Joby Barnard never pictured himself drawing dogs. Until Clem, that is. Twice-a-day outings with the whippet and countless encounters of the dog kind inspired his book, What if Dog was One of Us? Barnard skilfully pairs crisp line illustrations and witty captions (urban haikus, if you like) to breathe life into a band of lovable characters. Here, the designer tells us about the joy of matching breeds to stories, and his love for simplicity and wordplay.
I would’ve never have made this book, or started drawing dogs, until we got Clem–a 3-and-a-half-year-old whippet, who shares the studio here. His combination of beauty and idiocy makes for an ever-filling well of inspiration, and having him means I have to meet other dogs at least twice a day. Working as a designer and illustrator means waiting for feedback sometimes, and I started idly drawing dogs in clothes during those quiet periods. After I had 15 or so I realised it could be something bigger. In my commercial work I’m often striving for simplicity, and I wanted these drawings to be similarly unfussy—how do you render a dog in as few lines as possible and still convey its character?
Most of them are just invented—the drawing inspires a name, which in turn inspires a character. I don’t want people to think they’re based on people I’ve known or currently know. Please don’t think that. I found matching the characters to the breeds much easier than drawing the actual dogs. Some of it is from observing different breeds and being wholly subjective—French Bulldogs look exactly like tiny security guards to me, Afghan hounds would-be supermodels, etc—but mostly I’d just make their characters up after looking at the finished drawing. The thing is never to hold back. The incongruity of calling a leaping poodle ‘Jeff Whitehurst’ is almost enough for me. But then if he’s wearing trainers and lycra shorts, even better. And, if he’s‘ surprisingly calm under pressure’ then it’s finally finished.
The creative process
I wish it was more complex and interesting than this: think of a dog I’ve seen or met, and try and draw it. Or read about a breed I’ve never heard of, and then image search it. The first sketch is super-quick, just to get the form. Then about two or three tracings to refine the line. The end impression should still be ‘quick’ though, and not look laboured. You know how if you look closely at a line, you can tell if it’s been painful to draw? I don’t want it to look painful. The captions are deliberately concise for the same reason.
It’s quite puerile really. And I love words and wordplay. For example, I really badly wanted to explain that although this book isn’t making me wealthy, it is keeping me wild beyond my richest dreams. That kind of thing.
The toughest challenge
Editing from 100-plus drawings down to the 57 in the book. And finding ways to avoid drawing fur.
All artwork courtesy of Joby Barnard
What if Dog was One of Us? is published by Pabarat.
You can purchase the book here.
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