Domanic Li

Domanic Li is an illustrator whose practice includes research projects, private and commercial commissions.


At the heart of all of our Illustration and Animation lecturer’s varied work is a genuine love for drawing.

Drawing is what got me into art and design in the first place,” says Domanic.

And his lectures at Hull School of Art and Design (HSAD), where he has taught since 1997 are, he says, informed by this passion and by his own experience as an Illustration student on an experimental course.

“It was a real-eye-opener,” he says. “I still refer to it now – it was a course with an open approach. Students were encouraged to dip into other fields, such as model-making, or graphics.”

arctic corsair

This interdisciplinary approach to illustration practice has characterised Domanic’s work ever since.

After graduation, he moved straight into industry, via the New Designers exhibition.

“I picked up my first commission on the day of the exhibition,” he says. “The following day, I landed an agency, The Organisation, which I am still with for commercial work.”

british extraction colour

Initially working with paint and print, Domanic’s professional career took off with editorial work, later moving into digital illustration at a time when technology was little used by illustrators. His work was selected for publication in industry magazines, such as Computer Arts, Computer Active and, notably, Image, the Association of Illustrators’ annual publication. Freelance commissions followed.

“I was quick to realise, freelance work is not just about the work, it’s about giving people the confidence to trust you and give you work in the first place,” he says.

Having embraced the digital technology that was emerging in the 1990s, Domanic says:

“You can make things as easy or a difficult as possible, you just have to commit. My attitude was if I could learn the digital packages, then I could concentrate more on applying it to help me produce and develop work. I could see the potential of it.”

Now, in addition to his ongoing freelance practice, Domanic’s work can be seen advertising cultural events around the city of Hull, at conferences, on various online platforms and, increasingly, in progress, as he creates live drawings or paintings, either to accompany events, or for his own Urban Sketching research project.

Urban Sketching began as a personal challenge,” he says. “I had students telling me they couldn’t manage to fill their sketchbooks with work, that they had difficulties with location drawing. So, I realised it had been a while since I had done purely observational work and went out on the streets one summer to sketch.”

full_panorama + Other Sketches

Leading by example in this way was not only highly satisfying. It also inspired others. Domanic was soon joined on the project by Illustration, Animation and Games Design lecturer Gareth Sleightholme. Gradually, HSAD students, fellow academics and other creatives in and around Hull also began to stop, look around them and document the sights of the city, adding their own scribblings to an online urban sketchbook.

And, with each individual uploading their work to a website, Domanic’s germ of an idea has grown into a vibrant research project.


Domanic’s live painting projects include work has been seen at arts and music event Something Entirely Different, also at Fruit, at the two-day gaming conference Platform Expos and at the city centre’s Humber Street Sesh music festival.

Street Sesh painting with Dom

He also designs posters for Cult Cinema Sunday at Fruit, in Hull’s cultural quarter, Humber Street, as well as for Fudge café/restaurant’s Fudge Film Night.

You can see some of Domanic’s varied illustration work at his various online Sketchbooks and blogs, [1], [2], [3] as well as keeping up with his current work on Twitter.

Gareth Sleightholme

Games Design. Animation. Visualisation.  Inspirational platforms to fire the imaginations of the next generation of Hull School of Art and Design (HSAD) creatives  …and the research interests of lecturer Gareth Sleightholme.

A prestigious early career in historical illustration for museums and set design for theme parks all over the world set the creative bar pretty high for Gareth. And, as one of the key driving forces behind several HSAD research projects, Gareth believes it is vital to continue to raise the bar, without losing sight of basic creative skills.

Historical and Acheao

Gareth’s industry and academic background began as an historical illustrator for East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s archaeology unit. He then trained in Art and Design, and completed his BA Hons with Animation specialism at Norwich University of the Arts which allowed his creative interests to flourish.


Drawing on his historical illustration skills, Gareth has spent over 15 years in the theme park and visitor attraction industry, designing sets and themed environments and producing artwork for attractions all over the world. An impressive portfolio includes designs for London Dungeons; Sea Life Aquariums; Santapark in Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland; at the same time developing a post as visiting lecturer at his former university, where he helped to develop an MA in Animation & Sound Design.


A move to Essex and a role as Creative Director of a company called HPL saw Gareth explore 3D visualisation and production design for the likes of Virgin, Orange and Blackberry, and take his work to new parts of the world including Florida.


