Jamie Beard is an illustrator and all-round creative person based in Belfast. He loves to draw, create and innovate, always taking inspiration from the world around him and the people in it. Indeed, it is the unique characteristics making people who they are that craft the driving force behind a lot of his work. A firm believer that any story can be bolstered via the medium of illustration, Jamie is not afraid to confront the big social issues facing our society in his work, and communicate complex topics and ideas in his own style of visual language, which consists primarily of hand rendered imagery sewn together digitally.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST START ILLUSTRATING AND KNOW WAS IT SOMETHING YOU WANTED TO DO AS A PROFESSION?
I find it difficult to pinpoint when exactly I had this realisation, but I have been casually drawing for as long as I can remember (and more than likely beyond), and as I grew older and it remained a major focal point in my life, I guess it gradually became apparent that this was something I should consider trying to make into a career. I am really very passionate about celebrating what makes one’s work unique and individual, so throughout my school years - especially later on - I found myself kind of going against the grain in terms of the sort of work I was expected to do, and always striving to ensure any work I churned out truly had my stamp on it and didn’t fall into the generic. Even if this made it terrible, it made it my own.
I’ve never really lost that mindset, though my style and creative approach have changed a lot since then. This attitude then followed me into Uni, where I eventually began to learn that I could, and how I could, pursue illustration as a profession, and carve my own name and hopefully give people something they hadn’t seen before in doing so. I know none of this answers the question, but yeah I suppose it was all a very gradual process for me.
WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR INSPIRATION?
honestly find inspiration all around me, in so many different ways and from an endless array of sources. I’d be walking down the street and see a certain building or person or scenario, and think ‘I should really draw this building/person/scenario’, or try to incorporate it into something I’m working on. It could be a specific intriguing pattern that catches my eye, someone’s outfit, an old photo, or even a plant I might find particularly interesting. I really do get fascinated by the most mundane and seemingly irrelevant of things sometimes. But I’ve long since realised that it’s all relevant. To misquote Wet Wet Wet, inspiration is all around (sorry). I am also really driven by individual people and their personal stories, and this has made up the foundation of most of the work I have developed in the past year, for sure. I am really inspired by the idea of somewhat painting a portrait of a community, by capturing the different individuals that make it what it is.
HOW DO YOU GET THE IDEAS FOR YOUR ILLUSTRATIONS?
I think I sort of answered this a lot in response to the previous question - Inspiration strikes me constantly. Every day I tell myself ‘I should illustrate that’ or “I should make this into an animation’ at least once. Of course this creates a lot of internal noise; A thousand and one things I want to do and draw and create, with only one person and limited time to actually make it all happen. I really need to get much better at writing lists - God knows how many potentially great ideas I’ve completely forgotten I had! Of course I’m always looking around me at other illustrators and what they’re doing, like 'Maybe I should try restraining my colour palette too’ or ‘I should really play about with my compositions more’. As I already touched on above, a lot of my best ideas come from people and their stories; I want to capture and successfully convey a person and what they might have to say, as best I can in my own visual language.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEDIUM TO WORK WITH?
Most of the work I produce, whether it’s for a client, brief or of my own self-initiation, is initially hand-rendered in inks. I mostly work in monotones of black and different washes of grey - always trying to create unique textures - with the occasional bright tone, and then tend to add more colourful details with chalk and oil pastels. It’s all quite a precarious process really, but it works for me and has become intrinsic to my style as an illustrator.
I then digitally alter my sketches a lot to piece together the finished visual - For instance I would almost always draw a character and a background separately. This approach has really been drummed into me from working on 2D animation projects, wherein it clearly makes more sense to draw the different assets separately, and it enables me to churn out illustrations which wouldn’t have otherwise been possible. Every illustration I produce has two stages to its production - The hand-rendered and the digital.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU ARE CURRENTLY WORKING ON?
I am actually just now in the process of launching a new project based around the LGBTQ+ community in Northern Ireland. The current ongoing political situation, which was yet again secured for the foreseeable by the recent assembly elections, and the ingrained discrimination against LGBTQ+ people which lies proudly at the heart of it, gradually drove me to start work on this, after a long period of thinking and deliberating on how best to do it. I don’t want to be the sort of artist who shies away from something because it’s too big or ambitious an idea - to paraphrase Nina Simone, an artist’s duty is to reflect the times in which they live.
This is going to take the form of a portrait project, wherein I hope highlight a wide array of individuals who identify outside of what would might be considered heteronormative, or cisgender, alongside anything they might want to say - Their stories, thoughts on certain issues, or maybe life advice. There’s going to be an ongoing social media blog, and then hopefully an accompanying book. My overall aim is to amplify voices which might not otherwise be heard, and paint a collective portrait of a community via these amazing, unique individuals that make it up - in doing so saying ‘Hi, this is who we are, this is what we have to say, we aren’t going anywhere, we are stronger than ever and will not be ignored’.
CURRENT PLAYLIST AS YOU WORK?
Much like the puritans of yore, I do regularly work in silence with only my own thoughts for company. But when I do need music help my productivity, which I usually do to really get into the way of things, I usually end up going for Abba Gold, or else Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and Tusk albums. I don’t know why, but these two bands in particular just give me so much energy and ultimately make me more productive. I mean, I guess that’s why they’re among my favourite bands, ha. Abba Gold came out the day before I was born. That’s no coincidence. When I want more varied playlists, it usually ends up verging into older music from the 60s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I despise music snobbery so I’m pretty open minded about what and who I listen to.
ARE THERE ANY ILLUSTRATORS THAT YOU ARE A FAN OF THAT DESERVE SOME EXPOSURE?
I am incredibly lucky to count some amazingly talented illustrators among my friends. People like Rory Quigg, Dave McMillan, Jacky Sheridan, Mel Carroll, Paul Ryding and Danni Gowdy, have all inspired me in different ways and I’ve really learned a lot from them. They all have fantastically distinctive styles and creative approaches, and it’s fascinating to see how each of them produces the work they produce.
I’m also really chuffed to have recently become involved with UsFolk, Northern Ireland’s first illustration agency (about time am I right!?), which is run by Mel and Paul and consists of a diverse range of truly excellent illustrators, including the guys I mentioned. Definitely worth checking out for anyone who is interested in commissioning some illustrative work, or in seeing the incredible amount of talent that exists here in NI.