Tom Hovey, the illustrator behind the delicious ‘Great British Bake Off’ designs, on how the show catapulted his career

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For more than a decade, The Great British Bake OffWhere The great British pastry fair, as it was known here in the United States, celebrated the art of baking, with amateur competitors making amazing confections of flour, butter and sugar. But before the show reveals those finished creations, it whets viewers’ appetites with colorful illustrations of each bakery, which for all 13 seasons, as well as various specials and holiday spinoffs, were designed by the artist from Bristol. Tom Hovey.

Now 39, Hovey had moved to London and was struggling to find work as a young artist in 2010 when a friend introduced him to an entry-level publishing job at a new cooking show. In this case, this show was Pastry shopwho had just started his very first season – and by chance Hovey confessed to his new bosses that he was an aspiring illustrator for whom a TV job was nothing more than a paycheck.

“One day they came back from lunch, pulled me aside and said, ‘While editing the first episode, we realized there was a little visual element missing from the show. The bakers are throwing flour and eggs in the bowls, then sit on the floor and watch the ovens for 20 minutes – it’s hard to understand what is actually being created We would like you to try to give viewers a way to understand what the bakers are preparing ,” Hovey told Artnet News.

It took a few drafts, but Hovey was finally able to create the first of the colorful illustrations that would quickly become a staple of the show.

Tom Hovey at work in the studio. Photo courtesy of Tom Hovey.

At first he refused to tune in to the show. “I couldn’t watch it at all, because I wasn’t very happy with my own creative output,” Hovey admitted.

Now, he makes sure to catch at least the first episode of each season, to put a face to the names of the bakers whose work he illustrates.

At first, Hovey created the designs at night and on weekends while continuing to work in the editing bay. But after three years, he was able to quit and make freelance illustration his full-time job.

The artist was also able to strike a deal with the show to share the copyright of the art, where the production company, Love Productions, owns the colorful graphics as they appear on screen, while Hovey retains rights to the original line drawing. (This means it can sell prints of his illustrations.)

A planned baking by Guiseppe Dell'Anno for The Great British Bake Off.  Photo courtesy of Tom Hovey.

A firing planned by Guiseppe Dell’Anno for The Great British Bake Off. Photo courtesy of Tom Hovey.

These drawings, which he created by hand for the first six years using Posca paint markers, have even been shown in museums, notably in the exhibition “The clamor of ornament: exchange, power and joy from the 15th century to the present day“, which closed in New York drawing center last month.

Because many of his early drawings were rough sketches with ink blots, Hovey decided to loan the museum’s works of art to the museum. Great British Bake Off Coloring Bookreleased in 2016.

Many of them depicted “the ‘best’ of baked goods from past seasons, but I redesigned them to better fit a coloring book, with more lines and more detail than you would get on TV” , said Hovey.

It was this project that convinced Hovey to move from hand drawings to a fully digital production process.

A planned bake by Paul Jagger for The Great British Bake Off.  Photo courtesy of Tom Hovey/Love Productions.

A cooking planned by Paul Jagger for The Great British Bake Off. Photo courtesy of Tom Hovey/Love Productions.

“Having an analog part of the process takes time,” he explained. “I would start by drawing each pastry in pencil, put it on a light board and trace it in ink using the thinnest tip possible, then scan all of those individual pieces and touch them up in Photoshop and add color and brush strokes. graphics.”

It was the scale of the coloring book project that broke the camel’s back.

“Zooming to 300 or 400 percent to erase all the little ink splatters that came off the end of my pen, it drove me a little crazy,” Hovey recalls. “I thought, ‘I’m never going to use a pen again!’ So I went out and bought a Wacom [tablet].”

He was initially concerned that fans of the show would notice the change and complain.

“So I took a long time to create a pen in Photoshop that pretty much replicated the one I was using in real life,” Hovey said. “Six years later, nobody noticed!”

Today, he runs a small business, Studio Hoveywith a team of dedicated employees and freelancers who help produce Pastry shop illustrations in his distinctive style for about eight months a year, from April or May to December. He spends the rest of the year on other projects – food illustration has become his sole focus, but he’s branched out into tastier dishes.

A planned bake by Kim-Joy Hewlett for The Great British Bake Off.  Photo courtesy of Tom Hovey.

A cooking planned by Kim-Joy Hewlett for The Great British Bake Off. Photo courtesy of Tom Hovey.

“As much as I’ve drawn thousands of cakes, I haven’t drawn all the foods, so it’s fun and exciting to explore different types of food. And because eight months of the year is basically cake drawing, I look for anything and everything different just to keep a level of sanity,” Hovey said. “When I started Pastry shopI never thought that would be the hallmark of my career!

He also participates in an internship program at the University of the West of England in Bristol which helps illustration graduates get started in the field. The program also allows her to meet the demand created by the seemingly endless flow of Pastry shop shows, including the junior edition, US version, and specials for charities, celebrity guests, and various holidays.

(He first hired help in 2016, before his daughter was born, recognizing that he was exhausted and that maintaining his current workload on his own was becoming impossible and unsustainable.)

But no matter the variety of the show or the challenge, Hovey’s task is always the same.

“My mandate is to draw a representation of what the bakers plan to create in the tent as if they had sketched it at home in their kitchen,” he said. “That’s why you see the illustrations in an open book on the kitchen counter.”

A planned baking by Selasi Gbormittah for The Great British Bake Off.  Photo courtesy of Tom Hovey/Love Productions.

A cooking planned by Selasi Gbormittah for The Great British Bake Off. Photo courtesy of Tom Hovey/Love Productions.

To accurately represent each cooking, Hovey receives photos of the finished dish from all angles. In more recent seasons, the production team has also had the bakers take photos of their work while practicing at home, so Hovey can get a better idea of ​​their planned vision even if she doesn’t. is not carried out successfully in the tent.

“Most of the time in their training space when they have all the time in the world and no pressure from the television, it goes much better,” he admitted.

Although he has illustrated more than 3,000 pastries over the past 12 years, the artist has never really tasted food, although that may seem like a natural perk of the job. In fact, he’s only been on set once, when he visited his wife in 2014.

“It was quite nice to see the tent in person, but the reality is that it’s a long day of filming, and if you don’t arrive at the right time, there’s nothing to eat. You have to hang out, and we were just in and out really,” Hovey explained. (He was invited back several times, but never succeeded.)

Une cuisson planifiée par Helena Garcia pour <em>The Great British Bake Off</em>.  Photo courtesy of Tom Hovey/Love Productions.” width=”1024″ height=”654″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/10/3394-1024×654.webp1024w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/10/3394-300×192.webp300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/10/3394-50×32 .webp 50w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/10/3394.webp 1240w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/></p>
<p id=A cooking planned by Helena Garcia for The Great British Bake Off. Photo courtesy of Tom Hovey/Love Productions.

Despite being a self-proclaimed foodie, Hovey isn’t too fond of sweets: “I don’t run away after drawing and either eat cake or want to bake some. I’m just not into baking or desserts.

But while he didn’t develop any baking prowess during his time working for the show, Hovey’s baking lexicon has certainly expanded with once-undiscovered treats like thousand leaf and ganache are now child’s play to illustrate. And he is constantly amazed by the abilities of bakers and what they are able to achieve artistically.

“The skill level of bakers has gone up every year,” Hovey said, citing contestants Helena Garcia and Kim-Joy Hewlett as his personal favorites. “In the early series, the bakers really stood out when they made something amazing. Now it’s like every week…every baker makes amazing stuff.

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