Becoming somewhat “disillusioned” with work in the corporate world, in 2008 he returned to Hull to teach at HSAD and resumed his freelance practice with theme park design; historical work for the museums services in Norfolk, the Midlands and Manchester; and most recently theatrical posters in Hull and Manchester and freelance production design works for an aquarium in Eastern Europe; and designs for themed attractions at a well known castle in Northern England.

“I continue to work as a freelance creative for clients that stem from a variety of markets that keep my knowledge of the various disciplines in which I teach current and vital. Some of these are projects which take me outside the typical workplace developing resources that can inform projects and discussion with students, for example working with Lego in Denmark, and recently producing concept art for a heritage project in the Caribbean.

It helps when working with consultants and spokespeople involved in developing links between students and SSC’s as well as other clients and industrial links – For example being asked to act as support on a five day project at the World Skills Conference 2011 in London, or helping Yr 2 Games Design students engage a unique client through which they exhibited their work in front of a unique audience.”

Themed Stuff

On the Games Design BA  – a focal point of Gareth’s teaching at HSAD – his production design input reflects the type of work he developed in his career in physical theme park scenarios. In other words, students build 3D environments, just here they do it digitally. Working on a project called The Streets, students are asked to research a local thoroughfare, then as a group develop a believable, “evolved” environment. As the project grows year on year, so does a digital “city” and alumni are invited to donate buildings to help create a sense of connection to creatives beyond the course itself. Of course there is always the reward of playing a “game scenario” in this extending environment at the end of the module as well.

Students can collaborate with Gareth and colleague Paul Starkey to help develop an actual game in progress. Rabbit Heart is a learning resource that will ultimately spawn a book, The Tale of Rabbit Heart, providing tutorials for anyone conducting independent research in this area.

Work by Gareth and Paul and their students is regularly showcased at the annual Platform Expo convention in Hull (this year in November, 2013.

He has shown his own sequential illustration comic book art, The Indian Fighter, (image) at last year’s ThoughtBubble Animation and Sequential Art Convention in Leeds; expanding upon his work in illustration, drawing, infographics and concept visualisation.

Gareth also expects to complete an MA in Design in August 2013, Visualising Educational Concepts For Art School Students. A subject he tentatively intends to push on into research towards a PhD.


As part of his Masters study, he is developing a number of board games, one, Game Hacker looks to help his students understand game play and the development of game mechanics.

“It’s almost a Lego kit for board games,” he says. “I give them the basics and let them make up the rules as they go along. It’s all part of my research in process, primarily about the ways in which students learn or interface with learning, particularly those who have chosen a visual subject area”.

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Another board game encourages students to become confident with the basics of drawing, and developing their draughtsmanship. I like students to look at the whole journey of developing a skill such as drawing, making mistakes included, which is difficult because they tend to focus heavily on each individual drawing they do. This encourages them to draw from real life and not worry too much about what they’re drawing.

Iron Shod Comics

“The idea is to start students off in their comfort zone until they become confident enough to naturalise their drawing process. In other words, they ‘get over themselves’. It’s a great teaching tool that emphasises self-motivated learning in the student while generating work. It works for animators, games designer and graphic designers.”

The basic craft of drawing forms another one of Gareth’s major research interests. Liaising with Jackie Goodman & Sarah Humphreys on research into the importance of Drawing, including helping develop the course structure for Medical Students SSC to explore drawing as part of their learning process.

Hull Urban Sketchers is a collaborative project with Illustration and Animation lecturer, Domanic Li. At its heart it celebrates the process, and the joy, of drawing. Its premise is to lead by example, and encourage students to build confidence in their drawing skills, in particular, drawing from observation in the urban environment through which they move everyday.

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Gareth’s urban sketches and other work have been shown at; Studio Eleven art gallery, in Humber Street, Hull; ArtLink gallery in Princes Avenue, Hull, and Hull School of Art and Design.

Regarding his continuing work in education,

“I love the idea that I’m now doing an MA when I’m from a housing estate in Withernsea,” says Gareth. “There’s something fundamentally liberating about education. You should be able, if you have the will, to get out.”

Keep up-to-date with Gareth’s blog and his latest creative outpourings:

Here him talk to an audience about his work and projects HERE, or look through his online portfolio at:

Email Gareth at: