'The Man Who Illustrated the Classic TV Series'
Arguably, Australian artist Owen Bell (better known to Thomas fans known as Owain Bell) must have done more images for Thomas The Tank Engine than any other artist associated with the books or television series, with work appearing across various items of merchandise.
Owen was approached by Britt Allcroft in 1986 to create images which fused the stylistic quality of the Railway Series illustrations with the TV Series models and sets for worldwide merchandising purposes. At the time, Britt only had images from the TV Series to use, but over his ten year association with the series, Owen produced hundreds of pieces of beautiful artwork, which captured the look that Britt needed.
From the 1980s to the late 1990s, Owen Bell’s images were synonymous with Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends: VHS covers, cutlery and plates, bed-spreads, alarm clocks, money boxes, jigsaws, ERTL die-cast packaging from the early to mid-1990s, posters for the series, specially commissioned illustrations for 40 Thomas tie-in books, as well as illustrations for the cover art of the Thomas The Tank Engine Annuals from the 1990 to 1996 editions.
Owen’s work was widely praised by Britt Allcroft and the Awdry family, and highly sought-after by copyright holders Heinemann Books and American publishers, Random House. As a special gift for their 50th Wedding Anniversary, Owen produced a portrait of Wilbert and Margaret Awdry holding a model of Thomas, who was looking back at them with a proud smile on his face. The image was used in the 1995 Documentary – The Thomas The Tank Engine Man.