We caught up with graphic artist Leigh Le Roux

South African graphic designer uses emotive illustrations to tell the stories of ordinary people.

Leigh Le Roux is a South African graphic design artist who brings the stories of everyday people to life by fusing simple graphic line work with traditional sketch styling. Inspired by the stories which he says “people don’t even realise they tell”, his illustrations are recognised by the recurrent themes of love, loneliness and sadness – emotions which he himself often deals with.

Reluctant to define his style and put his art in a box, Le Roux says that he is still looking to discover and learn new styles. His commitment to constantly evolve as an artist explains why he is currently in Japan, hoping to learn new styles from international illustrators whose work he has been inspired by.

Opening: Leigh’s earliest work and a personal favourite.  

This is the project that made him believe that there is more to illustration than just drawing but rather that it is an artform which can be used to tell stories and express ideas.

Talking about the subjective nature of art and the process of putting one’s work “out there”, he says, “showing my work is like showing all my flaws for everyone to see”, but argues that validation of his work as “beautiful” is not something he focuses on because some people may like it and others not, depending on how it makes them feel.  

Le Roux, who started off with sketches and doodles on his textbooks and exam pads as a child, is a huge technology enthusiast. He says that even though you learn the fundamentals with a paper and pencil, tech-advancements have helped with the process of an artist’s ideas reaching a wider audience. He advises artists to make use of social media and recognise its potential when it comes to marketing their work and staying relevant.

Talking to him about the skill and art form of illustration and whether or not he thinks it’s something that can be taught, he says: “I first started drawing as a child because I loved it...but the passion to become better and to learn isn't taught- it's all personal drive.”

A fan favourite “Speak” (image below) is a personal piece inspired by his imagination of a character he has never met before. In this illustration, the main focus was the eyes and the reason for this, he says, is because eyes tell most of a person’s story.

Le Roux shares with us some advice for aspiring illustrators which he wishes someone would have told him when he was starting out. He says that young people should not be afraid to show their work because that’s the best way to get feedback and constructive criticism which will help an artist grow. He adds that they should utilise the internet if they want to learn because designers and illustrators of today are looking on youtube for tutorials every time they get stuck and using Pinterest and dribble as mood boards. Lastly, he says, “you need to believe in yourself more than anyone else there will be ups and downs but you need to know that you have something no one else has”.

Each artist has their own motivation for why they do what they do. For Le Roux, it’s simply so that people may find something they connect with in his art and as a result, feel less alone. He spends a lot of time on his drawings which he really hopes are able to make people feel something – be it happiness or sadness - and that they help inspire creativity.

Read an earlier feature and see more of his work.