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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An interview with illustrator Lesley Barnes, as featured in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration

Illustrator Lesley Barnes has contributed to Amelia's Magazine since 2009 and is featured in both my books, for which she designed the front cover type. She was super busy in 2011, with projects for Channel 4, Wrap Magazine, Soma Gallery, Penguin Classics and the V&A to name but a few.

Written by Amelia Gregory

lesley barnes shoes
Lesley Barnes first got involved with Amelia’s Magazine when she answered the Shelter open brief back in early 2009. Since then she has appeared in both my books, and has contributed many times to Amelia’s Magazine online. Her illustration career keeps going from strength to strength. Time to find out what she’s been up to lately!

lesley barnes dancing bear
2011 was a very busy year, what was the highlight?
The Dancing Bear.

Lesley barnes V and A tote design
Lesley Barnes fridaylate
How did the V&A hook up with you to produce an exclusive design for their Friday Late tote bag? I hear you have another exciting collaboration with the curators in the pipeline… tell us more!
Last year the V&A held an exhibition celebrating the work of fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto. I (and 3 other illustrators including fellow ACOFI illustrator Abby Wright) were contacted by the curators to design a tote bag celebrating one of Yohji Yamamoto’s designs.

V&A fridaylate
Visitors to the Yohji Yamamoto Friday Late event could then screen print a tote with our designs at a workshop on the night. Myself and Thereza Rowe went to the event and had lots of fun – especially clambering through a tunnel of clothes!

LesleyBarnes_ChristopherRaeburn
I was also invited to take part in Go Figure: New fashion Illustration at the Fashion Space Gallery at the London College of Fashion in April this year. I don’t know too much about it yet… but I’m excited!

LesleyBarnes_Christopher Raeburn
One of your double pages for ACOFI was featured in the Sunday Times Style section as an illustrator to watch – did that lead to any exciting responses?
I think one of the best responses was from Glamour Magazine who asked me to design an exclusive Glamour print as a competition for their readers.

Lesley Barnes glamour mag print
The Glamour print was published in the September issue 2011 and hopefully all the prints now have happy homes.

Lesley Barnes Penguin classics phoenix_Carpet
How did you get your dream job of designing a cover for Penguin Classics? And what was the process of creating the image and did you get to do the typography too?
I have no idea! I think the art director saw my Firebird illustrations and thought that my style would suit the story of The Phoenix and the Carpet. I didn’t get to do the typography, as all the titles have to fit with the design of the whole Classics series. I loved drawing the Phoenix rising from the flames and I cannot wait to hold the book in my hands!


My love of Penguin and Puffin cover design goes back a long way and influences much of my work: most notably my short Herzog and the Monsters.

Lesley Barnes dancing bear badges soma
You’ve created prints, badges, bags and a glorious wrapping paper design for Soma Gallery, what drew you to this medium? 
Fiona Hamilton (from Soma) suggested I did a wrap design for her: she really liked a bird illustration I had previously done so I developed the idea of birds delivering parcels and called the design Airmail Bird Wrap.

Lesley Barnes soma gallery airmail bird wrap
For anyone who loves pattern as much as me wrapping paper is a very attractive medium – I actually have a bit of a wrapping paper stash at home which I cannot bring myself to use! I would love to design more wrap or maybe even wallpaper… You can buy the giftwrap from Soma Gallery here.

Lesley Barnes wrap magazine
You’ve also done a design for Wrap Magazine, what was the brief for this and what did it feature?
Doing Wrap was a blast – such a unique and beautiful publication. The brief was Dark Days Bright Nights. Wrap wanted a ‘winter’ themed issue that would be full of artwork suitable for people to use to wrap their Christmas presents up in… but not ‘christmasy’. I chose to do a pattern called Kings of the Forest which featured some images I associate with Christmas (kings, deer) but I used pink and blue tones that didn’t look overly festive (but still looked chilly).

