Lost Seoul: SA illustrator Louis Barnard draws his new home in South Korea

Cape Town-born, South Korea-based illustrator Louis Barnard draws detailed urban landscape scenes of his adopted city Seoul. His carefully composed illustrations convey the dynamic atmosphere of public spaces.

Shops, alleyways, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, electric cables swaying across the streets, bright neon signs and characters on the street are regularly replicated. “Initially, when I arrived in Korea, I felt incredibly intimidated by the bric-a-brac alleyways filled with clutter, the endless wires, cables, and coils swaying across the streets, and the large, unfamiliar signs, the quirky buildings.

“I started a sketchbook to document my surroundings. And, I realised that by capturing the restaurants, alleyways, and buildings by breaking them down into their basic elements of line, shape, and form, I was able to familiarise myself with Korea, its people, language, and everyday life.”

“I studied under lecturers such as Anton Kannemeyer, Paddy Bouma, Elizabeth Gunter, and Lize Van Robbroeck,” says the young artist who completed a degree in Fine Art at Stellenbosch University before making his move to East Asia, where he now spends his days teaching visual art at an international school.

“I was inspired by the gritty style of Bitterkomix, the sensitive manner in which Paddy Bouma used images to tell stories, the beautifully-rendered charcoal drawings done by Elizabeth Gunter, and the critical analysis of art during Lize Van Robbroeck lectures,” he shares. 

Louis has a delicacy with pen, brush and marker. His aesthetic is characterised by crisp, clean lines and limited colour palettes. “Initially, I wanted my work to look just like the bold, hardy and unapologetic style found in [underground South African comic] Bitterkomix. I tried to replicate comic artists Anton Kannemeyer and Conrad Botes’ style in my sketchbooks. However, this seemed a little contrived. My work looked forced.

“I realised that the one thing I love about drawing is creating line; bold thick lines created with pen, brush, or marker. I could spend hours rendering pencil drawings with ink. My style is dependent on line and how I render pencil sketches. I enjoy experimenting with different ways of creating line including traditional Korean ink brushes.”

He continues, “I enjoy working in both traditional pen-and-ink media and digitally. When I started learning about illustration and rendering in Stellenbosch, I preferred using pen. When I moved to Korea, I started working exclusively with brush after observing some local artists doing calligraphy on paper fans. I enjoy the different line variations created by brush and ink.

“On a holiday to Oregon, my wife bought me a Bamboo tablet. At first, I was skeptical about drawing digitally. But now, I have embraced the endless possibilities that digital drawing software has to offer. I enjoy researching new drawing apps which I often share with my students.”

Peak his artwork below and on his website.       


Between 10 and 5