Illustrator James Gilleard reveals a glitched-up new vector style

The vector artist's latest works are an intriguing mix of geometric distortion and retro themes.

The beginning of a new year is often the perfect time to show off new approaches, styles and ideas that you've been working on in your own time - putting them in front of potential clients on the lookout for something fresh.

In that spirit, illustrator James Gilleard has shared a selection of rather lovely new works with us that are a lot dirtier than the work he's been commissioned for in the past. There's a simplicity and balance to the compositions, but that's contrasted with an overload of texture and geometry that distort the underlying forms in interesting ways - forms comprising retro robots, historical architecture and the easeful natural world.

"I wanted to try something a bit more impressionistic and loose," says James, "combining elements of old photographs, flat vector artwork and pattern and a desire to make it seem digital."

Image: Beach House

While the end result is distinct in itself, it draws on some of the trends that we've seen become prevalent over the past few years: Instagram-filter colouring, heavily textured vectors, low-poly forms and and the digital artefacts of glitch art.

Image: detail from Beach House

"I fell in love with glitch art a few years ago and have been wanting to implement it in some way ever since," says James. "I've also been listening to a lot of music that evokes a certain feeling, called Vaporwave and wanted to try something that felt like that music."

Vapourwave – and the form of glitch art that's often accompanies it in music videos – have their roots in the early days of digital media, often having a feel like a poor-quality 80s broadcast then recorded from one VHS cassette to another multiple times and distorted by generational loss. This gives them a roughness, a humanity that their basic sounds and graphics wouldn't have without evidence that real people were involved in its creation and distribution - and means that they have more artistic purpose than just being humorously retro.

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"Initially, I found [Vapourwave' funny," says James, "[but] on listening to it over and over I started to realise how beautiful it was, completely contrasting with my initial impressions. Glitch art is similar in that it can look cold and harsh, but looking further, it starts to appear like pattern in many ways and not too dissimilar from Bauhaus patterns or textiles.

"The mistakes in both are what really appeal though."

This new style isn't just about putting a fresh spin on his previous work. As James notes, it allows him to tackle different concepts and moods.

"The clean work was always a bit cartoony, so maybe this will enable me to appropriately tackle subjects of a more serious nature," says James. "I have one idea for a book based on my Grandad's experiences in WW2 for example, which this style - or a variation on this style - would be much more suited to than the old cleaner work."

For professional commissions, James sees his new style as being most appropriate for editorial commissions - though he says that he'd really like to try creating animation with this approach.

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