Alice Stevenson is a London based illustrator, artist and surface pattern designer. I adore her whimsical floral pattern work which she crafts in a range of styles from pencil sketches and flat colour vectors to delicate brush work. She finds her inspiration in the structures of nature, the decorative arts and mid century illustration. Alice explores narratives through the playful treatment of colour, texture and composition and she has been commissioned by super-brands like Random House, Crabtree and Evelyn, Leo Burnett and Pan Macmillan…
Alice, what’s your story? How did you get to where you are today? I graduated in 2005 with a portfolio full of illustrations, many of which I was happy with. I always knew that I needed to spend the majority of my time drawing, so I showed my work to people and eventually I ended up getting enough commissions so that illustration could officially become my profession. Luckily this state of affairs has continued ever since. I draw constantly in my sketchbook and work on lots of personal projects which keep me engaged with my work. I’m very lucky to always be working on very varied projects, which keeps me enthusiastic and excited. I’m always learning.
Which is your favourite character illustration that you’ve drawn to date? I created an illustration of my dog, Topsy for my 2013 Christmas Card. We sadly lost her a few weeks ago and I’m so glad that I chose to depict her and I feel very proud of how I captured her personality. I think this illustration is always going to mean a great deal to me.
What did you want to be when you were 10 years old? I always wanted to either be an artist or a vet and to live on a farm. Being pretty appalling at science ruled out the Vet option quite early on. I’m currently still residing in very urban east London but I hope to at least keep some chickens one of these days, a goat or two might also be fun.
Which University did you go to and what did you study? I studied at BA: Hons Illustration at The University of Brighton
What’s the proudest moment of your career to date? It’s been a huge honour to be commissioned twice to illustrate poetry by Carol Ann Duffy, the poet laureate. To be honest whenever I really push myself in any project and create work which maintains a genuine sense of myself and answers the brief successfully I feel a real sense of achievement.
Which project has been your career highlight? There have been so many so far… Illustrating poetry is always a thrill. Seeing my work on a large scale like this illustration I created for an air stream trailer for Kellogg’s last year. I worked on a mural last year at Blossom House too, which is a school for children with severe learning difficulties. I had to plan and paint a giant mural and co-ordinate the kids who were helping me to paint it. It was a real challenge of logistics but very exciting to see it emerge. The children were utterly brilliant and it was most inspiring to feel part of a huge collaborative effort.
How did you come to collaborate with Hugo Boss on this advertising campaign? Quite a few illustrators were approached by Hugo Boss to undertake live painting of wooden trees in various locations. Mine were Covent Garden and the shopping centre at Bluewater. It was in order to promote a campaign which saw Hugo Boss pledge to plant a tree for every bottle of perfume sold. It was a very challenging experience but an enormous amount of fun.
How do you promote yourself? I try and maintain a strong web presence and send clients regular updates of what I’m up to without badgering people too much. I am always on the look out for interesting people to work for or collaborate people. I’m naturally quite a modest, shy type so self-promotion can feel quite exposing but I just always remind myself that I believe in what I do and I’m just letting people know about it. Whether they commission me or not is up to them!
So do you love or loathe social media? It’s taken me a while to come around to it but I’m definitely more comfortable with it these days. I find using instagram comes quite naturally to me as it’s so immediate. I have also whole-heartedly embraced Pinterest as it’s a brilliant way to discover and share inspiration as well as sharing my work.
Which tools do you use to create stuff? I generally start with pencil and paper. I scan my drawings into PhotoShop and add colour and work them up into final images. When required I convert work into Vectors in Illustrator. I also love working in Gouache and watercolour, coloured pencils, pastels, in fact anything I can get my hands on. I love etching, there is nothing more satisfying than engraving an etching plate. I am keen to learn lithography as I love the aesthetic of it.
Where do you find inspiration? I find inspiration everywhere. I am currently very keen on Russian and Eastern Bloc Illustrated Children’s Books. A friend of mine just bought me some truly incredibly 1960’s children’s books back from Bulgaria. I find @designfortoday’s instagram feed is an excellent place where I get my daily dose of mid C20th illustration and lithography. I find Pinterest a great source of inspiration for everything I love, from old science diagrams to printed textiles. I am very inspired by decorative arts. I recently travelled to Shekhawhati in Rajasthan, Northern India in order to see the abandoned, decorated mansions and palaces of the region, which were mind-blowingly beautiful and intricate. I subscribe to World of Interiors where I get a lot of my Decorative Arts fix. I love wandering around London or other places when I am abroad, absorbing and exploring my surroundings is a constant source of inspiration for me.
What’s your favourite music to work to? I couldn’t survive without music and it strongly informs my work. I have recently been listening to a lot of instrumental music which I like as it almost sends me into an almost meditative state whilst drawing. Stuff like Rachel Grimes, Ravi Shankar and Time Hecker. I am also enjoying Shirley Collins, Marissa Nadler and the Durutti Column at the moment. I actually have a monthly playlist on my blog where I share what I’ve been listening to. Late Junction on BBC Radio 3 is a favourite of mine.
What do you spread on your toast in the morning? I bought some Banana Curd in Southwold, Suffolk recently which is very delicious. I’m also partial to mashed avocado with lemon juice.
Sounds delicious! So what are you working on at the moment? I’ve been working on a map illustration of the Balearic Island of Menorca which I have been particularly enjoying as it’s somewhere I have been going on holiday to my whole life. I have a range of Tote Bags for LOQI coming out soon. I’ve also just completed a cover illustration for Shop Magazine which is inspired by Swedish pine forests and I’m working on an on-going personal book project which I am writing and illustrating. It’s all a bit top-secret currently but it’s based on my wanders around and explorations of London and I very excited about it.