Television’s Tommy Shelby – the kingpin character of BAFTA award-winning Peaky Blinders – is giving graduate illustrator Harry G Ward a career boost.
A digital painting by the 23-year-old – entitled ‘Cracks’ - is gracing billboards on roadsides up and down the country as well as the BBC’s digital, online and social platforms.
The piece forms part of a major publicity campaign by the broadcaster to promote the fifth series of screenwriter Steven Knight’s crime-gang drama, the popularity of which has also helped spark a new festival for fans.
Harry, who graduated with a BA (Hons) Illustration degree from the University of Cumbria’s Institute of the Arts in 2018, is one of 16 winners of a FanArt competition run by BBC Creative.
More than 1,000 pieces were submitted by fans from across the UK before winners were chosen ahead of the fifth series being aired.
Creatives and fans of the show were invited to submit a ‘one-of-a-kind static poster artwork’ inspired by characters of the Birmingham based show.
‘Cracks’ (pictured) captures different sides of the drama’s lead character, which is played by actor Cillian Murphy.
Harry said it ‘felt too good to be true’ when he discovered he’d won.
“I entered the competition initially to try and add something to my portfolio - I had no thought of winning,” said Harry.
“This has given me a big boost, particularly in my mind of where my work can take me. The exposure has been way greater than I could have ever imagined. Seeing it up on a billboard is one thing but the use of the artwork on BBC iPlayer and featuring on the homepage of Sky is very surreal.”
Harry says his artwork was created using a tablet, stylus and Photoshop software.
Describing his methods, he added: “I tend to paint in greyscale first to get the tonal values and add colour layers on top, similar to the techniques of some of the old masters.
“The main direction in the brief was to convey two sides of main character Tommy Shelby, the side that’s becoming crippled under the weight of power and circumstances and the strong leader who manages to keep his composed exterior. The best way to show this was to convey several emotions captured in one scene, inspired by multiple exposure photography.”
Harry has praised Dwayne Bell, programme lead for illustration at the university’s Institute of the Arts, for his support since completing his degree at the university’s Brampton Road campus in Carlisle.
“Dwayne has been very helpful since I left, keeping in touch and supporting my progress,” said Harry. “He’s an experienced member of the industry that I’m able to turn to for advice and guidance when I need it.”
Dwayne said: “Harry used his time with us to find out about and gain the skills needed to provide the sort of illustration he is passionate about. A big lad with a big personality, it is great to see that his love of music and pop culture being expressed through his work.
“It pleases me no end to see Harry's illustration begin to gain recognition - it's quite a surprise to turn the TV on and be confronted by your student's art. I’ve got no doubt that if he continues to dedicate himself, we’ll all be seeing a lot more of it in the future.”
The finale of Peaky Blinders series five is due to air on BBC One on Sunday 22 September at 9pm, with the first four series available on BBC iPlayer and Netflix.