Tyler Hartley is a freelance painter and illustrator who graduated from BA (Hons) Comic & Concept Art in 2021.

Tyler returned as a Leeds Arts University Creative in Residence in 2021. Visitors to Thought Bubble Comic Art Festival in Leeds were able to see Tyler exhibiting with Leeds Arts University during the event in November 2021. 

Here’s what Tyler had to say:

Can you tell us about ‘Childish’?

Childish is the title of my final third-year project at Leeds Arts University, and it is a 24 page fully illustrated comic. Childish is a love story about best friends. Childish is about looking back on a life spent in love with your friends, and about the definition of what home means. In preparation for Childish, I spent a few months working on a small friendship-themed mental health zine entitled Mould, as well as interviewing my friends about what home means to them.

When illustrating for Childish, every panel is referenced from a photograph of my friends taken in the past 5 years. I am the kind of friend that takes photos you all of the time, and while I guess it could be annoying, it feels worth it to see my friends recognise themselves in my art, to see their importance in my life.

Image: Tyler Hartley, Frog Brain. 

I crowdfunded Childish and hand printed it to stick with my attachment to DIY artwork. Each copy was hand sewn and distributed by me, and while this was obviously time consuming, it makes it feel more loved and personal.

Childish was completed in May 2021, and went on to be sold at 2 stores in Leeds and got me picked for a table at Thoughtbubble Festival. I am incredibly proud of this project, and hope for it to be just the beginning of stories I want to tell.

What inspires you?

I think the thing that inspires me most is wanting to make art to express feelings of love. I make a lot of art about my friends. I like evoking feelings of nostalgia and platonic affection in my illustrations, especially the ones in Childish. I want to look back on my own art when I am old and recognise my own memories and people who I have loved and shared my life with.

Another thing that I love, that inspires me, is my pets, and you will find a lot of my work centres around them, in particular my dog who I grew up with. I also make a lot of artworks relating to music, and I have had the opportunity to work with many musicians who inspire me, as well as being recognised for fanart projects. I am inspired by the punk scene and DIY culture in art as well as music.

Image: Tyler Hartley, Childish.

Image: Tyler Hartley. 

What was it that drew you to studying (BA) Hons Comic and Concept Art at Leeds Arts University?

I picked Comic and Concept Art because I started uni unsure of what I wanted to do with an art degree. In my first 1:1 tutor meeting in first year when I was asked what I wanted to do after uni, I said “I don’t know, I just like drawing.” I think this made my tutors laugh, but we agreed that that was enough.

I felt the broadness of topics covered in my degree allowed me to be creative and very free with my art. For some briefs I used oil paints, for others I designed Pokemon. I’ve never wanted to be just one kind of artist, and this course allowed me to create whatever I wanted, allowing me to be incredible ambitious with my projects. While I did settle with comics in my final year, this has not limited me going forwards. My tutors have opened my eyes to so many places of opportunity in art, and while I do want to keep making comics, I have participated in traditional painting exhibitions, collaborative projects, and had fun with my personal art since graduating.

I think what drew me most to the course in my interview was that it was new. It didn’t exist anywhere else, and my tutors were so excited about it. They cared so much about making the course good for us and listened to us so much right from day one.

I am very, very glad I chose this course.

Are there any projects that you remember? 

One project I remember very clearly was an exhibition project in first year in collaboration with Café 164. It was the first time I’d ever participated in an exhibition, and I was so nervous at the idea of my artwork being displayed in the public eye. I painted a green man in acrylics, and I was terrified as I handed him over to be displayed. But even though I was nervous, I adored the exhibition experience. I loved chatting about my work and my friends works, I loved that my green man had made people smile. Following the exhibition, I repainted him five times for people who wanted to buy him, because I was unable to part with the original as I had fallen in love with it so much as my first ever exhibition piece.

As well as being exciting, this brief in particular gave me so much confidence. Knowing I loved exhibitions, I applied for more and got accepted into three over the course of a year. One in Leeds Corn Exhange, where I displayed two digital paintings in the exhibitions theme of identity. One in the Make Space on Liverpool Docks, made special by so many of my friends coming to support me, where I displayed six paintings and made so many new friends.

The third, postponed by the pandemic, will be at Aire Place Studios this October 2021. I am excited for it, rather than nervous, and would not have had this opportunity without the Café 164 brief when I was at university.

Image: Tyler Hartley, Elf Boy. 

Image: Tyler Hartley.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Since graduating, I've started working a lot more to support myself without a student loan. I live with some friends in Leeds and work at a coffee shop that I care about deeply because of all it does for the community.

Most of my days are full of working at the store, most of my evenings are spent making memories with my friends, watching movies with my housemates, and making art whenever I have the time. Days are busy, but I am working hard to bring more art into my life.

Image: Tyler Hartley, Mould. 

Do you have any projects in the pipeline at the moment that you can tell us about?

I do! I am working on a few small personal projects, a short comic about my dog, and improving myself as a painter.
But I have also worked on some collaborative projects, album artwork for Chris Catalyst (Sisters of Mercy, etc), logo designs for DIY company and a LCOM society, and band t-shirts for Sheffield based punk band Slash Fiction, amongst other projects!

The biggest project I am working on is a collaborative graphic novel piece with writer Russel Hillman. I am the solo illustrator, letterer and cover artist on a huge project, which I hope to support me until I decide to return to LAU for a master’s degree. I have only recently been hired by him, but have high hopes for such a huge project and I was delighted to be chosen by him based on my works in Childish and Mould.