The Big Draw @ Affordable Art Fair 2014 - Interview with Lesley Barnes October 24 2014

Big Draw Interview: The Campaign for Drawing’s Hayley Chan interviews her illustration hero Lesley Barnes!

HC: Hi Lesley, firstly, thank you so much for your time! Let’s launch right in:

What influences/life events would you say have led you to your iconic illustrative style?

LB: I think the fact I am self taught probably makes my style distinctive.

I draw lots of equine characters and I think my love of horses came from my older cousin. When we were kids she used to draw and write all these amazing ‘pony’ novels…and inspired by her I just started drawing horses of every shape and size. I still draw a horse most days…it’s the thing I find most natural to do.

I have also always loved to read and Greek Myths have always fascinated me. The stories are brilliant and I love the fact that myths (and indeed folktales and legends) come with multiple retellings and variations and are thus really open for interpretation. This makes them especially wonderful as a source of inspiration for illustration. 

HC: Tell us a little about your working process - when you create an artwork, how do you normally start and then develop your ideas?

LB: I think like most people I start with really rough sketches (or really roughly cut out shapes) and then I just go from there.

HC: What happens with your rejected ideas and drawings?

LB: Many of them end up in the bin…but…. quite often a rejected idea for one project can be the beginning of another. So whilst I wouldn’t say don’t throw anything out I would say don’t throw everything out!

HC: It’s currently Big Draw month! Have you taken part in a Big Draw before?

LB: I think this is the first year that I have been properly involved and I’m so pleased and honoured to be taking part in such a fun way.

HC: What is the most challenging brief you’ve ever faced?

LB: I’m working on a kid’s book with Tate Publishing at the moment. It’s been something I have being doing over a long period of time and it’s a very special and important project for me as I’m both writing and illustrating it!

HC: How did you come to be an illustrator?

LB: I’m not quite sure! I didn’t study it at art school or anything I think illustration just chose me! I can’t imagine not drawing or creating things - it’s just such a huge part of who I am. That’s why something like The Big Draw is so important… I want everyone to share that special feeling that I get when I make something.

HC:  If you weren’t an amazing illustrator, what other profession would you choose?

LB: Definitely something involving colour! Maybe I could be the person who makes up names in a paint factory?

HC: We love your exotic bird workshop that’s planned for Affordable Art Fair, it gets people’s imaginations blooming to draw by building with balloons and bits and bobs. If you could choose only one drawing tool to use for the rest of your life what would that be?


LB: Probably scissors (I think you can definitely ‘draw’ with scissors)! I actually find shapes easier to understand than lines and sometimes my animals and birds begin as simple shapes I have cut out from paper. Hopefully lots of people will come along and cut out and decorate their own birds this Saturday - I’m looking forward to an amazing flock of imagination and colour!

HC: The Campaign for Drawing deeply believes in the importance visual literacy and want to encourage everyone to explore their own.  As a brilliant visually fluent illustrator, why do you think drawing/this is important?

LB: Yes I think it’s really important! I love the way that illustration is a kind of universal language. One of the main reasons I became an illustrator in the first place was because I had such a strong connection with the images I remember from picture books as a child. Somehow these images helped me understand the world and myself even before I could read the words. There is a very special connection between children and those first illustrations they encounter.

More information on Big Draw workshops at Affordable Art Fair HERE.

With special thanks to Lesley Barnes.

Join the Big Draw and Lesley Barnes at Affordable Art Fair this Saturday! 25 October 2014