Lesley Barnes brian wilson bestival
How did you get involved with a poster design for Bestival, and how did you choose the subject matter?
I took part in something called Screenadelica, which is a traveling exhibition celebrating the screen printed gig poster. Brian Wilson is one of my heroes and I could not believe my luck at being able to do a poster for his Bestival gig. I always associate Brian’s music with happiness as I find it really inspiring and uplifting, so I knew the design had to raise a smile (also the name of his epic album!) I also wanted to connect the poster design with Bestival in some way. I associate Bestival with ‘dress-up’ and I know a lot of people make a great effort with their costumes every year… so I came up with the idea of Brian peeking out from a bear suit …a huge smile radiating from his face.

Lesley Barnes belle and sebastian didntseeitcoming

Your animation skills are going from strength to strength. What was the feedback from your fab Belle & Sebastian video
I got lots of ace feedback from the video including blog posts from Grafik, The Fox is Black, SwissMiss, Creative Review, Uppercase, Pikaland, Selvedge and of course Amelia’s Mag! I also just found out that it made the shortlist for the Best Music Video for the British Animation Awards 2012.


How did the Channel 4 animation commission come about and what was the brief?
My agents just gave me a call one day and said ‘Would you Iike to give this poetry project for Channel 4 a go?’ I said ‘yes’. They said ‘great! It’s being broadcast in exactly one week’. I said ‘ummm okay’. The piece was based on the winning entry for a poetry competition that Channel 4 had been running. Dylan Owen wrote (and read!) the poem, which is about a near death experience caused by a badly chewed apple.

Lesley Barnes DNA Migration
Can we see your animated exploration of DNA Migration (what does it all mean?!)
The DNA project was a collaboration between myself, mercury nominated jazz musician Kit Downes (and his band Kit Downes Trio) and geneticist and ‘professional geekAdam Rutherford. We explored evolution and DNA in an event for the Cheltenham Jazz festival last year. It’s perhaps best seen as a performance and my self and Kit Downes are going to include a performance of this piece when we have our event at the Flatpack Festival in March 2012.

Evolution backwards!

I think both myself and Kit would love to work with Adam again… he is such an inspiring and amazing person and he works with the Guardian and the BBC.

LesleyBarnes_LittleGlassClementine
Little Glass Clementine featured in ACOFI, by Lesley Barnes.

How has appearing in Amelia’s Magazine and both my books been helpful to your career? Are there any tangible ways you have seen an effect?
I think it has given me such a lot of confidence and has definitely influenced and developed my style from adding colour, to trying out (and loving!) fashion illustration. Also ACOFI has been a great showcase for my (and indeed other illustrator’s) work.

thereza rowe happy boots
Happy Boots by Thereza Rowe.

How do you juggle all your different pursuits? What’s the secret to staying sane and happy?
I’m definitely not sane. I’m lucky that my work makes me happy (although as most creative people will tell you it goes with frustration, procrastination and depression too!) 2011 was a bit hectic and I think I am going to focus a little more on my life outside illustration this year. It helps to have really supportive people around you. I share a studio in Glasgow with some great folks and I have people like Thereza Rowe who is always ready to listen to me moaning about cardboard dogs.

Lesley Barnes Mary Katrantzou SS 2012
Any final tips for aspiring illustrators, particularly those ones who may not have trained in the medium?
Just go for it! I have no background in illustration (apart from my own drawings which I have always done) but I loved browsing Amelia’s Magazine for all the artwork and so one day I just decided to go for it. I looked on the Amelia’s Mag blog and I entered my design for the Shelter House of Cards project….it really did all start from there! Being a freelance illustrator is very hard work and I would stress that being a freelance creative does require a lot of determination and sacrifice…. but it is also very rewarding…good luck!

sheltercardquilt_lesleybarnes
Two of Hearts by Lesley Barnes for my Shelter House of Cards Quilt.

You can find the beautiful work of Lesley Barnes in both Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration and Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration, available to purchase together for £30 on my website and featuring a whole host of illustration talent.

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One Response to “An interview with illustrator Lesley Barnes, as featured in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration”

  1. Amy@Pikaland says:

    Lesley is one of the most hardworking illustrators out there that I know – it’s amazing to see her go so far and I’m so very proud of her! xo

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