The Narrative-Driven Illustrations of Luke Brookes

A good illustrator can capture a whole story within a single frame, bringing the story to life and inviting the viewer to explore its different layers. UK-based illustrator Luke Brookes understands the art of narrative intuitively. With a love of story-telling, his illustrations are both dynamic and incredibly detailed, presenting a cinematic-like universe with graphic compositions that boast an atmospheric and energetic aesthetic.

Adopting a narrative-driven style, his work has won him awards, as well as collaborations with top brands and news outlets like BBC, Virgin, Mercedes, and Politico. Specializing in editorial work, Brookes has also created illustrations for books, advertising, and packaging.

“My work combines a strong graphic, narrative-driven style with dramatic lighting and a restricted color palette giving rise to vivid, graphic compositions that boast a futuristic aesthetic,” Brookes further described his practice in a piece published on Ape on the Moon. Another key feature in his work is his skillful use of lighting. Using shadows in his illustrations adds weight and is a key component of his visual narrative.

“My process has changed a bit over the years but I usually start with quickly sketched thumbnail drawings to solidify an idea and composition,” explains Brookes. “I try not to be to fussy with how polished the image is at this stage, it’s more like I’m thinking out loud on the paper.”

Color and texture are then applied digitally, using a Wacom tablet and Photoshop. “I always work with a limited palette, usually around 4–5 colors. I love how this makes me really consider where each color is going to be put down.”

But in the end, it all boils down to the narrative itself: “The narrative is so important to me,” stressed Brookes. “I’m really inspired by movies, great cinematography inspires so much of my work and I always approach a composition as if I were directing a movie,” he noted.