About Me

Simon Tonkin is a writer and illustrator from Bristol. His poems first began littering the Small Press scene in the early Seventies and he won the Dylan Down the Ups short story competition in 2009. Since then he has become a full time artist and writer.

He was born in Bristol in the autumn of 1953.  As he was to tell Dylan much later, in a very one-sided conversation in St. Martin’s Churchyard, Laugharne,

We passed each other in the hall / my brain was fresh, uninjured then / while you were adding insult to yours

House Portraits form the backbone of his illustration business. However, with his passion for drawing matched by that of his for literature, so it seemed appropriate for him to combine the two and he began drawing writers’ houses.

Inevitably, his first such drawings were all connected with his favourite poet, Dylan Thomas and that work is still available from his website and also in and around Laugharne – in particular the Boathouse itself.

His first novel, The Writing Shed – as the title suggests – has the presence of Dylan Thomas at its heart. He’s working on a second, Other Tongues and hopes to complete that shortly

What ever happened to that beautiful boy?

OUTSET Bristol - 1st Birthday Party at Circomedia, Portland Square on 3 November 2011
More than 90 guests attended a celebratory event to mark Outset Bristol’s first birthday. The event was supported by Bristol-based ‘Trunki’ entrepreneur Rob Law MBE and the keynote speaker was The Right Honourable The Lord Mayor of Bristol.


Chuka Umunna MP – Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills – visited Outset Bristol today to experience first hand our business start-up support. Mr Umunna, Dawn Primarolo MP and three local Councillors, Cllr Jeff Lovell, Cllr Derek Pickup and Cllr Colin Smith, met the Outset Bristol team and seven new micro businesses created over the last 12 months with the support of Outset Bristol. 

The Outset Bristol clients attending the meeting embraced the opportunity to explain their business plans to Mr Umunna and to talk about the barriers micro-businesses face in starting up.

Mr Umunna commented: “It was a real pleasure to learn more about the great work that Outset Bristol is doing. I’d like to congratulate everyone involved. The work they do to help people achieve success, particularly those who are usually under-represented in business, is highly admirable and great to see in practice.”

The businesses represented included: The Creative Den, Katy’s Campers, Carpandgard, Due Torri Moto, Happy Dayz Cleaning Services, Homedraw and Sonja’s Cafe.

At the end of the event I was able to present Mr Umunna with a framed print of  my drawing of Chatterton's House - with the proviso he make note of the fact of its current condition and the hope he might bring some attention to bear. He seemed happy to accept the gift.

Simon Tonkin – Homedraw

Simon Tonkin from Homedraw at home in his studioWith redundancy looming after 21 years working for John Lewis, Simon Tonkin decided to view his redundancy as an opportunity and went to local business start-up organisation Outset Bristol for support to start his own business.

“I determined that if I was going to carry on working – and finances alone dictated that – then I would try to earn money doing something I enjoyed,” says Simon. “I’d always been creating artwork and managed to sell a few pieces from time to time. During one particularly successful period I’d considered the possibility of becoming self-employed but felt that with a young family and a mortgage the gamble was too great. Now that my children were grown up and had left home, and with redundancy money to help ease myself into it, this was my chance.

“Having previously drawn my brother’s house as a birthday gift I also happened upon an advert in ‘Country Life’ for an artist who took commissions for house portraits. When I investigated further I felt I would be able to achieve more pleasing results and at a more competitive price.”

Simon was referred to Outset Bristol by his local Jobcentre Plus, and went on to receive more than 40 hours of advice and support to help him start his business. “I was lucky to be pointed toward Outset Bristol within the first couple of weeks. They only confirmed what I suppose I already knew… that I didn’t know enough about starting up my business. Through their good offices I began to consider ways of providing myself with other revenue streams. I began proper researching of the market and my competitors, and began to develop ideas on how I might progress my business, taking it into areas and to other customers I had not previously considered.”

Simon progressed through Outset Bristol’s Introduction to Enterprise and Business Start-up programme, taking on vital advice and guidance about how to run his business. “It could have been done in a matter of fact manner, liberal use of printed material for example – but everyone at Outset has been so friendly and encouraging and I knew very early on that their advice was up to date and accurate. I didn’t think I was short of confidence when I started but without the help of Outset that initial enthusiasm would have soon faded in the face of my ignorance of the world of business. Ultimately it’s still going to take my drive and determination to get my business growing, but it now has such a foundation that I’m only looking forward.”

Simon’s business Homedraw specialises in house portraits where clients commission him to undertake detailed pencil drawings of their homes, past or present. “House portraits will always form the backbone of my illustration business. However, with my passion for drawing matched by that for literature, so it seemed appropriate for me to combine the two and begin drawing writers’ houses. Inevitably, my first such drawings were all connected with my favourite poet, Dylan Thomas. Now I’m increasing my portfolio to include the residences of other writers (Hardy, TE Lawrence and Chatterton for example) and setting myself the task of seeing where I can find markets for them. I already have the prints of Dylan Thomas on sale in his Boat House in Laugharne and 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, where he was born.

“I looked upon my redundancy as an opportunity and had my business idea in mind but no real idea how to start. The free advice and training I’ve been given by Outset Bristol has been absolutely priceless and shaped my approach to starting my business completely. It’s also comforting to know that even when I’m trading I can still go to the specialists at Outset and get advice to keep me pushing on.”

To find out more call Simon on 07748 164580, email or visit