Marc Barker

Artist Spotlight: Marc Barker

Exposed caught up with Sheffield-based illustrator Marc Barker to talk inspiration, anthropomorphism and pesky new algorithms.

Hi Marc, how did you first get into illustration?
Well, I’ve enjoyed drawing since I was a kid. I used to really enjoy copying characters from the comics I read and making up my own little stories. I kind of drifted away from it for a while in my twenties and thirties, but was encouraged to pick my pencils again by my wife.

I find it a great way to relax now; I love to get the ideas in my head down on paper and see where they go. It’s only recently that I have started to take my illustration more “seriously” – doing commissions for people, producing illustrations for local magazines and having a bit more direction with my ideas.

Are there any specific artists whose work influences you?
Oh, god! Where do I start? There are some many different artists that inspire me at different times and for different reasons. I’m still quite inspired by a lot of comic artists, especially Jack Kirby these days, but apart from that, people like Even Cagle (@hypermirage), Peter Diamond, Killian Eng, Ian Mcque, Jesse Lonergan, Dave McKean, Nico Delort, Becky Cloonan – and far more people than I could possibly mention here producing wonderful, wonderful art. Seek them out and give them your support.

What sort of themes inspire you creatively?
I dunno really. It’s not something I think about that much, but I guess there are certain themes that crop up a fair bit. I think Victoriana is definitely one. Nature is another. Ghosts and horror certainly have their foot in the door. I guess steampunk (sorry!) and history have their roles to play as well.

Antropohormism features heavily throughout your drawings, with your fun commissions of Sheffield pets going down a treat last year. What initially drew you to that and do you have a favourite?
You know what, I’m not really sure where that idea came from. I just think I thought it was something that people might want to have drawn and something I’d enjoy drawing. But I got a very positive response from people about them. Those commissions inspired me to start working on a series of illustrations about animal/human… erm… hybrids? Giving them a backstory and personality. But going back to the original question, I’m still very fond of the first one I did. It was based around a Bonnie and Clyde theme, and then there was another one of a dog sat in a pub drinking Guinness. What’s not to like there?!

As someone who promotes most of their art via Instagram, what do you think about the platform’s growing shift towards video-centric content? There have been arguments how it can be damaging for artists who are not as comfortable with certain styles of self-promotion.
I think it’s a real shame that they feel the need to take the platform in that direction. TikTok already deals with that. Why not concentrate on illustrators/artists/photographers who have already spent years building up a following on Instagram and have a wide audience as well as those those who are up and coming?

It’s frustrating knowing that your posts won’t register with the algorithm because they’re not video. Not everyone wants to see video; I’m really not bothered about seeing a speeded-up clip of someone drawing a cow. I guess it must be easier to monetise videos then static images? I don’t really know, but it’s just another hoop to jump through.

What have you been doodling recently?
I’m currently working on a book cover, which is pretty exciting and intimidating in equal measure. A friend has asked me to produce some designs for a virtual prog band, so a bit like a 70s Gorillaz. That’s been fun to be working on and I’ve also been asked to work on a Peak District guide. Apart from that, I have some story ideas bouncing around in my head, which I keep putting down on page. Hopefully, one day, they’ll come together into something that makes sense.


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