Illustrator Tom Hovey has worked on every series of The Great British Bake Off so far – including the forthcoming series 7. In the video above - recorded after series 6 was shown - he tells us how he makes bad cakes look great, and what his favourite cakes to draw are.
Bristol-based, I caught up with Tom on a trip to London at creative cafe Drink, Shop and Do to find out how he creates such mouthwatering artworks – even when the cakes themselves haven’t worked out as well as the baker hoped.
Tom has been The Great British Bake Off’s illustrator since the competitive baking show first debuted in 2010 on BBC Two. From humble beginnings, it grew to become the channel’s most popular programme – then moved to BBC One where it proved to be even more successful. The sixth season was shown from August to October last year, and was won by Nadiya Jamir Hussain. The final got an audience of 13.4 million people on the night – 15.1 million including later iPlayer views – making it the biggest TV programme of 2015.
The contestants for the 2016 GBBO series have just been announced, with the show starting on August 24 on BBC1.
The show has also spawned a series of offshoots – including The Great Comic Relief Bake Off, Junior Bake Off and the current The Great Sport Relief Bake Off – all of which Tom has produced illustrations for.
The style of Tom’s artwork for GGBO has also changed over the years. His first artworks were relatively simple black-and-white line art – but since then he’s developed the style of the works into full colour pieces. Tom also says that through working on the show, he’s also just got better at drawing cakes and other baked food.
It might surprise some viewers that Tom never gets to see the cakes in real life. He’s sent photos of all of the cakes after filming, from which he produces quick pencil sketches – “banging them out” in mere minutes. He then inks the linework over a lightbox, scans that into Photoshop and colours each digitally.
Tom says that his favourite types of cake to illustrate are the more ornate, such as the Religieuse à l’anciennes from episode 8 of the last series – towers of eclairs.
Away from GBBO, Tom produces work for a wide range of clients from the Glastonbury Festival to Cycling Plus magazine. Last year also saw him paint one of 50 five-foot high sculpture of Aardman’s Shaun The Sheep for the Shaun In The City charity project. The sheep were recently auctioned for children’s hospital charities, raising £16,000 for his alone and over £1 million overall.
Thanks to the staff at Drink, Shop and Do for accomodating us for this interview (and feeding us wonderfully too).