“Everything you need to fuel your creativity is in you”: Bryson Williams on finding inspiration in your own experiences
Creating art based on Black American culture, his childhood and whatever “weird” ideas pop into his head, the illustrator draws heavily on retro cartoon styles.
- Olivia Hingley
- 11 March 2022
“I’ve actually seen more growth as an artist the less I look to outside sources for inspiration”, says Bryson Williams, an Austin-based illustrator. “Everything you need to fuel your creativity is in you. Inspiration is useful, but it’s also fleeting.” He takes this philosophy very seriously. Looking to his own life and as his primary means of creative material, Bryson’s work revisits the interests, games, shows and experiences of his childhood. And, emulating 60s and 70s cartoon styles whilst featuring subject matter from the 90s and 2000s, the illustrator’s work oozes with vintage vibes.
Viewing the extent of his back catalogue and the stylistically assured nature of his work, we’re pretty amazed to hear that Bryson is only in just his first year of being a full-time artist. A creative from the get-go (“I’ve been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil!”), Bryson was always aware he would end up honing his artistic flare: “It’s just that most people give creativity up as they get older. I suppose I’m just one of the ones who kept going.” Luckily, the transition has so far been “relatively easy”, but he has also been courageous – the very same day he was offered work on a music video, he quit his day job.
Despite working in a cartoon-esque style, all of Bryson’s characters have such a recognisable personality and identity – so much so that the illustrator often gets told by people that his characters look like someone they’ve met or someone they know personally. He achieves this by always keeping a clear narrative in mind. “The story informs the character’s look,” he says. “Since those stories are based on life, the characters themselves seem real.” But to really get to grips with a character’s personality, Bryson sees their accessories as essential. Focussing on clothes, hair and jewellery, and adding items such as a cigarette or a gun, Bryson says he helps to “tell a character’s story”. As a means of drawing attention to them, Bryson tends to make these props and accessories “ridiculously big” or he’ll “add a bunch of them”. This is particularly apparent in his piece Turdlnek, which depicts a character with a large nose ring, statement earrings and long turtleneck.
Bryson’s more simple, object-focused pieces also stand out, however. Inspired by famous pop art works, Bryson enjoys “zooming in on specific items”. The Uncle’s Grip – which could easily be a still from a vintage cartoon – shows this practice at its most successful. The pared-back lines of the glass, the gold ring set against the hazy green light of the background, and the glowing light catching the smoke all come together to create a piece that says so much with seemingly so little.
Having now built an extensive portfolio and completed work for clients as broad as Spotify, the UN and the BBC, Bryson’s career is on a powerful upward trajectory. With a couple of collaborations in the works – one with a local business and one, very excitingly, with a notable celebrity – Bryson’s got a busy few months ahead. As he says, “Overall, I’m looking to really press on the gas this year and see significant growth in all aspects.”
Bryson Williams: Unicorn (Copyright © Bryson Williams, 2021)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.