Poster boy

Charlotte Pearson talks to an artist about his tourist prints which marry vintage and modern perfectly.

Posters from the forties and fifties evoke a sense of nostalgia, making you reminisce about a by-gone, glamorous era.

DSC05106So it is no wonder that David Thompson’s pictures, influenced by retro tourist campaigns, are proving so popular.
“I have sold a few thousand,” he reveals. “I was walking down a road in Southsea the other week and I could see a flat had one of my pictures. People tend to buy sets, so it is nice to know people like them.”

Recreating posters with a vintage feel by using simple shapes and muted tones, David has given places such as Portsmouth’s Albert Road a retro overhaul. Here old meets new with the recognisable sign for Little Johnny Russell’s hanging proudly against the backdrop of the historic King’s Theatre.

Other works include the De La Warr pavilion in Bexhill on Sea, Beachy Head, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Needles on the Isle of Wight.

good copyLooking at his style it is not a surprise when he mentions which artist has acted as his inspiration.
“I am influenced by Norman Wilkinson, who created tourist posters in the thirties, I like to use similar colours and style,” he explains. “To create a print I work from photographic references and build up the image that way. My pictures are quite architectural. The skill is in taking the photography right back to basics, what’s left out is often more important than what is left in. It’s about strong lines and shadows.”

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, David attended Newcastle School of Art and Design before moving to the south coast in 1982. Having worked as a commercial artist for many years, with advertising agencies and for the past 20 years as a freelance illustrator, he has also created a series of illustrations for bus timetables for London Transport.

David uses a computer to build his images, which was not the case in his first job.
“When I started out, cut and paste was exactly that, you cut things out with a scalpel and glued them down to build up an image.
“You can achieve so much on the Mac now but I’m glad I have an art school background,” he reveals.
“The great thing with using a computer is that I can experiment with the colour, so make a cloud yellow or purple and I can play about with the different hues to get it right.”

sevenWith buildings, boats and cars at the forefront of his prints, David doesn’t tend to use people.
“My prints are very nostalgic, so I don’t have a lot of people in them, unless they are being created for someone in particular.
“For example, I did one of someone skiing because the person wanted it,” he says. “But for commissions you have to get them spot on and there is a lot of added pressure with doing that.”

A piece can take two to three days to create, commissions can take longer but is something he is enjoying.
“It means I can do something a bit different,” he reveals. “My daughter got married in a botanical garden in Scotland so I used that for the invitations and then the table settings were my pictures of different beaches in Scotland. Her friend is also getting married in Richmond Park so I have made a print with their names and the date. It is nice to think someone will get it framed and have it forever.”

He adds that these pieces are not reproduced anywhere else and the copyright goes to the people so they own it.

But has there been any design that hasn’t been successful?
“There have been a number of prints that just haven’t worked out, either because I had a commission or something I needed to do instead or I have just had to stop,” he recalls.
“There are so many places to choose from on the south coast, there is so much scope as to the things I can do.”

And I for one look forward to see what he comes up with.

David’s print cost between £20-£30 with commissions being more.

For more information, visit

All pictures provided by David Thompson