Katy Welsh wants you to see evidence of the human hand in her illustrations
Many artists strive for a polished aesthetic, removing traces of their creative process as they go, but for the Bristol-based illustrator, it’s crucial to “keep the connection between the eye, mind and hand” in the work.
- Daniel Milroy Maher
- 12 October 2021
The first thing that strikes you about the illustrator and animator Katy Welsh’s work is its homemade quality. Rough edges and grainy finishes appear in abundance throughout her portfolio, giving much of the work a tactile quality. Having studied Printed Textiles at Leeds Art University, Katy developed a love for bright colours and hand-wrought textures during her studies, leading her to use screen printing and collage as a basis for her practice. “Although I have moved away from working with fabric and pattern, this lo-fi, joyful aesthetic is still what guides my work today in illustration,” she says.
This foundation has provided her with a warm visual language that values evidence of the human hand in the work. Katy’s creative process is clear in her finished pieces and that’s exactly what she wants. “When you look at something I’ve made, I want you to see that it was made by a person,” she says. “I like my illustrations to have an element of roughness and spontaneity – I’m not interested in sandpapering everything down to a super smooth finish.” It’s an approach that lends itself well to working with paper and this analogue style is crucial for Katy. It allows for serendipity as she creates illustrations on the page, watching them grow and change in unexpected ways. “I love being playful and I am all about keeping the connection between the eye, mind and hand,” she says. “That’s why I like to start all of my illustrations on paper, be that by creating a texture with ink, printing something or working with cut-out shapes.”
But recently, Katy’s paper-based practice merged with a new digital approach for a project that she created during lockdown. Titled Windows, this series of animations looks at life indoors during the pandemic, recreating quotidian scenes that will be familiar to many of us. Brought together in a short video accompanied by music from her brother Patrick, the moving images show home dwellers attempting to stay fit, working in their studies and fighting in their kitchens during a strange period in which a house (or flat) becomes an entire world.
Speaking about the project, Katy says: “Last year, I found I wasn’t able to get inspired in the ways that I normally am, [so] my practice became a lot more inward-facing and I started to get ideas from tiny moments of my mundane day-to-day rather than from exhibitions and being out in the world. On my daily walks I would see other people living their whole lives within four walls. It made me think about how within one building there were so many stories playing out at once when no one was allowed to leave.”
For Katy, Windows marked the start of a new chapter in her journey as an artist, giving her cause to think about what kind of work she really wants to make, and the many new and different ways in which she can go about doing that. Through “creating all the background by hand using a collection of dyed and printed papers and even some postage stamps”, and then combining this with animated elements that she built digitally, the project allowed her to “fully integrate analogue and digital collage techniques”. Reflecting on the process, she says Windows was an important step for her in understanding the possibilities of her practice: “It felt like a real breakthrough for me to understand how these facets of my work mesh together and [how they] can strengthen each other, and it has given me a blueprint for how I want to make illustration and animation moving forward.”
Katy Welsh (Copyright © Katy Welsh, 2021)
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.