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Lesley Barnes An Illustrator with a wealth of beautiful work

April 22, 2014


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Firstly Lesley can I ask how ‘young’ you are, I saw a photo and you don’t look old enough to have all the wonderful experience you’ve had to date lol How long have you been interested in illustration and where did it all start ?

I do look quite young (I’m always asked for ID at the pub!) ……but I’m not as young as all that (I’m still in my twenties) I have always been interested in illustrations – I think picture books (kay neilson, Maurice sendak, ) made a huge impression on me before I could ever read and that love of visual storytelling has stayed with me and informs almost everything I do.
What has been your most fav commission to date and why ?

I have been extremely lucky, as I have had many really special projects to work on. It’s impossible to chose just one as a favourite! I did just get to work on illustrating the history of Italian fashion for the V&A to accompany their exhibition ‘The Glamour of Italian Fashion’. My illustrations are now available to buy from the V&A shop on a huge variety of products! 

Another ‘dream’ commission was working on the posters for the Museum of Childhood. The Museum of Childhood is a very special place for me and is always a source of inspiration. More here.

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Lesley has undertaken such a huge and varied range of work, that there’s a whole wealth of it on her website. Here’s a little advertising and promotional work.

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Wonderful contemporary-retro work here too. I’m loving this tiger.

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If you could spend a day with any artist / illustrator / designer etc who would you choose ?

My friend Thereza RoweShe is an amazing illustrator and a special person. It’s not often you meet someone you just feel a connection to (her work as well as her personality) and it’s a very special feeling when it happens! We are working on a little collaboration at the moment.


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‘The music video I made for Belle and Sebastian was also a really special project!

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Lesley has a great eye when it comes to colour and repeat patterns too. Look at these sparkling designs.

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Are there any new areas that you would like to take your work into, or perhaps to spend more time working within a discipline that you’ve worked in already, i.e. children’s book, stationery etc ?

At the moment I’m working on some ideas for childrens books. This is an area I have always wanted to be involved in as it was picturebooks that I read when I was little which have made me love illustration and storytelling all my life.

I’m was part of a scheme called ‘picturehooks’. The scheme set me up with a picturebook ‘mentor ‘ for a year to work on an idea. I was paired with the brilliant Ross Collins and we came up with the story Jill and Dragon.

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I notice in your work a love of knights, horses, castles, dragons and patterns. Did your style come together naturally over a long period of time or has it been strongly influenced by a particular countries culture ? It looks like Ancient Greek meets Scandinavia ! : ) Beautiful.

I think my love of horses came from my older cousin. When we were kids she used to draw and write all these amazing ‘pony’ novels…and inspired by her I just started drawing horses of every shape and size. I still draw a horse most days…it’s the thing I find most natural to do.

It’s funny you should mention Greek Myths because I have been fascinated with them since I was a kid – the stories are brilliant and I love the fact that myths (and indeed folktales and legends) come with multiple retellings and variations and are thus really open for interpretation. This makes them especially wonderful as a source of inspiration for illustration. 

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What a lot of awe-inspiring illustrations. Thanks for contributing to this post Lesley and the best of luck with your future work.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2014 11:54 am

    I’m a big fan of Lesley’s work – thanks for an excellent feature Craig 🙂

    • April 22, 2014 12:01 pm

      Thanks Sue, once you’ve seen it, I wonder who wouldn’t like it : )

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