Barry Falls explains the inspiration behind his illustrations for the February issue
Behind the pictures
Do you consider yourself to have a trademark style? If so, how would you describe it?
I suppose I like my work to have a hand-made, organic feel to it. I use the computer to piece my illustrations together but all the marks are made by hand, usually drawn in pencil or pen. I also try to ensure that there’s a consistency to the approach to the concept – I like to find some sort of interesting angle into a story, and not to go for something too obvious.
How would you describe the creative process you go through when you receive a brief? Does it vary?
Well, I usually read the brief first and then let it sit for a while, until I have a bit of time to think about it while I’m out and about doing other things. I’ll then sketch some ideas and send them through to the art director. From that point on, it’s a two-way conversation, and every art director has a different way of working. Usually things run fairly smoothly and it’s a case of agreeing on an idea and then working up the final art.
Generally speaking, how do you come up with your ideas? What inspires you?
Chewing on a pencil for a while usually works, but often the best ideas come when you’re doing something completely unrelated. Looking out of the window always seems to help – I’m not sure why.
While working on your Therapy Today illustrations, did the ideas develop gradually, or did you know from the outset the direction you were going in?
They developed gradually – they were all quite different stories, so there wasn’t one unifying theme that I could just focus in on and bang out lots of related imagery. So it was a bit of pencil chewing and then a day or so of doing something else, and then a bit more pencil chewing. Also the art director was helpful and already had some thoughts on what might be a useful way into each particular story.
What was your brief for your Therapy Today illustrations?
My brief – like most editorial commissions actually – was the actual copy that I would be illustrating, some technical info on the sizes needed and one or two little hints for the concepts.
In addition to your brief, can you describe what informed/influenced/inspired your Therapy Today illustrations?
It seems obvious, but the actual words of the articles are always key. Little phrases here and there can just provide that visual image that you’re looking for.
Did illustrating these particular subjects throw up any challenges? If so, what were they?
Well, dealing with psychological issues is always going to be sensitive, to a degree. I didn’t want my images to be to po-faced, but at the same time it’s important to present things honestly and with some spirit, so I suppose there were some challenges in that respect. I had an idea of illustrating the story about the cooling of passion in relationships with images of Bonobo monkeys, but I think it worked better with humans, and the art director was (probably justifiably) concerned that it might trivialise the subject.
Can you describe in a nutshell what you were trying to convey with each image?
Hopefully I don’t have to!
How do you feel about your finished work? What do you like most about your images? Do you have a favourite image?
I’m pleased with them. You might notice I used a pink colour to tie them all together a little bit – without that they felt just a little bit too disparate. My favourite is actually the full-page image of the man and the woman for the couples counselling article.
Apart from Therapy Today, where else might we see your work?
The Guardian, The Financial Times, The New Yorker and Bloomberg Businessweek.
Barry Falls lives in Belfast with his wife, two-year-old son Jack and a Staffie cross called Maisey. Email email@example.com
If you are an illustrator and would like to get in touch about illustrating our articles in Therapy Today, please email firstname.lastname@example.org including some examples of your work or a link to your website.