Artist behind mural in Sheffield shopping precinct shortlisted for prestigious World Illustration Award

An artist has been shortlisted in the World Illustration Awards for his work on a colourful, large-scale mural, located in a prominent Sheffield shopping precinct, which depicts the city’s industrial heritage.

Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 12:38 pm

Will Rea’s memorable 50-foot masterpiece: ‘Workings of Sheffield’ on the public wall overlooking the courtyard in Orchard Square took around four months to complete, and was unveiled in March 2020.

The piece is up for a gong in the site specific category, and is among 200 pieces that have been shortlisted from 5,280 entries by judges in the World Illustration Awards (WIA), presenting some of the most striking illustration work from around the globe.

Will, who works creatively under the name Willustration, said being shortlisted and recognised by some of the world’s foremost designers, artists and illustrators felt ‘incredible’.

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Will Rea next to his Workings of Sheffield mural on the public wall overlooking the courtyard in Orchard Square

He adds that it also feels quite ‘surreal’ because of the timing of the mural’s unveiling, which came just a few weeks before the first national coronavirus lockdown.

"Because of Covid I didn’t feel like people really got to see it before they literally locked Orchard Square up,” explained Will.

The WIA are presented by the Association of Illustrators (AOI), in partnership with the Directory of Illustration, and the winners of this year’s awards will be announced on October 12.

Ren Renwick, CEO, of the AOI said: “The World Illustration Awards offer a brilliant platform to discover exciting new illustrators. The shortlist brings diverse talent from across the world together in one place. Illustrators at every career stage, from emerging to established are represented.

It took Will four months to complete the 50-foot artwork

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“The shortlist is a fantastic place to find global talent and in the face of recent challenges, now more than ever, it’s so important for the industry to connect illustrators with new clients and commissions.”

A printed catalogue featuring all 200 projects is circulated to commissioners world-wide to further promote shortlisted entrants, and is available for sale through the AOI.

Freelancer Will described how he wanted to capture the ‘can-do and colourful spirit of Sheffield’ along with the city’s industrial heritage through the mural, for which he combined bright ‘abstract patterns’ with ‘line work’.

The Workings of Sheffield mural has been shortlisted in the World Illustration Awards 2021

In addition to needing to paint around windows and the existing structures in place within Orchard Square, Will also commenced work on the mural during winter 2019, which was Sheffield’s wettest year on record, with the majority of rain falling in November of that year.

"It wasn’t the greatest time for exterior work,” joked Will.

But he received help from Sheffield friends and after a number of stops-and-starts, and the installation of scaffolding, was able to complete ‘Workings of Sheffield,’ which was commissioned by London and Associated Properties (LAP) who have owned Orchard Square since 1999.

When LAP commissioned the largescale piece of public art in 2019 they asked local artists to create submissions to the brief of ‘what Sheffield means to them’.

Nicola Blake from LAP said: “We are absolutely delighted that Will has been shortlisted for this prestigious award, recognising his talent that we are so proud to have on display at Orchard Square for our visitors to admire and enjoy.”

While the pandemic did slow things down, Will, who lives in South Yorkshire, has been busy since finishing Workings of Sheffield and has completed a number of art and illustration projects in venues such as The Leadmill and at Twinkl’s head office on Ecclesall Road and the Pinnacle student halls in Park Hill.

He has also begun work as an art educator, helping to inspire the next generation of designers through a scheme used in schools across South Yorkshire, in partnership with Sheffield Museums and the V&A Museum.

For more information about Will search for the @willustration_ handle on Instagram and Twitter, or visit: www.facebook.com/willustration.co.uk