Wacom Creatives: A look into the experimental digital art of Miss Led

“If you want something really badly, then you don’t feel like you’re making sacrifices.”

In this instalment of Wacom Creatives, we take a look at the studio of Joanna Henley, a South-Wales-born visual artist and portrait illustrator. She has been working in London as an independent artist for almost two decades. Operating under the moniker Miss Led, the Middlesex University graduate creates a broad spectrum of designs ranging from fashion illustrations, packaging layouts and what she is known for the most, expressive portrait artworks.

The freedom of moving between analogue and digital allows Henley to create her distinctive designs. But, according to her, knowing which is which and keeping them as separate parts of the creative process is imperative to the outcome of the artwork. A design may start with pencil and paper before it is polished up with a Wacom drawing tablet on screen using Photoshop.

Henley believes it is important to create the part of the illustration that is emotive first, so she takes time in drawing the expression of the face on paper before the “supporting characters” of the artwork are added.

“I will work with predominantly the figure first because that’s where it connects with the viewer, I think. The gaze, the eyes and the expression… That piece will be really refined and completed. And then I will scan that in, maybe print it out or work on tracing paper as an overlay,” she says.

Henley’s artworks are marked by bold, detailed lines that make up the expression of the figure and a restrained approach to colour. Her artworks have an ethereal look with subtle, parchment-like textures and abstract elements such as typography or images of wildlife that compliment the handmade faces Henley creates.

In this new series, Design Indaba partnered with Wacom to give our readers a glimpse into the creative processes of premiere artists and illustrators. Over the next few months, we'll be featuring a host of fascinating creative personalities - including Andrew Rae, Guy Shield and Alberto Montt - all of whom use Wacom's selection of professional artist tools to create their striking works. Watch our interview with Cape Town-based illustrator, Caroline Vos.