Rosie Barker creates sunny, retro vibes in her crisp illustrations
Feeling like she was academically oriented at school, Rosie Barker ended up at Goldsmith University to study English Literature, believing that a career in journalism would be the path she would follow. “My idea of becoming a writer collapsed when I started attending conferences. I quickly realized that reading Victorian literature or indeed any literature was my idea from hell and I found myself endlessly jealous of my roommates who were taking art or design classes, ”said Barker to CR. “So I decided to give up and spent the rest of my student loan on a short design course at LCF to try and see if this was a path that suited me better. “
Although she enjoyed the course, it was the drawing aspect that intrigued her the most, so she researched illustration as a career. “Without an artistic foundation, I knew I needed to impress, so I spent my breaks working in a cocktail bar, creating a portfolio and working on my candidacy. I was on the moon when I walked into all my [university] choice and I think that initial struggle really invested me in making illustration a career, ”says Barker.
After completing the BA Illustration Course at the University of Brighton, Barker appreciated the fun and experimental nature of the course. “I did a lot of terrible work at times, but the freedom of the degree really gave me time to explore different avenues and understand my work and my practice in more depth,” she explains.
“It also taught me to work efficiently and quickly, because unlike other courses, we often had two-week deadlines – which are realistic, even generous, of what a real job is. I learned to trust the process, as long as I got to my desk and put pen to paper, it would all fall into place eventually.
Since graduation, Barker has remained in Brighton and has taken on a range of personal projects and editorial commissions. She describes her style as a “dreamy clash of influences”. Inspired by comic book artist Jean Giraud for his clean lines, and Ukiyo-e artists such as Kasushika Hokusai and Kitagawa Utamaro, Barker’s main interest is color and light. “I am greatly inspired by the beautiful artists James Turrell and Olafur Eliasson. I think part of this interest in light also comes from my frequent visits to Seville, where my boyfriend works and the sun reigns supreme, ”says Barker.
“There is often a beautiful sunset in Seville and Brighton. My subject is often inspired by my own strange dreams, the human psyche, liminal space, memories and surrealism. The somewhat blurred border between reality and elsewhere is what interests me the most.
When working on a new project or brief, Barker usually walks around town and takes inspiration from what she encounters. “In Brighton we have a lot of vintage shops full of weird and interesting items and I often take pictures of anything that attracts me. With the restrictions of the pandemic, however, I started looking at the work of photographers instead, taking surreal landscape and fashion photographs and combining them with my ideas, ”she says.
Barker then begins to work in his sketchbook, and his drawings take the form of raw compositions. Once the idea is solid, she switches to Procreate on her iPad to make it a more polished version for the client, then it’s color, her favorite part. “Sometimes I have to put color on my sketches before this point to get a feel for the atmosphere I’m trying to create,” she says. “I love the retro ’80s feel of a gradient, and I love experimenting with bright color palettes and light. I then place a layer of rough textured paper on top. I love to create texture in my work to bridge the gap between sleek digital art and a more analog style.
Aiming to create works that make people happy and relaxed, being independent gives Barker the freedom to work on projects she loves and to think of new ideas. Still, she says being her own boss can be a difficult balance. “A lot of times I work too much and don’t know when to say no to clients even though I already have a lot of work to do,” she admits.
“However, I’m learning to create boundaries between my work and my life, because resting and completely shutting off on weekends can actually mean I’m more creative and productive the next week. stop and rest and when I can push a little harder.