Posted on February 18, 2015
I love this quote by Joseph Campbell. It reminds me of how lucky I am to be making a living from doing something I love, that also happens to be the thing I’m best at.
Before I became a freelance illustrator I was employed as a graphic designer, but I always felt that I wasn’t quite good enough and my heart wasn’t really in it. I used to escape to the design library and flick longingly through the illustration manuals. Whenever anyone needed an illustration doing or a bit of hand lettering I was the one that got to do it and every fibre of my being came alive while I was doing those jobs, it was like my body was trying to tell my head ‘hey! this is what you’re supposed to be doing!‘
Luckily my employers were very supportive of training opportunities at the time and I got the chance to do a part time design degree. I went along for my interview at the Uni and told them I wanted to focus on developing my illustration skills. They looked at my portfolio and told me I had a natural flair for it. I felt sick. I was worried how I would fit the work in around my job but mostly I felt sick with excitement about the possibilities of what it could all lead to.
The following 3 years were a roller coaster of excitement and despair, fulfillment and frustration as I struggled to fit my studies in around my job, but I never doubted what I was doing for a minute, for the first time in years I felt I was on the right track. After graduating I built up my illustration portfolio and opened an Etsy shop. I was desperate to become a full time illustrator but also terrified at the prospect. My graphic design job was well paid and secure and I worried about not getting enough work to pay my way. I knew I had to move forward though, staying stuck in a career that had run it’s course and facing a future of regret over missed opportunities just wasn’t an option. So I took a leap of faith and left.
During those months of uncertainty I kept motivated by reading books, blogs and articles on people who’d successfully changed careers and the same message seemed to crop up time and again. The things you love to do most tend to be the things that you excel at and when you’re good at something your skills are likely to be in demand. If you can spend your working days doing what you love, utilizing your talents and putting your knowledge and work out into the world then you are truly fulfilling your potential and that is surely one of the reasons we’re all here.
Since I became an illustrator I’ve never been happier or more fulfilled in my work and in the last few years I’ve passed through many doors that I never imagined would ever be open to me. So if there’s something you’re good at, that makes your heart beat a bit faster, that you love to do then just do it, there’s no better investment of your time. I’m not saying pack the day job in right now, start small, experiment, enroll in a class, tell people about what you’re doing, share yourself, scare yourself! Say yes to yourself and just see what happens.
Thanks for reading! Alex. x
Posted on September 26, 2014
I first heard about the all girl, UK based illustrators group ‘Girls Who Draw’ about 4 years ago when I was still working full time as a graphic designer. Becoming a freelance illustrator had always been my big career dream, so when I read about this group of girls who’d collaborated to make a postcard book of their work I thought it must be the coolest thing ever to be asked to take part in a project like that. Amazingly one night this summer, an email from Karoline Rerrie, the group’s coordinator dropped into my inbox asking if I’d like to take part in this year’s book, I was so happy, I couldn’t believe it!
I first met Karoline back in May at Sheffield Print Fair, I’ve been a fan of her work for a couple of years now and love her distinctive, folky style. She was doing a demonstration on Gocco printing, which I’ve always been fascinated by and we got chatting about printmaking and other fairs we’d done. So when I read her email a few weeks later asking if I’d like to do a couple of illustrations for the Girls Who Draw book I was over the moon with excitement. It turned out that this year’s theme was ‘Marine Life’, which is perfect for me, as I love the sea and everything connected with it.
This is the sixth in the series of the Girls Who Draw books, it’s a limited edition publication and contains 24 detachable postcards (2 designs from each illustrator). Previous titles have included Mythical Creatures, Masquerade and Menagerie. The group has grown over the years and this year’s contributing illustrators are: Alys Paterson, Anke Weckmann, Alexandra Snowdon, Belinda Chen, Caroline Pratt, Jane McGuinness, Karoline Rerrie, Kristyna Baczynski, Laura-Kate Chapman, Lee May Foster-Wilson, Ruth Green and Yee Ting Kuit.
My share of the books arrived in the post a few weeks ago and it makes me so happy and proud to read through the list of contributors, particularly Caroline Pratt and Ruth Green whose work I’ve been inspired by for years.
If you’d like a copy of ‘Marine Life’ you can buy one from any of the illustrators listed above or from my Etsy shop here.
Thanks for reading! Alex. x
Posted on July 3, 2014
This year is turning out to be another super busy one. Ever since I got back from the Craft London trade show in January it’s been non-stop. I’ve not had as much time as I’d have liked to add new designs to my range but the other projects I’ve been working on are so fun and interesting it kind of makes up for it. If you’re curious to know what I’ve been up to, read on…
Last November I had an exciting email off an author in the US who is putting together a new book about hand lettering, she asked if I would like to contribute, I couldn’t believe it, I had to re-read the email about 5 times to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood it, I was so thrilled to be asked and to be honest the whole thing has been a bit of a turning point, because up until then I felt like I wasn’t a ‘real’ illustrator, I don’t know why, I’ve been doing this full time for over 2 years now but it felt like some sort of recognition and validation for everything I’d been working towards since finishing my degree 5 years ago. I’m not allowed to say what the book is right now but it should be due for publication later this year.
