Cover stories: Issue 20.3 by Grace Russell

Grace Russell is a London-based freelance illustrator whose work has appeared regularly in Rouleur. Other clients include the Financial Times, V&A, Sony and The Scientist. See more of her work at

When Andy, the editor, contacted me at the end of March to discuss creating the cover illustration for the next issue, the message to convey was clear  hope.

Not only did the lead interview focus on Chris Froome’s resilient return from a life-changing crash, but the world was (and is) in the middle of a pandemic that threatens how we live our lives. The illustration needed to emit Froome’s phenomenal mental resilience and also the world’s.

It was a super quick turnaround with roughs due in a day-and-a-half, and finals four days later, so Andy and Rob [Rouleur’s designer] had some great prompts already for the concept and colours. Out of the (many!) roughs I came up with, we decided on one that had Froome at the top of a climb, overlooking the mountains with the sun rays streaming down on him.

Even though he was alone, it was important that he didn’t feel isolated. The illustration needed to convey that while it can feel like a lonely struggle, we are all in it together. Getting enough depth and atmosphere into the piece was really crucial to this and finding the right balance between the dark moodiness and the lighter elements.

Natural landscapes are my default, my go-to subject when I don’t know what else to draw, so this was an added bonus to the project. I start all of my illustrations with traditional techniques, drawing out the whole image with pencil and then creating a ‘base’ from collaged bits of magazine and textures I’ve created by hand.

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Then I scan this into my computer, clean it up a little, and layer over more magazine pieces and textures that I’ve scanned in. Finally I switch to my iPad and work into the piece with digital paint, giving life to the image with shadows and highlights and all the finer details.

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