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Meet The Great British Bake Off illustrator: Tom Hovey

How did you get the job of the GBBO illustrator?

It was a case of being in the right place at the right time. I moved to London to seek fame and fortune but I had no job to go to, so a friend managed to get me a job helping out in the edit for a new amateur baking show. I was working in the edit suite with the Series Director and Editor when they mentioned that there was a visual element missing from the show, and that they were thinking of including some illustration. I said I could do it, pitched a few ideas and got the gig. 1000 cake drawings later I’m still going!

What’s the process that you use for drawing a bake?

I receive a pack of photos of the finished bakes from the set after each episode has been filmed that I use for reference. I sketch out all the bakes quickly in pencil to get the details, form and shape I am after. I then work these up by hand drawing them all in ink, then they’re scanned and coloured digitally, and then I add the titles and ingredient arrows. It's a fairly well streamlined process now.

How long does it take you to illustrate a bake?

It varies as we move through the series. At the beginning there is more time because there are more bakers and therefore more bakes to illustrate for each episode. In the later episodes there is less time and less bakes to illustrate so it's all relative. On average it takes about a week to illustrate and deliver an episode.

Are you always happy with the outcome?

Nowadays I am much happier with the way the graphics look than I used to be. It took me until Series 4 before I really felt like I had figured out the keys to unlocking the style I had been striving for in the first three series. I’m really happy with how the graphics have looked over the past few years but I’m constantly looking for ways I can push the work forward and show the bakes in the best light.

What’s been your favourite bake that you have ever drawn or found the most challenging?

It changes every series as the skill level rises each year. John’s Gingerbread Coliseum from Series 3 was amazing but the gingerbread episodes are always a challenge. Some are more like technical drawings than cakes! I don’t have a favourite bake because there has been so many! I loved pretty much everything Luis created last year, his Stars and Stripes Éclairs were probably the favourite bake out of all of them to illustrate, and the colours were so bold and beautiful.

Have you ever got it really wrong?

My illustrations are a representation of what the bakers hope to create. Even if the bakers don't produce what they’ve intended to I have a degree of artistic license to make them look good.

What’s been your favourite bake of series 6 to illustrate so far?

This series has been jam-packed full of incredible bakes! I loved Paul’s King of the Jungle 3D bread sculpture for its ambition. Flora’s Earl Grey Tea box was beautifully decorated with all that intricate piping and Nadiya’s ingenious Fizzy Pop Cheesecakes was fantastic because it was so different to any other cheesecakes I’d drawn before.

And finally… are you a good baker?

Unfortunately not! After several attempts at baking bread that came out like bricks I gave up. So I do all the cooking at home and leave the baking to my wife.