I’ve also been working on a new set of card designs for one of my stockists, they are really great to work for as they more or less gave me an open brief and I really appreciate the fact that they trust me to come up with the goods. Of course I still had that moment of blind panic when I started the job, terrified that I wouldn’t be able to think of any decent ideas, but it was of course fine in the end, as usual the hardest part was simply making a start, once that’s done then the ideas start to come and everything falls into place.
A couple of people who I met at Craft in January have also been in touch recently with commissions and orders, which goes to prove the theory about trade shows is often true, it’s not just about the 3 days you spend there, enquiries can still come in months after you’ve packed up your stand and made your way home. So in the next couple of months I’m putting together a feature for a magazine, designing a logo for a knitting and crochet supplies company and working on a fun collaboration with a group of fellow illustrators to produce a small book. So it’s all exciting stuff but I’m not able to show finished images at this stage so I hope you’ll forgive the work in progress pics instead. I’ll be posting here about the projects once they’re finished, so meanwhile enjoy the summer and the long, light days while they last!
Thanks for reading, Alex. x
Posted on March 31, 2014
A few Sundays ago Mr Snowdon and myself got up at a hideously early hour to drive down to London. We were off to pick up a vintage cast iron nipping press that I’d bought on Ebay the week before, at 33kg it was a bit too heavy to put in the post. I’d been longing for a nipping press ever since I first set eyes on one in the bookbinding room at Uni about 5 years ago. They were originally used for pressing books but are also perfect for lino printing due to the lovely even pressure produced between the cast iron plates.
It was while I was doing my degree that I first discovered printmaking. For my first major project I decided to try lino printing, I’ve always loved that uneven, gritty texture achieved through hand printing and I was eager to have a go myself. I’ll never forget the first print I made, one sunny Sunday morning I cut a really basic flower shape out of a piece of lino, inked it up and pressed it onto a scrap of white paper, when I lifted the lino off I was so excited to see the rustic looking, wonky little print that I felt like running outside and showing it to everyone on the street. I was instantly smitten with hand printing and though I didn’t realise it at the time, it was a life changing moment.
Over the years my printmaking techniques have developed and I’ve concentrated increasingly on screen printing as I’ve found it more versatile. Recently though I’ve decided to mix things up a bit and add some lino cuts to my range. I really like the fact that it’s impossible (for me anyway) to make a perfect image cutting into lino, it’s easy to see the artists hand in the work and I find that really appealing. So look out for some new prints coming soon, once I’ve polished up my technique a bit, as you can see from the photos I could do with a little more practice…
Thanks for reading! Alex. x
Posted on January 26, 2014
The last few months have been among the busiest I’ve ever known. I had a wonderful few weeks travelling around Indonesia last October with Mr Snowdon and came down to earth with a bump when the Christmas rush seemed to start before I’d even had chance to unpack and do my laundry. The madness continued over the Christmas holidays as I frantically populated my new website and prepared for Craft 2014 in London. Since I got back from Craft in mid January I’ve been working flat out to fulfill orders and chase up the contacts I made there.
Sometime during all the hard work and the ups and downs of the past weeks I managed to have some new ideas for Spring things. I’ve always got one eye open for inspiration while I’m out and about and one thing I’m beginning to realise is that the ideas that I can personally relate to and feel most excited about are the ones that seem to be the most successful. I read a great book last summer; ‘I Just Like to Make Things‘ by Lilla Rogers, it’s not really about ‘making things’ as such, but one of the best pieces of advice Lilla gives is to do what you love and take note of the ideas that ‘make your heart beat faster’.
Well, one of the things I love the most is fresh air and the great outdoors. If I have to spend longer than a few hours cooped up inside I begin to feel (and act!) like a caged animal. The pressures of the last few months have meant that I’ve had to spend more time than I’d have liked to indoors, but as is usually the case, the hard work and long hours have thankfully paid off.
Anyway, back to the fresh air issue… I always need to have the bedroom window open during the night, even when the temperature drops well below zero, earning me the name of ‘fresh air fiend’ in our house. It’s no bad thing though as it provided the inspiration behind one of my new designs, along with ‘Happy Campers’. I have admit though, that I’m not big on camping under canvas, not in the UK at any rate, but as I’ve done previous designs involving camper vans, (my preferred mode of camping, thank you) I decided to give the tents a turn this time.
I’d love to know what you think of the new ideas, they’ll be appearing on tote bags in my shop in the next month or so, keep a look out for them if you like them.
Bye for now and thanks for reading! Alex. x