Artist Becca Human uses illustration and painting to inspire their filmmaking
We talk to the multi-talented artist and filmmaker Becca Human on using every resource and medium available to help hone a craft.
- Joey Levenson
- 29 July 2021
Becca Human is a talented artist and director. A sharp and incisive filmmaker in their own right, Becca started out with a venture into the world of illustration and design. “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing on something,” Becca tells It’s Nice That. “I just wanted to tell stories, so I started making my own books and comics as a kid, all original concepts and characters.” Influenced by the books, comics, and cartoons that Becca has held close to their heart over time, their work bounces off the screen with vivid colours and dynamic movement, contrasted with delicate lining and shapes.
After discovering Adobe Flash at 16, Becca began making small films. “Newgrounds was the first place online I saw independent artists making their own animated films that were weird, full of rich world building, and nothing like what was on TV,” they say. “It made it seem like it was actually an attainable thing to craft stories, and even make films.” As one medium led to another, Becca’s fascination with the expansive possibilities of visual storytelling resulted in them studying graphic design at Central St. Martin’s. “It was broad enough for me to try lots of different styles and mediums,” they explain. “I went in thinking I was going to be a painter, and came out at the end of the degree with a zine and a documentary film as my final piece.”
Upon graduating, Becca found themselves well-versed and highly-skilled in multiple creative outlets. That being said, the film industry proved hard to conquer, and so they pivoted back to illustration. “I didn’t know other filmmakers and didn’t know where to find them, and I didn’t have the money to make a short film but I still wanted to tell stories,” Becca says. “So illustration seemed like the best medium for me to be working in at the time.” It’s hard to believe illustration was a secondary plan for Becca given their masterful wield of the craft executed to such fine detail. It seems there is an unshakeable artistic eye in all that Becca does.
“My illustration style was a constant battle between, and blending of, analogue and digital,” they describe. “I would draw in my sketchbook, scan the linework, and colour pieces digitally in Photoshop, and I had a cheap tablet so I never found it easy to draw straight up digitally.” This dedicated hard work ethic is perhaps what keeps Becca so distinct as an artist. “It really informed my style to have this messy and convoluted way of working, and it feels very reflective of how my brain works, always jumping around in different areas and finding it difficult to settle,” they say.
Becca’s work is all about non-verbal communication: seeing how much of a story or idea can be communicated purely in the visual sense. It’s what informs all their work, from illustration to graphics to film. “You see a lot of repeating patterns and images of roots around the time I was making self-portraits and having conversations with people about intergenerational trauma, history repeating,” Becca says on how this influenced their visual style. “I’m still trying to find that balance between abstract and ambiguous.” But, most importantly, Becca doesn’t want to be ambiguous about what they’re trying to achieve with their work. No matter the medium or style, it’s “openly queer, Black, anti-capitalist, and about mental illness,” they declare. However, rather than lay it out in explicit terms, Becca’s work proactively guides the audience to this conclusion themselves. “But, you have to accept that people won’t always get it,” Becca adds. “I had someone share my work and describe it as a ‘colourblind’ world, a work without thinking about race – I thought ‘oh babe, you’ve got it backwards here.’”
As of the last two years, Becca has been busy working full time in a production company. “But, I can’t ever leave art behind as a practice as it affects how I see the world and how I tell stories visually,” they say. “It’s been really helpful to be able to storyboard films, compose frames and think about how colour affects a scene.” The ways in which Becca’s background with art and design continue to inspire their current filmmaking work is something to be admired. Often, it feels limiting when working away in one of the arts. But, as Becca demonstrates, they all harmoniously complement each other when picking out the skill sets which overlap. “Getting to work in lots of different ways has allowed me to stay interested and let each practice feed the other,” Becca says. “I like to draw and animate titles for my films and in turn, some of the compositions, stories or themes from the films find their way into my comics and illustrations.” As Becca continues working on their exciting narrative short film debut, and a comic to be released later down the line, we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on them.
Becca Human: Self Portraits (Copyright © Becca Human, 2018)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. They were part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.