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    Zoe Barker: Albam

Illustration

Stunning portraits and charming characters from prolific illustrator Zoe Barker

Posted by James Cartwright,

Why do we love illustration so? It’s a tough nut to crack really, especially when your days are spent hunting for brand new picture-making talent to show off to the world. Sometimes it’s the polished vectors of expertly layered digital work, at other times we get all hot under the collar for immaculate screen printed fades. But more often than not we get excited by drawings that look like things in the real world, because the primitive part of our brains simply cannot handle the idea that something flat on a page looks like you can reach out and touch it. It’s flipping magic.

Zoe Barker is an illustrator gifted with these powers of visual trickery, using watercolour washes and intricately textured graphite to create portraits, still-lifes and character designs that convey impressive visual depth. Her mastery of contour and shadow transfers across all of her chosen media and from monochrome to colour – in fact her tonal washes are up there with the best we’ve seen. Tasty business indeed.

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    Zoe Barker: Albam

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    Zoe Barker: Albam

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    Zoe Barker: Albam

  • Zoebarker4

    Zoe Barker: The Skinny

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    Zoe Barker: Grape Digital

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    Zoe Barker: Grape Digital

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    Zoe Barker: Brooks England

Jc

Posted by James Cartwright

James started out as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our two editors. He oversees Printed Pages magazine and content wise has a special interest in graphic design and illustration. He also runs our online shop Company of Parrots and is a regular on our Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Illustration View Archive

  1. Bernhardaxilko-itsnicethat-main

    Excuse the pun, but I’m a sucker for penis drawings. Birthday cards, desks, walls, Post-Its, other people’s books, car windscreens: to me the world is but a canvas for penile artwork. Judging by his startlingly extensive back catalogue of sexually charged, penis-infused illustrations, it seems Belgrade-based artist Bernharda Xilko is on the same page. His style is in the same camp as people like Patrick Kyle and Paul Paetzel but comes with a side order of terror, penetration and science fiction. For me, I like the depth of his one-panel cartoons, and how you can stare at it for a while like a saucy magic eye painting, and keep finding things you had missed first time around.

  2. Newyorker_01-wilfrid-wood-itsnicethat_list

    Giving us proof if it were needed that humour and style are in no way mutually exclusive, Wilfrid Wood has created a sweet, strange series of his signature plasticine caricatures for The New Yorker. The illustration spots feature throughout the mag’s style issue, aiming to sum up a variety of different New Yorkers “with hats and scarves and various accessories,” Wilfrid helpfully points out. As is typical of Wilfrid’s work, they’re very odd, sometimes ugly, and very brilliant, and rudimentary as they are we’re sure there’ll be a few folk in the Big Apple who see a little bit of themselves in these lumpy visages.

  3. Alisondubois-after-itsnicethat-list

    Alison Dubois is a San Francisco-based illustrator who channels all of the vitamin D from her native temperate climate into her work. Take After, for example, a collection of re-creations of works by great masters, including Henri Matisse, Peter Doig and a handful of Paul Gauguins. Her drawings are rendered in felt tip and dominated by primary colours, and looking at them for too long feels something like consuming a bottle of Sunny D via an IV drip.

  4. Thomas-slater-mosaic-itsnicethat-list

    It’s a good job “Thomas Slater, Illustrator” has such a nice ring to it, as we seem to be spending a lot of time on his website of late. His newest undertaking is for Mosaic, the science-led strand of the Wellcome Trust which is using commissioned illustration and photography to make even the most opaque of articles on their journal absorbing. For a piece entitled Do You Need to Go to Parent School? Thomas has created a series of drawings depicting kids both being encouraged by, and outsmarting, their ambitious parents – putting them on school buses, playing at being doctors from their buggies, or having their brains measured while diligently sipping on juice cartons. It’s the kind of commission which shows editorial illustration at its most challenging, but somehow Thomas manages to convey broad ideas about parenting and education with a simple and bold colour palette, outsmarting us all in the process.

  5. Sygold-itsnicethat-list-new

    Illustrator S.Y. Gold is one of growing number of young illustrators making a virtue of the limitations of digital software. His imagery makes clear its origins – Illustrator line tools and Photoshop’s airbrush can – in its exuberant final results. What’s the purpose of his unusual images? Hard to say but they display the beginnings of some great character design as well as the potential for interesting editorial applications.

