Itziar Barrios uses humble Bic pens to create stunning editorial illustrations

Granada University fine arts graduate Itziar Barrios mainly uses everyday ballpoint Bic pens to create uniquely detailed and expressive editorial illustrations for the likes of The New Yorker and Le Temps.

Like the vast majority of artists, Itziar admits, her first memories are of creative communication. But it was only three years ago, having worked a succession of jobs that she found unfulfilling, that she determined that illustration would be both her personal and professional life. "I think at that moment I understood that life was too valuable not to live doing what you are most passionate about every day," Itziar tells Creative Boom.

Working predominantly with regular Bic ballpoint pens, she has developed her own visual universe that is instantly recognisable thanks to its realism and limited colour palettes. "On certain occasions, when the client has some specific requirements, I do work with Procreate, but the experience during the process is totally different, and it shows in the result."

She specialises in editorial illustration, an approach she describes as one of the most complex sub-disciplines within illustration thanks to its tight deadlines. Itziar credits her success to hard work and perseverance. "I have always wanted to make this type of work and solve these kinds of challenges. After a period of study and work to land my first clients, I got assignments that helped me improve and better understand how the market worked. Once you manage to take the first step, inertia helps you to keep moving forward."

Once you manage to take the first step, inertia helps you to keep moving forward

She adds: "I find the ability of illustrators to brilliantly conceptualise complex ideas in simple illustrations very admirable. Some of them are creating high-quality work on a daily basis." But rather than seeing the editorial illustration workload as a drawback, Itziar says it can become an incredible engine of motivation.

"Obviously, tight lead times are always an obstacle to further developing ideas," she explains. "But without a doubt, one of the biggest challenges is working with different topics every time you start a new job.

"Sometimes, you're dealing with quite sensitive topics that you are not very familiar with. Sometimes, time is very limited and does not allow you to carry out a more detailed investigation on the subject being discussed. Truthfully, this can be a pity because the more information you have, the easier it is to convey the idea appropriately and clearly in the illustration."

As for the future, Itziar is looking to expand and explore new markets where the creative boundaries and limitations are different. This includes working for advertisers and developing her own textile brand emblazoned with her prints.

"Another goal that I have projected in the short term is to start giving movement to my illustrations. It is quite a challenge since I work in analogue and the limitations are evident, but I hope I can achieve it in the near future."


Get the best of Creative Boom delivered to your inbox weekly