Cat On The Wall caught up with illustrator and blogger Alex Mathers for a quick chat about his work and also his focus on online promotion…
Cat On The Wall: When did you begin your illustration career? Tell us about yourself?
Alex Mathers: I’m currently a freelance designer and illustrator, and I run two blogs. One, Ape on the Moon, focuses on showcasing the best in contemporary illustration, and the other, Red Lemon Club, is a blog about online promotion methods for creatives.
I got into illustration after studying geography at university in London. I was looking for a way to make some part-time income, realised I still had a love for making pictures, learnt how to use Adobe Illustrator, and went from there.
COTW: What or who inspired you to become an illustrator?
AM: I was really keen on becoming an animator as a kid, have been a fan of photography and have always admired the work of illustrators like Ronald Searle and artists like Edward Hopper, Katsushika Hokusai and Wayne Thiebaud. A career path as an animator or illustrator changed when I enrolled to study something completely different. With the spare time I had after my course three years later, I reverted back to my artistic side, and have been doing it, part-time, and now full time ever since.
COTW: You also run the illustration blog Ape on the Moon and the online self promotion site Red Lemon Club. Can you tell us about each project? Why did you decide to start them?
AM: Ape on the Moon began as a blog to accompany my online portfolio a year ago. Since then, its popularity has increased, and it has become more of a blog in itself. I’ve kept it going because it keeps me on the pulse of fresh new illustration styles and techniques, allows me to meet great artists, and it’s a bit of a fun hobby.
Red Lemon Club sprung out of all the work I have been doing on finding out how to better promote my own work, using mainly online means. I use the blog to share what I find with other creatives, and it serves as a way to keep me motivated in learning more and engaging with other creative freelancers in the discussion on online promotion methods.
COTW: Obviously promotion is an important tool for you. What are you views on the future of internet based creative promotion? On a similar vein, do you think the Creative Commons is working, has this effected you at all?
AM: I think, as the Internet gains in ever growing popularity, and also usability and accessibility, the power behind it in promoting the work of creatives cannot be ignored. I still think the majority of people engaged in the creative professions are lacking in the helpful knowledge that will enable them to fully utilize the Internet to positively promote themselves in new ways.
As far as I know of the Creative Commons system, it allows more freedom for creatives when it comes to sharing their work. I’ve never personally used it, but I can see it’s benefit for promotion, in that more people are able to have access to your work. I have no idea how effective the license system is, which allows creatives to put restrictions on what their work is used for, as this is difficult to regulate on the net.
What Creative Commons doesn’t do, is protect work that is at risk of theft, so that is an aspect of Internet security that is not yet covered properly. However, owing to the network structure of the web, I think a lot of creative work that might be subject to abuse, is protected through the fact that it is traceable and reportable online.
COTW: What is your creative process when designing an illustration? How do your ideas form?
AM: I’ll usually have an image of something floating in my head for a day or two before I commit to drawing it on paper. Nowadays, I usually picture the completed illustration in my mind. This wasn’t something I could do to start, and I think this has come with plenty of illustration practice.
I scan the sketch into the computer, and illustrate straight over it using the pen tool on Adobe Illustrator. I might tweak the lighting of the completed image a bit in Photoshop, and that’s it.
COTW: Can you recommend any up and coming illustrators to look out for?
What are you enjoying at the moment?
AM: I’m liking the work coming out of the US at the moment, namely in the form of illustration work from Micah Lidberg, Mark Weaver, Lee Misenheimer and Sam Weber. As I derive a huge amount of inspiration from photographers, the names I might expose are Dan Holdsworth, Nicholas Hance McElroy and Rut Blees Luxemburg.
COTW: Finally, what are your plans for the near future?
AM: I’m currently writing a book on online self-promotion methods for creatives that will go hand in hand with the posts on the Red Lemon Club site. Afterwards I’m hoping to dive back into more regular illustration work, and take my portfolio to the next level. I’m immersing myself in Japanese culture for a few weeks in March.
Interview by Jo Whitby