  6. Margot-fabre-itsnicethat-list-4

    Friends aren’t really friends until they’ve gotten together with a bundle of felt tips to draw a bunch of pornographic illustrations; which is precisely what makes graphic design student Margot Fabre and her mate Frederik Stender such good ones. The pair have combined their creative skills in the purest of ways, doodling a collection of wildly imaginative and not altogether innocent sketches of a couple – and occasionally an extra character or two – having a really, really nice time. It’s filthy and hilarious and completely unafraid to have a giggle at itself, and we bloody love it.

  7. Emilyflake-itsnicethat-main

    I’m always slightly concerned about the dwindling amount of observational cartoons and “funnies” in the newspapers, but whenever you think the niche, historic skill is waning you come across another gem in a corner of a broadsheet. Places like The New Yorker are still very much championing this craft, and have recently been commissioning New York cartoonist Emily Flake to make dry comments on her city for their magazine.

  8. Ridejournal-katemoross-itsnicethat-list

    At risk of sounding like the formulaic hipsters that we almost certainly are, the Venn diagram of indie magazines and cycling is one in which we’re pleased to revel in the overlap. The Ride Journal is a fabulous celebration of bikes and all who ride on them, and so we were interested to hear that a show featuring some of the best illustration to feature in the past nine issues is about to open in London.

  9. Main

    Matthew Houston or “Doctor Butters” as his web address proclaims, is an young illustrator working in a truly old-school way. The Ohio-based artist designs characters and worlds in a style he’s honed after years of studying drawing, which he took up after sacking in his job a few years back. I love how he’s embraced a fundamental branch of illustration in character design, and has strayed away from trendier styles in his quest to become an illustrator. The creatures and people he creates are a bunch of people seemingly inspired by video games, sci-fi, comic books, The Hobbit and anything to do with castles, folklore and legend. In an interview with Questioning Creatives Matthew says “I would recommend going to art school. It gives you time to focus on art. It gives you an excuse to create every day. Make sure to work on personal projects while in school, don’t just do homework.” Wise words.

  10. Pm-int-main

    Paweł Mildner’s style keeps changing. He jumps between crisp renders, oil pastels, Riso prints, paintings and drawings like there’s no tomorrow, and has a particularly interesting portfolio because of it. He lives in Wrocław, Poland where I can only imagine he spends his days in a well-lit, affordable studio creating zines and books that appear to be for children, but are actually cynical and witty enough to appeal to your discerning comic book-loving adult as well. I sometimes find myself lurking on his Flickr page, not really up to much, just loitering about, dragging his images on to my desktop, hoping one day he’ll notice me.

  11. List1

    Adjectives we’ve used to describe Oscar Bolton Green over the years include: delightful, super-talented, pretty accomplished, punchy, great, wonderful, wicked, vibrant and… different. He is all of these things and more. A consummate illustrator who never ceases to impress us with his experimentation and flair. Witness his latest set of personal still-life drawings. All he’s done is assemble a few bits and pieces from his house and then sketched, but holy hell they look fantastic! When you’ve become accustomed to seeing someone work digitally it’s a pleasure to be reminded they’ve got innate abilities as a draughtsman and can use pencil and paper at will – even better when the results are this good.

  12. Joe-melhuish-int-list

    Idyllic mountainous landscapes are fine and funny domestic settings are good too, but it’s not often we see illustrators tackle the subject of intricately designed custom weaponry. We appreciate Joe Melhuish’s new project all the more for its originality. He first started drawing bizarre pockets knives that look more like the jumbo Super Soakers while researching for a commission for “quite a big pop musician,” and soon became fascinated in the way weapons might grow to become an accessory to one’s identity.

  13. Karolisstrautniekas-adobe-int-list

    For a small country with a small creative scene, we’ve covered Lithuanian artists and designers more times than you might expect. There’s clearly something in the water over there and one of our absolute favourite finds in Vilnius-based illustrator Karolis Strautniekas. It’s been more than a year since we last sung his praises so it seems right and proper to check back in with him.