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Work / Illustration

Billy Clark applies his graphic sensibilities to his minimal yet textured illustrations

Billy Clark’s interest in illustration was piqued when watching cartoons and reading comic books like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spiderman. “I was fascinated with the characters and would always draw my own,” he says. Having initially studied graphic design, Billy then specialised in illustration, and this solid grounding has meant composition remains at the forefront of his mind. “I was always encouraged to loosen up my style at uni, but I don’t think I ever lost that instinct to contain and control elements in my images,” explains Billy. “I think what’s left is a balance of some neater geometric forms, along with rougher, expressive textural elements.”

Influenced by the graphic styles of Paul Rand and Edward McKnight Kauffer, Billy’s characters have stony faces with minimal features and he surrounds them with stark interiors cast in bright, poppy colours. His work is “very deliberate rather than anything too wild or abstract”, yet small touches like wonky plant pots and cracks in buildings all add to the wider narrative and offer some intrigue.

While Billy is drawn to illustrating people and faces, his recent commissions have seen him creating more landscape-based scenes. “I recently worked on a lovely project for Liberty, commissioned by &Smith design agency for its Mini British Food Hall. Various illustrators were paired up with British producers of fine food/drink products, and I was paired with Darkwoods coffee company,” the illustrator explains. “The brief was great, and with lots of freedom and weirdness encouraged too. I’ve also worked on some editorial illustrations for Mosaic Science and Wired magazine recently.”

Billy tackles balancing the client’s expectations and personal style head on by looking at as many ways to illustrate an idea as possible at the beginning of a project, by drawing out things quickly onto paper. “At a more developed stage it also helps me reduce visual information and simplify by repeating the same drawing multiple times, until it feels like my style,” he says. “Then it’s a mixture of painting with gouache and coloured pencils, but ultimately the images are finished off digitally.”

Conveying a strong sense of style and atmosphere, Billy’s images feel multilayered both in technique and narrative, and applying his graphic sensibilities to his illustrations allows him to distil multiple themes and ideas into one pared-back image.

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