral thinking. For me it is always the idea and the way that it is expressed that is the most important!

6. We would love to know — where do you find inspiration for your work? Who influences you?

Travelling inspires me, especially the Far East. I used to go to Singapore on a regular basis, staying at the wonderful Raffles Hotel. I designed all their new merchandising when it was refurbished in the early 90’s. I find that travelling influences my work as well as inspiring and refreshing me. It frees up my imagination and subconsciously I take new things on board. Other influences include Howard Finister, Alfred Wallace, Sam Doyle, RA Miller.

7. What is your favourite thing about being a freelance illustrator and why?

Definitely the freedom of creating! From day one as an illustrator, I was determined to interpret briefs my way, in my style, and if clients didn’t like it I saw it as their problem. Fortunately, they almost always did like what I produced, and it was not long before they requested that I just ‘do a Grimwood’!

8. How did you develop your signature style? How does it differ to when you first started out?

My signature style has always been based on my doodles. My father used to play a game with me when I was young. He would ask me to draw a scribble on a piece of paper, then he would transform my scribble into a recognisable picture. In turn, he would make a scribble and I would transform his into a picture. I can see how much this game has influenced me today. My work is very instinctive and celebrates spontaneity.

Some parts of my process have changed dramatically over the years, especially with the advent of the computer. When I first started all my work was done on a CS10 fashion board and now most of my work is produced with the constraint of an A4 scanner. I use a lightbox to create my layers, scan them in individually and then build up the elements on screen. Most days now I produce 3 or 4 illustrations! But the first and most important part of the process is still to think of an idea that will fulfil the brief.

Apart from when I was first getting started, style never interested me. I see style as repeating ones successful accidents. It is always the idea that has been important to me!

9. What advice would you give to an illustrator just starting out?

I believe in the maxim ‘Fake it till you make it’. Think big, be confident, draw in a way that is honest to you. Whatever it takes, make sure that your work looks good and is exciting. Be influenced, reflect the time that you are in. Do your homework to find out who the best people are to approach. Show that you are willing, flexible and reliable.

10. What do you think is next for the Central Illustration Agency?

To continue being the Number 1 Illustration Agency! To continue being the top international resource for the very best in commercial art and motion graphics for the advertising, design and publishing industries.

Love this and want to see more? Take a tour of Brian’s folio here!

If you’ve got a project on the boil and need some inspiration be sure to check out our website and Instagram or get started now by dropping us an email at

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