This week I spoke with artist, illustrator and fellow Magpie, Alice Stevenson. She filled me in on her life in London and her love for California as well as her impressive career experience, her inspirations and where she’d go if she had a time machine….
Hi Alice! Let’s start with a little intro – where are you from and how did you come to be an illustrator?
I am born and raised in London. I have been working as a freelance illustrator for the past 7 years – since studying illustration at Brighton University. In that time, I have built up a big range of commercial clients but I also work on personal projects and in education which I love.
You’re currently dividing your time between East London and San Francisco, how have these two places informed your illustrations?
I think growing up in London has been a wonderful inspiration as I’ve had so much access to amazing museums and galleries like The British Museum and the V&A. Also, even though it’s a bustling metropolis, London is full of green spaces, nature and wildlife and I still frequently stumble on a little hidden park or bit of canal that I’ve never seen before. I think the contrast between the urban-ness of it and the leafiness has definitely formed my aesthetic. I do spend as much time in California as I can. When I first went to San Francisco I felt like aesthetically it was the city or landscape I’ve always been drawing – the multi coloured wooden houses, the funny plants and the fog. So I just think being there is very creatively nourishing and all the beautiful succulent plants have been a huge inspiration and sneaked their way into my work.
Read on to find out more…
Do you have a favourite media that most enjoy working with? Why?
At the moment I’m really enjoying gouache paint. I’m not entirely sure why I like it so much. Maybe because I get the satisfaction of painting but still with a flat and graphic affect that I like. Also in my opinion nothing feels more satisfying than etching into fresh ground on an etching plate. I’ve really enjoyed etching into ceramics recently too.
You have a fabulous range of clients that you’ve worked for. What job has given you the greatest experience and satisfaction so far?
I illustrated Carol Ann Duffy’s collected childrens’ poems and that was crazy, I had to illustrate 150 poems in a couple of weeks. I had to work so fast but once the initial panic wore off I found it pretty fun and exciting. I did a live painting job for Hugo Boss where I had to decorate a wooden tree in Blue Water shopping centre for three days which was very stressful and surreal but also lots of fun.
Who / what is your dream client / job?
I’d love to do illustrations for an organisation that I really admire such as The National Trust or the V&A. I would really like to do some more murals and large scale work so maybe something large scale for one of those two would be perfect…
What’s the biggest professional lesson you’ve learnt and how has it shaped your career?
I think it’s really important to stay interested and excited by what you do so you always give it your all. I find that doing personal projects that don’t involve staring at a screen all day and being involved in education really help to keep me inspired and engaged with drawing and illustration.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other aspiring freelance illustrators?
I would say it’s important to have something else other than illustration going on to maintain a balanced mindset. Also just be yourself. Don’t try and fake other people’s style or do work that isn’t really you for the sake of achieving commercial success. It may pay off short term but people usually see through it and you end up looking dated pretty quickly.
What illustrator / artist / designer do you admire? Why?
I really admire Iker Spozio who I interviewed for Jackie Magpie, because he is so prolific in his personal artwork. I also love Alvin Lustig at the moment because his book covers were so surreal and abstract yet commercially successful which I think is quite a feat. I also really admire my friend Milena Silvano who is a fashion designer and stylist because every part of her work is rooted in her ecological principles and in fine craftsmanship yet still looks very cool. She is growing dye plants to dye her garments with which I think is rather impressive.
What do you like to get up to in your free time?
I love to read a lot. I like going for walks and getting out of the city on nice daytrips, watching films, spending time with friends. Nothing terribly original just generally hanging out and having a nice time!
Lastly, just for fun… What time would you go back to for a visit if you had access to a time machine?
I would love to see England before it was deforested. The idea of it all just being covered in woods is intriguing to me. For fun though, I would love to got back to the late 60′s early 70′s LA music scene and hang out in Laurel Canyon with Joni Mitchel and Neil Young.
Sounds like a dream! Thanks for talking to us Alice…
Alice has an online shop full of beautiful prints here.
Later today we will be giving away one of Alice’s stunning prints for free to one lucky reader so stay tuned!