Art festival Eye Candy returns to Digbeth this week to celebrate the work of artists, illustrators and photographers. Graham Young reports

Eye Candy Festival is Birmingham's fast-growing celebration of the visual arts and a chance to see illustrators, artists and photographers fusing their skills to create images that are fresh and exciting.

One new project will feature illustrators adding their own images to photographs of Birmingham Royal Ballet dancers Kit Holder, Celine Gittens and Anna Monleon taken by portrait photographer Mark Salmon.

At a live event, six artists from the Column Arts Agency – Trou, Joshua Billingham, Sweaty Eskimo, Laura Tinald, Joel Millerchip and Guy McKinley – will be overlaying the photographs with motifs and patterns.

One of the pre-show works features a ballerina in flight, surrounded by swans.

The classic ballet Swan Lake springs to mind, until you realise that one of the swans has a plastic drinks-can wrapper caught around its neck, bringing the image straight back to the 21st century.

Mark says: "In every sense this project has been a collaboration with the dancers, the artists and myself.

"Usually I have total control of how my photos are processed, so this is very new to me – I am so excited to see how the artists use and interpret my photographs."

This aspect of Eye Candy resulted from a conversation between Mark and city-based Column Arts Agency founder William Astbury who is one of the festival's leading contributors.

"We were keen to explore how the different mediums of photography and illustration can work together," says Will.

"We knew the dancers at Birmingham Royal Ballet could create dynamic positions, more than models could. I originally put the idea to one person at the BRB and it fell through.

"But when a replacement joined it was seen as a good idea for the ballet to show how creative they are! This is not just about illustrations and photographs, it's also a live event, too.

"Photographs of visitors will be projected on to a wall and the artists will use tablets to draw around them. Events like this can be a very positive thing for new businesses – it can start a chain reaction by working with people who can make things happen. So come to Eye Candy, it's going to be brilliant!"

*The festival runs from November 13 to 15 - visitors can also produce their own work, screen prints and photography during a mixture of workshops, talks and interventions. All events are free to attend inside the large, post-industrial exhibition at Boxxed, Floodgate Street, Digbeth.  Most events are drop-in and suitable for all ages, but the masterclasses require an advance booking. Visit and follow the event on Twitter @EyeCandyFest or at