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Work / Illustration

Leon Sadler’s subversive illustration practice honours “levels of ugly”

Illustrator Leon Sadler’s eclectic illustrations bring their hand-drawn style to life through humorous characterisations. With clients ranging from Nike to Givenchy, Leon enlivens the corporate fashion houses with an individual and quirky drawing style. Leon’s illustrations go against the grain in an increasingly digitalised industry, staying true to their artistic integrity of creating work that reflects their interests and emotions at that moment.

After graduating, Leon recalls the feeling of “not wanting to produce a commercial portfolio”. Speaking to It’s Nice That, the illustrator says “I remember being so grossed out at the idea of being a commercial illustrator and pushing one distinct aesthetic, so I think I was pushing against that”. This attitude has stuck with Leon indicated through their diverse body of work that exemplifies a distinctive illustration style and sets apart Leon’s emotive creative output.

The method of “play” is central to Leon’s creative practice. Frequently collaborating on publications with other illustrator friends, these collaborations have instilled a creative language of their own. Drawings are sent to each other by international post where the collaborators scribble on top of each other’s artwork to create new pieces of true, mutual cooperation. “This took a degree of mutual disrespect to scrawl on top of each other’s work, but simultaneously there was also an element of respect that my doodles were appropriated with the magic touch from an artist I admired and vice versa”, explains the illustrator.

This kind of free approach to making work is apparent in the innovative compositions of Leon’s work. The lines of drawings are not overly edited and embody the hand-drawn energy of the artist. Watercolours run into each other naturally, maintaining the sense of immediacy within Leon’s work, as if it were painted that morning. The illustrator adds how “this kind of creative freedom allows for a headspace where I don’t even have to worry about my creation being any good, my creative responsibility seems diminished” as the work becomes solely about the creative alliance. They further go onto explain that “doing this kind of collaborative work closely relates to the idea of play, especially when you’re working with good friends. The end result doesn’t even matter, it’s just a fun thing to do.”

Leon’s subversive attitude to illustration continues through their artistic outreach. They have created their own creative community through the posting of work all over the world, stimulating discussions with unexpected local members of the creative industry. Leon says, “I always want to reach out to people whose work I like. I never felt like anything could happen for me in my local area, there are no galleries to represent me or any scenes that I feel a part of”. Without having any expectations for things to happen, Leon has also developed numerous relationships through the internet after reaching out to people they felt a connection with. On an added note, Leon says, “I’m not really interested in building something local, it becomes too exclusive and you often end up softening your values”.

“I love to send books to people who live outside of the big cities. Sometimes I check Google maps to see where customers live if they have a curious address, it really makes me so pleased when they’re in the middle of nowhere as I can deeply connect with that”. Leon’s practice notably documents the illustrator’s unbridled emotion through its subject and energetic aesthetic. Through a subversive outlook on artistic creation and communication, Leon is looking to create more political work in the future, in particular through comics. “I think my politics comes out most obviously in my comics work because it’s my least abstracted work. I’m quite a surface person in the way that I wear my heart on my sleeve”, adds Leon. These emotions evident through the artist’s intuitive colour choices and a compositional interest in “levels of ugly” as well as “any new types of ugly [they] want to embrace”.

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Leon Sadler

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Leon Sadler