Betsy (they/she) is a queer artist working in the east of England.
Betsy Falco (they/she) AKA @arose.garden is a queer artist working in the east of England. She is a self taught digital illustrator with a love for mythology/folklore, fantasy and cowboys. Her work is a culmination of her own obsessions—if Brokeback Mountain had a sequel set on Mount Olympus during October (Zeus is not invited). Her artist strengths are character design and concept illustration with a retro gothic twist. You can find Betsy in her tiny goblin studio watching Dungeons & Dragons, livestreams and listening to spooky soundtracks whilst working.
Clients include: Paperboy London, Fearne Cotton, Happy Place Podcast, Universal Music Publishing Group, Shania Twain (via Robyn Elton at All My Friends Digital), Lovers Stores, YMU Group
When did you start illustrating?
From the time I could hold a pencil I’ve been creating to some capacity. I’m an only child so most of my childhood was spent creating fantasy maps and movable paper characters that I’d make up stories with. I loved building new projects for myself that I’d work on for weeks at a time. Any spare cardboard or scrap paper my dad would bring home from work would promptly be turned into part of my projects; boxes of tiny graphic novels, character sheets for make-believe board games or 2D house plans that I’d turn into Lego structures! My mum has kept a lot of what I’ve made over the years so I have a semi-professional historical illustration archive from years gone by.
Who has been the most supportive in your illustration career, perhaps your teacher, family, friends?
My parents have both always told me that they didn’t care what I did for a job just as long as it made me happy. I feel very grateful to have never felt occupational pressure from them as being an ‘artist’ is usually seen as an unattainable and irresponsible career path. I also had an art teacher in Primary school named Mrs Montgomery who was a big inspiration to me. She would come in a few times a term, dressed in bright shirts and always chewing gum, and sketch beautiful figures in charcoal. I was always mesmerised with how she she could explain what she was going to draw and then execute it down to the last word. She was definitely a huge part of why I fell in love with making artwork.
Did you always think art was something that was going to be a major part of your life?
Honestly, no. Even though my parents were always supportive of my love of art I felt responsible to chose a sensible career path. I spent a lot of my secondary school years frustrated with the curriculum and being told that my style was too ‘explicit’. Our work was critiqued by one person, our teacher, and their opinion was the only response I was offered for what I made. Naturally, I stopped making things once I’d left school. It was only when I realised that there was no career out there that would make me feel as fulfilled as illustration did that I decided to give it a proper go.
What is your favourite subject matter to illustrate?
I love illustrating people and bodies. Every single one is different and my fascination with character creation is still very much alive from my childhood. I also enjoy adding objects into my work that help with creating an overall mood; teeth, medieval cups, animal skulls, cowboy hats, horseshoes, etc.
How would you describe your style?
It’s very eclectic and eccentric. I use a lot of different elements and motifs to bring my work together rather than creating one cohesive scene. My illustrations nod to a lot of different styles and I think that’s what people find fascinating. Psychedelic Folklore (if it’s not already a thing then I’m coining the term right here) is essentially what I make. It’s retro and chintzy with oversaturated colours but the subject matter is always something gothic or folky or fantastical in some way. It’s kind of like if halloween was set in a 1970’s music video. I like that on the surface it appears very happy and bright but when you take a closer look there is something a little off, even if it’s just that the subject matter has four eyes.
What is your favourite collaboration to date?
Last year I worked with the incredible Shania Twain and her team to celebrate the diamond edition of The Woman In Me. I’m a huge country music fan and it was such a shock when I was asked to illustrate something for the anniversary. There was a group of us who all took part and it was incredible to see our work put together once the project was finished.
What interested you about being represented by Illo Agency?
The variety in styles and diversity in artists at Illo is something that was so refreshing for me to see. A lot of agencies have a clear bias to one style of art or type of artist and that makes it difficult to fit the mould. Seeing other queer artists being represented and celebrated for what they do was lovely and I knew that Illo was a safe space to build on my craft and not compromise my style for the sake of others.
Do you have a favourite author, film director, or designer?
Melissa Broder is my favourite author. Her writing style (very raw, sometimes uncomfortable and speculative) feels similar to how I illustrate and I love that she’s a woman who puts her craft out into the world unapologetically. Ari Aster and Wes Anderson both bring me a lot of joy for different reasons. Aster conjures those deeply thoughtful images that are often not what they seem and Anderson has such a talent for colour and stylistic choices. I’m definitely someone who loves to feast on visuals.
Are you working on any personal projects you can share with us?
I’m trying to find more time to make things for me right now. I’m working, very slowly, on a zine about a cowboy wizard. It’s pretty ridiculous and I’m definitely indulging in all the strange ideas I’ve had over the years that I’ve put on the shelf.
Do you listen to podcasts? If so, do you have a favourite?
I do! I listen to a lot of Critical Role and Last Podcast On The Left as I’m a huge Dungeons and Dragons and true crime/cryptid lover respectively. I also like to listen to history or mythology podcasts while I illustrate as it’s often related to something I’m working on and is nice for a little bit of background inspiration.
if you have any questions or a specific project in mind, please do get in touch; [email protected]
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