Jelly Presents: Freya Betts

Monday 18 February 2019

With art that is as unique as it is technical, we sat down with the wonderful Freya to learn just how she creates each masterpiece.

We recently signed fresh new illustration talent Freya Betts to our Futures scheme. Freya’s style is both hyper-realistic and intriguing, and with an eye for both intricacy and detail, she creates art that is hard to take your eyes off. In fact, at first glance Freya’s digital paintings could easily be mistaken for photographs but as you look closer, the subtleties of Freya’s artistic touch shine through. And that is just what her illustrations do, they quite literally shine off the page, or off the screen. Take a look at any one of Freya’s portraits and you’ll see just how beautifully each face picks up light and shadow. This, alongside the subjects she depicts, radiates the drama and human quality of each illustration, as if they could jump out at us at any second.

Before becoming a freelance illustrator, Freya dedicated every spare moment to adding to her portfolio. She had grown up drawing and painting and after discovering a Wacom tablet, Freya swiftly ‘fell in love with digital art’. For Freya, digital painting has opened her eyes to so many different components of image making; it has taught her how to work with imagery, how to create a composition, and how to combine the two with typography. Freya credits her time at design agency XYi and painting film-based art as ‘really important parts of this journey’, since it taught her to work to a brief, to use illustration contextually and to explore poster design.


Freya discusses her realist style and explains how recently she’s ‘taken a few steps back from realism to give a more fine art feel’ to her illustrations. This development has been achieved by a change in brushstroke, which is now visibly looser. Freya aims to retain a physical painterly style when producing each artwork, and therefore keeps the process as close to fine art as possible by always painting freehand. Much like the way most representational painters will work closely with the subject, Freya always has a dual screen on Photoshop, with the reference image sitting on the left, and her blank canvas on the right.

Mood boards are a constant source of inspiration for Freya, as well as different examples of design she sees on a daily basis, be that packaging, posters, or shop signs, Freya admits ‘picking up anything if I like the packaging design’. Anything and everything can contribute to Freya’s artistic process, and she strongly believes that design and illustration have the power to be influential and thought provoking. In a recent series, Freya focused on portraying endangered species, and by combining illustration and typography, she confronted us with the shocking reality and horrific facts surrounding the numbers of tigers, orangutans and rhinos left on the planet.

Another recent project that Freya talked to us about was the artwork she created for Alternative Movie Poster’s 30×30 1987 Exhibition. Freya was tasked with producing the illustration for the 1987 film Hellraiser, and she describes it as her first experience of having to recreate the scene, rather than working from a specific image:


“I pieced her together, her head, her body, her hand from multiple scenes and stills, and subtly lit her face up from the box she was holding. Before hand, if I didn’t have an image of something that was directly how I needed it, then I couldn’t do it, so it felt like a big step and felt like someone had opened doors which were locked before and limited me.”

Freya has a wonderful talent for being able to capture someone’s face and likeness perfectly whilst still maintaining a subtle painterly style. The artists who have been influential to the development of her style; Jonathan Yeo and Sam Spratt, do exactly that, they combine realism and expressive brushstrokes. Unsurprisingly both Yeo and Spratt primarily paint faces, just as faces almost always sit at the centre of Freya’s artwork.

In the future, Freya hopes to expand her art further than film-based art, and although working on an official film poster is a dream for Freya, she’s keen to tackle different briefs and create new opportunities for herself. She’s eager to keep expanding her style, and just as an open-minded approach led her to digital painting, it may carry on leading her onwards, perhaps to a new medium, a new subject of interest or a progression in her ever-developing style.