Leonie Wharton – Illustrator

I create digital illustrations for both private and commercial clients. 

My work spans content campaigns for brands such as Asics, and Bridgestone. Editorial cover illustrations for Grant Thorton, Taxline and charity publications. Illustrations for start-ups, creating distinctive identities, breathing life into new brands.

What inspired you to become an illustrator?

I started out at a content marketing agency which often required an original look and feel for a microsite, game, or longformat story. Away from my day job I began to paint. I feel digital illustration falls somewhere between the flair of painting and orderly rules of graphic design. 

Illustration is emotive and that’s what drives me, whether that be humour, the serenity of more cinematic undertones or the immersiveness of a isometric pixel art world. There are no limits, you have full control over the imagery, the idea of building something from nothing.

What do you think illustration can bring to a design and branding project?

Illustration brings a project to life, it builds on an identity, adds depth and enables you to visualise concepts that can’t be captured otherwise. Illustration sets you apart from your competitors, people leave saying ‘delicious martini’s’ whilst remembering the low lighting, comfy seating, temperament of the staff, and your website’s whimsical illustrations. Each facet makes the memory of your brand a delightful one. Illustration creates an undercurrent of tone, whether that is fun, organic, hand made or full or vitality, illustration says it all.

What do you find helps your creative spark / inspires you?

I am constantly collecting. I might photograph the position of a chair and the shadow it casts as something I can use later on. I take compositions from real life, sometimes I stage a setup I have in mind. I might see an interior photograph and use the colour pallete for an illustration. I follow my design and illustration heroes on Instagram, I deconstruct their images working out how they have been made.

Do you have any advice for budding illustrators?

Start by trying out various mediums, are you more fluid or controlled, perhaps you’re detail orientated or want to work on a large scale, all these attributes will help to build your visual style. Create images as gifts if you don’t have a brief, or think about something you like, I love English mustard and have a burning desire to illustrate a pot! Perhaps you prefer people or buildings? 

You need to have a portfolio of at least a few pieces to pique people’s interest. Take your time, I spent 40 hours drawing a peregrine falcon when I started out. Practice really does make perfect. Start with your network, friends, family, colleagues, talk openly in person and on social media about what you want to learn / do, people will then keep you in mind when a project arises.

There are some great food and drink/ restaurant brands that use illustration in their identity, have you any favourites we should check out?

There’s loads of fun and diverse examples out there; illustrations can really help to add personality and depth. Here’s a few I’ve really enjoyed:

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