Three Leeds-based artists you should know about
Introducing Monty, Jack and Zac!
Leeds is renowned for its edgy, creative vibe that fosters individuality. The city is known for its artists, with our very own Burley Banksy, and is home to the highest ranking specialist arts university in the country in 2018, Leeds Arts University.
We spoke to some of the Leeds-based artists that have caught our eye this year on Leeds Students’ Group (LSG):
Zac describes himself as a 23-year-old gay, colourblind artist originally from West-Lancashire. He moved to Leeds five years ago to study illustration at Leeds Arts University, where his first brief was to draw 100 donkeys. Since graduating, he has been living in Headingley and working as a full-time artist.
Zac struggles to tell the difference between yellow and green, blue and purple, and pink and grey or white and feels this has impacted his work.
He first painted Leeds in his second year of university when, together with friends, he started an illustration collective called Wildhouse. They set themselves themes, including “Leeds,” “nostalgia” and “LGBT+” and collated the pictures into editions of little self-published books. He now has 35 Leeds paintings available to buy.
Zac told The Leeds Tab: “I’ve always been happiest painting about my surroundings. The Wildhouse project was really good for me, because I wasn’t thinking about uni criteria, I was just painting what made me happy.”
When asked whether he’d expand and paint other cities, he said York, Manchester and Liverpool are on his bucket list. Student areas are particularly of interest to him “because they tend to be the most vibrant, modern and socially accepting places.”
When asked what his favourite painting of Leeds is he said: “Aesthetically, it’s Hyde Park Picture House. This painting was kind of a turning point for me, because it’s when I began my kind of classic look of detailing old brick walls with a mix of colours like a vibrant mosaic.
“Meanwood Park is my favourite in terms of location, as it was kind of my haven during lockdown. I’ve also heard lots of lovely stories of people proposing there or meeting their partner for the first time at the bridge.”
Zac’s paintings usually take between two and three days. They start as pencil sketches, which he then uses watercolour on before scanning the sketch and painting it digitally using iPad Procerate. He feels that this retains the hand painted appeal of watercolour and the paper texture, while also allowing him to add an unlimited amount of colour on top.
On the list to paint next is Leeds Museum, Wharf Chambers and much more! He aspires to eventually collate his work into an illustrated travel book. You can buy Zac’s work as high quality colour prints from Etsy or via Instagram.
When asked for his advice for those wanting to do the same, Zac told The Tab Leeds: “If you’re looking into creating and selling artwork, starting earlier is better. So long as you have a collection of artworks that are related and have a relevant audience then there’s nothing stopping you from opening an online shop.
“My entire business started in second year with about £60 from my maintenance loan buying a little HP printer, photo paper, protective art wallets and envelopes and I’ve never looked back.”
Monty Towns (Monty’s Maps)
Monty is 20-years-old and originally from Leicestershire. He’s studying economics at the University of Leeds, but is currently on a placement year in London.
The inspiration for his work comes from an underground style map he had back home that displayed the local villages and nearby towns. Over lockdown, Monty decided to recreate a Leeds version, which he actually never intended to sell until a friend suggested he did.
Monty has made maps of Leeds, Cardiff and Manchester and is currently working on one of Nottingham, with plans to make them of other cities too. However, we’re pleased to share that his favourite map is Leeds (we didn’t doubt him for a second).
He works with a uni student from each city (usually a friend), who he pays to fill out a word document with all the student locations, which he then turns into stops on the map. When he was really busy at the start of the venture, his housemate Harry would drive him around Hyde Park to hand deliver the maps. All of the printing is outsourced to a printing company, but Monty still does the distribution himself.
The first version of the Hyde Park map was created on an underground map maker website, before slowly progressing to become what it is now.
Monty was surprised by the positive response he received and when he first posted on LSG he received over 300 orders within the first week. One keen-eyed student spotted a spelling mistake on Brudenell Road, unfortunately meaning Monty couldn’t sell the 40 maps he already had printed, making the rush to produce even greater.
You can purchase one of Monty’s maps via Etsy.
When asked for his advice for students wanting to sell artwork, Monty said: “There’s no harm in trying. You have no idea of the reception your artwork will receive until you actually try, and as long as you are sensible and don’t spend loads of money producing the artwork before you receive any orders there really is nothing to lose.”
Jack is 21-years-old and studied Art and Design at the University of Leeds, until earlier this year when he graduated. He began making artwork of Leeds when his degree began in 2018, but he only began selling it this year.
He stated the main reason for creating art of Leeds was “my love of the city and its quirky, original traits like the Otley Run for example.”
Recently, Jack has began using and iPad for his work, which he feels gives “a far cleaner, less stressful approach to working.”
Though he has considered making work of other cities, recently his work has taken a more abstract, minimalist approach, rather than depicting environments directly.
Jack’s favourite illustration is that of Brudenell Social Club. The narrative and comedic nature of his three Leeds based illustrations derives from Baroque and Renaissance work; recreating ancient biblical narrative in a juxtaposing comedic manner.
He explores you to “look deep enough and I’m sure you’ll find something new each time.” Jack’s artwork is available to purchase via Instagram.
On the bucket list to illustrate next is Call Lane: it “always offers plenty of fun and eventful nights so I think the chaos displayed every evening on this street could be an interesting place to base the upcoming work.”
His advice to others wanting to do a similar thing is: “Just go for it! Life’s short so get your work out there. Don’t be disheartened if the response at the beginning is slow, persistence is key.”