Lena Blacker meets the Leeds-based artist pushing boundaries


31 January 2020 / By Lena Blacker


Illustration by Bobbi Rae

Bobbi Rae, aka @bearcubs, is a Leeds-based artist and multi-disciplinary designer who’s pushing the boat out with her comic-inspired, uncensored and amusing work. We had a chat with her about her inspirations, core values and all things sustainable.

How do you stay sustainable as an artist?

Bobbi - It depends what you mean by sustainable. In terms of the environment, I try to minimise my waste and recycle, to shop locally and independently, and to avoid plastic packaging where possible. I just do what I can.

In terms of sustaining myself as an artist - how I make enough money to feed myself, keep a roof over my head and pay to make new stock - I feel like I can talk about that in more detail: I try to keep my practice as open as possible. I work as an illustrator, a designer, a curator, a teacher, an advisor; I wear many hats in order to make it work. I take a DIY approach where I can, to minimise outgoings whilst keeping a close connection with the work that goes out to my customers and clients. It’s been hard work and at times my motivation has worn thin, but it’s been important for me to have a great support network around me to keep me uplifted and able to keep on working hard, even through the times when I really don’t feel like it.


Do you feel pressure to be 100% sustainable because you’re an independent business? 

I think very few companies are 100% sustainable and that’s a lot of pressure to be put on anybody, never mind independent traders and artists who are just out there trying to make a living for themselves and their families. That said, I do think that there is due pressure on individuals and companies of all sizes of late to assess and reduce their environmental impact, in order to tackle the oncoming climate catastrophe.

It bugs me that there is importance placed on the ethical choices of the consumer, yet little urge for the manufacturers to supply their goods at accessible prices…but that would bring me round to a whole different conversation about class and even gender disparity.


What are your key values when creating art and working with other people?

As a person who works, and enjoys spending a lot of time alone, I use my work as a way to connect with and bring together other people. Whether I’m drawing illustrations for my Instagram, making a zine or giving a workshop, I’m always looking for ways to make my work talk to people; not only that, but also to start a conversation that the audience is actually interested in.


Favourite female artists at the moment?

Tara Booth, Mattie Hinkley, Laura Callaghan, Helena Covell – and Salut Wren (forever!). Oh, and Lizzo, obviously.


Biggest inspirations?

[See above] – ‘I think it would be impossible to avoid being influenced by the artists that I like, since I look at their work pretty much every day [on Instagram, Pinterest, etc…]. I’ve always been really into retro cartoon aesthetic and the garish colour trends of my lifetime – so that, combined with my more contemporary influences, pretty much equals everything I am going for, when I am drawing.’ – Bobbi Rae in interview with Chloe Henson, 2019

A lot of my inspiration comes from cartoons of the early 90s but to be honest, I used to really struggle with colouring my artwork, so in recent years I’ve developed a colour palette which I think works, and so I don’t really deviate from it, unless I’m asked to by a client!


You describe your work as ‘uncensored’. What do you mean by this, and do you think we still have a problem with ‘censorship’ in today’s society ?

Yeah, absolutely. Everywhere I look there is censorship and undue ownership of women’s bodies being thrust in everyone’s faces. You’ve met me…I don’t back that. And I try to make that very clear in my work.

You can find Bobbi Rae's work at


and shop at


Photos/Art by
Bobbi Rae
Words by
Lena Blacker

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