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Laura Barnard: Artist of the Month - February 2015

Every month we ask a different artist to design a banner for our newsletter - Penorama. If you don't already receive Penorama, you can subscribe here.

This month's artist is Laura Barnard, who draws all sorts of different things, but specialises in huge and detailed cityscapes and maps.

Here's the banner Laura designed for us:

Cult Pens: Tell us a bit more about yourself?

Laura: I'm an illustrator who lives in Peterborough but grew up by the sea in Essex. I started out as a painter/fine artist, jumped abruptly into design, and have now settled in a very happy medium between the two as an illustrator.

Cult Pens: How would you describe your work?

Laura: Detailed cityscapes and complex patterns, stylised maps and a few humans all tied together by black line.

Cult Pens: What got you into drawing/illustration?

Laura: I've always drawn and although I took a bit of a wavering path to get here, I don't think there was ever any question in my mind that I would end up doing something like this. There was a point where I thought I might get stuck forever working in a warehouse, but I think I'd have always drawn on the side as well even if that had happened.

Cult Pens: If you weren't an illustrator, what was the back-up plan?

Laura: There wasn't one, so it's lucky it worked out. I have done many varied jobs – some terrible, some verging on the enjoyable – over the years, so I expect I'd have just carried on doing one or other of them. I did make a stab at being a graphic designer at one point but they rightfully rumbled me as someone who just wanted to draw things.

Cult Pens: What are your favourite subjects/topics to draw?

Laura: I quite like complex things and draw a lot of buildings, machines, maps and that sort of thing. I like drawing almost anything though, really. If it's difficult, it's just a challenge. I do have a longstanding and semi-famous hatred of drawing the Gherkin in London though. Soz, Norman. It's a brilliant building, and I love it as a thing, but it's a pain to draw and of course every London cityscape tends to need it somewhere.

Cult Pens: Where do you get your ideas or inspiration from?

Laura: Being out and about, weird books, odd corners of the internet, conversations with people. I try and avoid the obvious sources of inspiration, particularly on the internet, as I think looking too much at that sort of thing can lead to work that follows current trends but doesn't stand out.

Cult Pens: What are you currently working on?

Laura: I'm just finishing something biggish for a client that I can't talk about, and I'm also about to start on a side project that's been brewing for ages and I've finally got the time to work on it. It's continuing a side project I did a year or so ago where I made and sold objects, and I enjoyed it so much I've planned another venture.

Cult Pens: How long does it normally take to complete a project?

Laura: That's so dependent on the job, but anything from an hour to a month depending on how detailed it is.

Cult Pens: What are your top five pens or pencils?

Laura: Ooh! There's a question.

  • Staedtler Noris and Tradition pencils are just good, nice pencils for drawing stuff
  • Graphite Aquarelle pencils are really interesting for misty landscapey stuff
  • Uni-ball Eye pens are great for bog standard drawing
  • There's some really nice water soluble pastels by Caran d'Ache called Neocolor for bright flashes of colour
  • And I'm a sucker for a dip pen and a bottle of FW Artists' Acrylic Ink - the black is wonderfully, ominously black and the colours are dazzling. Great stuff.

Cult Pens: Do you prefer black & white or full colour?

Laura: I started off just doing black and white line drawing but I'm moving more and more towards colour. I think it's partly that I work almost exclusively digitally now and colouring on the computer suits me a lot more, and I love that really flat colour you get on the computer. I can definitely see my work moving more and more into colour as time goes on, I think.

Cult Pens: What pen or pencil couldn't you live without?

Laura: A bog standard HB or 2B pencil – I use them all the time. I'm not even that fussy about brand, as long as it's not terrible (there's nothing worse than a terrible pencil).

Cult Pens: Do you know when a work is finished or are you constantly tweaking?

Laura: Obviously, if something isn't right, I'll fix it, but I'm not a huge tweaker. Part of that is often having really tight deadlines – I barely have time to finish them sometimes, let alone tweak. But even for my own stuff, I tend to be happy to just move on to the next thing. I think I'd rather learn from something and perhaps do things differently for the next one. I know for commercial work where there have been a lot of changes, it's rare that the work ends up looking better for a lot of fiddling about and overworking, so I try and bear that in mind for all my work.

Cult Pens: What work are you most proud of?

Laura: I have a bit of a soft spot for this drawing of Bristol. Since then, I've done work that's more complex and probably technically better, but it was the one that sent me down this route to begin with and really began to get my work noticed. It was also before I worked digitally, so it was all drawn on A4 sheets and scanned in – there must have been about 20 or so of them, and I got through loads of those Uniball pens. There's a huge amount of satisfaction in Finishing A Pen.

Cult Pens: What tips do you have for aspiring artists/illustrators?

Laura: Keep going. Almost everyone who gets paid to do this has been knocked back over and over again, and it's not that those have 'made it' have been lucky, it's that they've been tenacious enough to carry on through 99 rejections and still be around for the 100th one. On the other hand, it's also important to realise when something isn't working and to look at a different way to do something. Tricky balance, that.

You can find out more about Laura and her work on her web site: Laura Barnard

3 February 2015

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