Joe Boyd's illustrations of nature, place and movement show a never-ending thirst for adventure

Joe Boyd 's artistic journey began at a young age. Growing up in the serene landscapes of Cumbria, at just 16, he enrolled in art college in Carlisle. This early exposure to art sowed the seeds of his passion for visual storytelling.

However, his move to Leeds in 2013 to study illustration marked a pivotal moment in his career. At university, Joe's interests expanded into the realms of editorial and publishing projects, along with forays into screen-printing and frame-by-frame animation. During this time, he began receiving recognition for his illustration work, particularly in the form of event posters.

After graduation, Joe was determined to carve a path in the world of freelance illustration. However, it took several years of financial support from other work before his dream became a sustainable reality. Much of his formative years in Leeds were spent at Duke Studios, a creative hub that served as a launchpad for his career. Here, he found support, mentorship and creative camaraderie that would shape his artistic trajectory.

One pivotal moment in Joe's career, though, came from a commission by the esteemed film production company Studiocanal. This collaboration led to a series of artworks celebrating film releases, a partnership that spanned several years and encompassed artwork, animations and film posters. It was this significant project that catapulted Joe into the creative spotlight and set the stage for his subsequent endeavours – not least the opportunity to pack up and work remotely with his partner in countries like Berlin, Croatia, South East Asia and Lisbon, where he's currently based.

Each place he's visited and the natural world which it inhabits has contributed to Joe's creative inspiration. "I love drawing natural elements – leaves, waves, clouds – so exploring nature in all these different places and seeing how different cultures interact and live alongside nature is super interesting and has sparked many ideas," he says. Besides this, he also pulls inspiration from the early 20th-century artists Sybil Andrews and Cyril Power, known for their linocut works characterised by dynamic compositions. As a result, his works merge contemporary aesthetics with a harmonious blend of tradition and modernity.

When creating one of his nature-rich artworks, Joe usually begins with an array of pencil sketches on paper. "Drawing on paper feels way more intuitive and playful to me for generating compositions and ideas," he shares. Once these sketches are digitised, he turns to Photoshop and uses a Wacom tablet. The artist meticulously builds his illustrations by layering colours and erasing sections to reveal lighter tones and the underlying paper. "This reductive, print-making-inspired approach is super satisfying," he adds. "It feels like sculpting the image by slowly creating depth with erased highlights and the parts left dart."

In recent times, Joe has been delving into the concept of movement by incorporating "natural forms and flowing elements" in his compositions. "I wanted to focus on capturing movement more explicitly," he continues. To do this, he challenges himself to depict subjects in various states of motion, akin to animation, before amalgamating these states into a cohesive final image. His piece Pecker is a prime example of how he showcases a dynamic, almost surreal energy through his work.

Looking ahead, Joe's journey promises to be exciting. His first commissioned book cover project, set to be released soon, marks a significant milestone. Additionally, he aspires to engage in more editorial work, returning to conceptual illustration – a pursuit that brings him the utmost satisfaction.


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