When Ride Velo first came across Gareth Llewhellin’s bold prints we were blown away. Made from coloured printing inks and rollers, they celebrate and feature some of the iconic cycling jerseys of the past : Bianchi, Peugeot, Molteni and Brooklyn. He also showcases some of the Spring Classics in poster form such as Paris-Roubaix, not forgetting images for all three Grand Tours.
His images reveal an understanding and passion for cycling’s great heritage and this, combined with a certain rawness, make for some stunning pictures that we think we’re all going to be seeing a lot more of.
While the pictures look great when seen on a screen, it’s not until you see one in the flesh that you get the full, true impact. Printed onto heavyweight 350 gsm paper, they have a lovely tactile quality. Back in the day, they really knew how to use those bold fonts and colours, and Gareth achieves the same effect with these magnificent posters but also succeeds in marking them with his own stamp.
It comes as no surprise that Gareth is, of course, an avid cyclist. “I first got into it during French lessons at school when our teacher taught us more about the Tour de France than the language,” he tells us. “From that moment I was hooked!” and it wasn’t long before he’d bought himself a Raleigh Record Sprint which he paid off with his paper round money.
His first real cycling hero was (and still is) Laurent Fignon because of “the battles he had on the bike – and that tour, and the lost eight seconds, just amazing!” Talking to Gareth you certainly get a sense of his unbridled passion for the sport and his admiration for gutsy riders like Tommy Voeckler – “He’s so animated on the bike and the 2011 Tour in yellow was fantastic to watch as a fan of his.”
Gareth has worked as a professional illustrator for the last 23 years. Trained at Bournemouth Art School he has worked for Disney and Warner Brothers on animated films as well as being a freelance book illustrator.
A lover of traditional methods he still begins all of his drawings by hand but now incorporates modern technology as well. His prints are created using coloured printing inks and rollers “and anything else that comes to hand…I use as many different textures as I can to roll on and also splatter the inks to create different effects.” His hands-on approach means that it’s often the over-runs and mistakes which end up being the best bits. “I use all of these elements within my work rather than cropping to a clean, sharp edge.” Using a Mac he combines all of the elements to create the finished piece.
Living in Somerset with his wife and two sons, Gareth is lucky enough to have his own studio at home in which he also keeps a collection of bikes and a turbo trainer for when the winter weather is too cruel. He’s got a few cycling triumphs under his belt already including Lands End to John O’Groats which he finished in nine days, battling 30mph head winds on his departure. But he also enjoys mountain biking and has taken part in 12 and 24 hour sportives.
More recently he went riding in southern California where, “passing signs warning me of rattle snakes and mountain lions certainly improves the cadence!” This year he’ll be taking part in the Velothon Wales and the Velothon Berlin, both closed roads events.
Of course, as a person who loves those heroic images and riders of the past, he’s a big steel bike fan and, while not producing stunning images in his studio, spends his free time restoring old bikes from bare frame, up. “My dream would be to build an early Bianchi, sourcing all of the original Campag components.” He’s also “exceedingly proud” his Welsh heritage and family holidays are spent roaming Pembrokeshire in a VW camper van.
You can see a full selection of Gareth’s prints which are available for sale on the Ride Velo online shop. They are water-marked, numbered and signed by the artist.
We will also be stocking a range of T-shirts featuring Gareth’s Bianchi, Peugeot, Molteni and Brooklyn designs soon. Watch this space!