Lesley Barnes

The AOI Illustration Professional Advertising Category Winner 2013. 

Playing Cards

What was your key motivation in becoming an illustrator? 

Creating for a living. It’s an enormous privilege to be able to do a job you love even if it can be an extremely rough ride sometimes. 

What are the first three things that you will do when a commissioner approaches you for a project?
1. Clarify the brief – get as much information about exactly what the client wants and expects from you.

2. Negotiate a timescale and budget.

3. Research and sketches.

The best briefs for me are those where the client/Art Director has a clear vision of what they need, but also allows the illustrator a little freedom to flex their creativity!

Image Caption:

What importance do you put on your own personal body of work and how does this influence your commissioned work?
I find that many of my commissions come about because of a ‘personal project’ I have previously worked on. One of my first ‘personal projects’ was illustrating a series of playing cards  and I still get emails about it today (I still have not quite finished it either….)  Another self initiated project was a ‘catwalk concertina’ that I did for London Fashion Week. The buying team at the V&A saw it and asked me to produce something similar for their upcoming  ‘Glamour of Italian Fashion’ exhibition (A dream project!) For me being an illustrator is not just a job, it’s also something that I love to do and I never want to lose that feeling – so my own work will always be of great importance to me.

V&A Italian Fashion

When a company for a commission approaches you, what are the first three steps you take?
I’m very lucky as I have a great agent, Handsome Frank, who can negotiate things like rights, licensing, usage and general pricing issues. As an illustrator, I think it’s very difficult to know what your rights are, and what your time and skills are worth. It’s not something I can say that I’m generally comfortable dealing with myself. I’m also very lucky as I’m part of a very supportive group of illustrators known as The Mighty Pencil and they are a great source of knowledge and experience. The financial and legal side of illustration (it is a business after all!) can be one of the most daunting aspects of becoming a freelancer and that’s why having the AOI available to all is extremely important.

V&A Balloons
Talk us through your experience of entering the AOI Awards 2013 with your self-initiated piece ‘Thorns’.
To be honest the AOI Awards 2013 was the first competition that I have entered for many many years! I have always felt slightly uncomfortable about how something as subjective as illustration could be judged, but this year I had a few images that I really loved and I thought ‘why not?!’ 

‘Thorns’ was created as part of a series of three illustrations for ‘The Enchanted Forest‘ exhibition at Foyles Bookshop (curated by my talented friend Emma Block) celebrating 200 years of the Brothers Grimm Tales.  I enjoyed doing these pieces so much and I think you can tell that just by looking at them.

Obviously ‘Thorns’ was not shortlisted so I have no idea what the judges thought of it…but I’m glad I entered it as I’m not normally confident enough in my own work to have it openly ‘judged’!

Who and what keeps you inspired?
I could give you a list of designers, artists, books, musicians, dogs and horses that inspire me but I honestly think you can find inspiration everywhere. Just keep your eyes open when you are out and about  – you’ll be surprised what you miss! Sometimes you can just go for a walk and see something inconsequential…. the colour on a door, the pattern on a drain… and it can spark something. It’s always good to have a notebook/sketchbook/iPhone handy so you don’t miss that moment. I can’t wait to move to London and just wander about!

7th March 2014

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