Phil May was born near Leeds and when only 14 years old had drawings accepted for the Yorkshire Gossip. When he was about 17 he went to London with only a sovereign in his pocket. He suffered extreme want, sleeping out in the parks and streets, until he obtained employment as theatrical designer. He also drew posters and cartoons, and for about two years worked for the St Stephens Review, until he was advised to go to Australia for his health. During the three years (1886-1889) he spent there he was attached to the Sydney Bulletin for which many of his best drawings were made. In 1892, he returned to London to resume his interrupted connection with the St Stephens Review. His studies of the London guttersnipe and the coster-girl rapidly made him famous. It was often said that the extraordinary economy of line which was a characteristic feature of his drawings had been forced upon him by the deficiencies of the printing machines of the Sydney Bulletin. It was in fact the result of a laborious process which involved a number of preliminary sketches, and of a carefully considered system of elimination. His later work included some excellent political portraits. He became a regular member of the staff of Punch in 1896, and in his later years his services were retained exclusively for Punch and the Graphic.