“I’ve always been interested in the parallels between climbing and making art, in terms of the headspace, the relationship to motivation, and the physicality of both practices,” says Tessa Lyons, 31, a climbing and landscape illustrator from Bethesda, North Wales. The UK artist started climbing 20 years ago—her father would pick her up from the roller disco, then they’d grab her older brother Tom from his climbing club at the Alton Sports Centre near their home in Four Marks. “At the end of their session, they’d sometimes tie a rope to me and basically pull me up,” Lyons says of sampling the then-rudimentary climbing wall, consisting of cinderblocks with holds scraped into them. Now Lyons climbs locally in North Wales on the varying shades of gray in the slate quarries, on the seaside quartzite of Gogarth, and on the black gabbro blocs of Porth Ysgo.
Lyons studied illustration at the University of Brighton and then took a job as a picture framer. In 2013, she moved to Sheffield to focus on her art, working part-time at a café. “Four years ago, the vagabond climber Andy Kirkpatrick came in,” recalls Lyons. “He had seen some of my artwork about and took it upon himself to encourage me to commit to making art full-time, which was scary but ultimately the right choice.” While Lyons says it can be difficult to ride the waves of self-employment, she loves the freedom it affords her and adds, “The fact that I get to make things for money still blows my mind.”
When creating landscapes, Lyons often works outside, immersing herself in nature. She’ll also make small sketches or take photos back to her home studio, and then use these as springboards. For illustrations, Lyons typically scans in a variety of hand-drawn bits to compile in Photoshop. She’s also created a series of landscapes drawn on maps, including an image of Half Dome and one of her local crag Cloggy on Mount Snowdon (above, bottom right). “I’ll work with paint to block out areas and push the map to the background, and then draw in most of the details with ink,” says Lyons. “I love the idea of drawing a memory of the landscape upon the thing you use to plan the trip—[it’s] a nice layering of time and experience.”
Bethesda, North Wales, UK
Preferred Art Media
Pen and ink, charcoal