Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Cate Le Bon Illustration for Amelia's Magazine

At the end of last month, coinciding with the release of her new album CYRK (Polish for 'circus'), Welsh songstress Cate Le Bon launched her sell-out UK tour at London's Village Underground. Richard Pearmain was there and wrote this lovely review for Amelia's Magazine. 

Looking and listening, in preparation for an illustration to accompany the review, I too was beguiled by Cate's unique music and also her videos, past and more recent. Some are very surreal, others quite domestic and homely, but all with a sense of the resonances of nature, especially animals; they also reflect a deeper, dark (Cate's word) take on our daily doings.

For my illustration I pulled together 3 sources that I found very powerful visually. Firstly, I really liked the CYRK album's artwork, though it wasn't until the end of the process that I saw a way to include an element of it :

Secondly, the video for one of the tracks - Fold the Cloth - was compelling, not least in its use of red within an otherwise quite sepia colour range. 

It features Cate and her little niece and had a magical, childlike quality. There were several frames in which the 2 figures are on a sand dune, silhouetted against the setting sun and sky:

Meanwhile the mystical, shadowy work of Barcelona illustrator Kodomos had really appealed to me, especially his work on Alice in Wonderland (perhaps also because that's my daughter's name) and this beautiful illustration in particular:

I thought I would have a try at emulating Kodomos' style and use of light and shade, which meant a happy afternoon of building up layers in pencil. I was pleased with the likeness of the tree and the way the Cate Le Bon image lent itself to the style. But in retrospect I wish I had taken some extra time to create my own tree. Here is my half-finished pencil drawing - the paper was quite textured, meant for soft pastels:

Once it was completed, including the moon (echoing the CYRK cover) and a semicircle of light, I scanned the drawing and then digitally added some soft red in certain places.

One lovely thing was that when Kodomos saw the illustration, and his tree, a dialogue was started - he is an incredibly warm, kind and generous artist.

Also, I was more than a little thrilled that when Cate Le Bon read Richard's review and saw the illustration she asked if she could have a copy : )

To finish, some reviews of Cate's music:

“like a Valley-born Nico locked in the cupboard with The Fall” **** Q 

“Cate Le Bon follows her own path” **** MOJO

“her lyrical style recalls the whimsical, pastoral fantasy of Syd Barrett and her music jumps 
  everywhere, from garage rock to harmony pop to electronic….with it’s own sense of logic.” 
  **** The Times
“Le Bon is someone whose take on songwriting is so sideways, it would be completely impossible 
  for anyone else to replicate it” Guardian Guide


  1. love this illustration Gilly and great to have the insight on your process getting to the end result - what a good writer you are aswell as an artist ! :-) x

  2. Beautiful image and great to read how you created it x

  3. Thank you Sam and Kiran .. not many of them seem so clear as to how they come about!