Louise Byng’s distinctive hand drawn style has become instantly recognisable and she is fast becoming the go-to illustrator to turn to.
We’ve been digging her since she produced some great live work for illustration festival Eye Candy several years ago but more recently the Halesowen-based artist produced 12 stunning 2-colour illustrations for a collaborative calendar for Creative Black Country which was printed by risograph masters Rope Press.
Can you describe your illustration style to us and the methods you use?
The tools I use to create my illustrations haven’t changed much since I was younger; I still favour drawing with graphite, coloured pencils and playing with paper, cardboard, masking tape and other rudimentary materials. I describe my practice as being centred around using simple materials to explore complex topics. My style relies on the act of drawing and making by hand, piecing together the images using marks, ‘feeling’ my way around the paper gradually. I use bright Crayola colours and bold combinations to bring out the colours I see in the world more vividly, but my work is grounded in everyday life and interpreting the world to learn more.
You illustrated 12 months of CBC projects for their beautiful calendar – tell us about your process to produce the work and if there was anything particularly challenging?
To create the calendar, I was drawing from different photographs from a variety of Creative Black Country activities. This is my favoured way of working for detailed studies, especially as it allows time to capture the details more deeply and take time to select what’s important to tell the story of the image. It was an amazing project to work on; a celebration of a myriad of people and projects, and I wanted to reflect this in the calendar. To demonstrate this I actively chose images focused on people for the drawings, rather than spoils from the projects or a focus on environments, and used an assortment of colour throughout, with zesty colours coming in the spring months, brights in summer and more muted colours in the autumn and winter months to reflect the changing nature of life and how projects at different times of year feel to be part of. As we were working in two colour risograph printing, I used a light box to draw separate layers to build up the images. The challenge with this is thinking in colour despite only using black marks, and separating the images by tone in your mind as you go. Risograph and any manual printing process can be challenging as you don’t always know how things are going to turn out, but that’s also part of the beauty of it.
You studied in the Black Country before heading to University – what do you think about the Black Country’s creative scene and talent?
My foundation year at Stourbridge College was one of the most important times for developing my visual language and exploring what was possible. The Longlands campus where we were based allowed for lots of playful exploration, putting work up on the walls and making a mess, and our final exhibition took place in empty shops in Stourbridge town centre. This feeling of being able to get out there and try things in different spaces in the Black Country was important, and I think it’s a great place for students to explore and try different ways of working. Now I’m back in the midlands following studying in Bournemouth, I also have a renewed sense of place and connection to where I’m from, and the creative scene here is something I am still unlocking, beyond the big players such as Wolverhampton Art Gallery and New Art Gallery Walsall, which, in my opinion, are crucial resources for the area, especially for young people.
Which of your creative ‘tools’ could you not live without?
My ‘magic’ sharpener is an essential. Sharp pencil, sharp mind.