The Colour Edit: Jon McNaught

An intelligent and evocative us of colour plays a huge part in the poetic nature of the work of British illustrator Jon McNaught.

Known for creating stories that seamlessly blend comics and poetry, the world in which Jon’s stories take place is a sea of muted, complimentary tones. Deep soothing purples swim into rustic peachy-browns and midnight blues seep through warm greys – all working together to create an intoxicating lullaby of colour.

When telling a story, Jon strips the everything back to the very basics and often tells whole stories without a single word. Similarly, his colour palette is never over-worked. Out of his whole portfolio, these two qualities are most prominent in Pilgrims, a 7 page comic Jon created for Nobrow’s A Graphic Cosmogony which follows a small group of tourists on their visit to a church.

The entire story is told in a simple blend of overlaid blues and pinks and not a single word is uttered throughout, creating a vivid quiet and shifting focus to more subtle aspects such as the historic architecture and dramatic casting of light through stained-glass windows. These seemingly mundane details grab your attention and pull you into the church and by the end you find yourself holding your breath so as not to disturb the silence which surrounds you. The way in which Jon uncovers these almost majestic qualities from seemingly mundane details evokes a powerful contradiction.

The quaint, often very British, setting in which his stories take place seem comfortable and familiar whilst at the same time having an air of mystery about them.

So to the blend of soothing tones can seem calming one moment and curiously thought-provoking the next, creating a sense of intimacy and wistful setting.


Despite being complexly emotive, the range of colours within the palette Jon uses is limited. This, and Jon’s form-focused drawing style, comes from his practice as a print maker. Whether it is a single page contribution to The New York Times or a full graphic novel for Nobrow Press, Jon applies his skills as a traditional print maker to digital work using layer after layer to build up his deceptively simplistic yet bold images.

Using this traditional layering technique for colour, Jon adds more than just a enticing hue. With each layer he builds, an emotion comes with it. As these layers blend together and seep through one another they create a deceptively simple style and tell a story full of quiet wonder and air of mystery.


Posted on Nov 26th, 15 by

Greg McIndoe - also known as Headless Greg - is an illustrator and design writer based in Glasgow, Scotland. He regularly writes for design magazines and online platforms, interviewing fellow illustrators and leading creatives.

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