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Creative Chats with... Alexandra Snowdon

Wednesday, 21 March 2018
creative interview with alexandra snowdon - merman print

Welcome to episode three of Creative Chats! 

Alex was actually one of the first few artists I featured over here on the little ol' blog and since then she's just kept growing and growing and I'm still loving her work and enthusiasm so much so I had to bring her in on one of these chats to learn more. I follow a lot of artists across the various social media platforms and Alex is one of the few that I can instantly recognise a piece of work and definitely has a style that she's rocking perfectly. Not only does she create beautiful prints and cards but she's also created a few gorgeous hand-painted fonts named after her close relatives. Each of them are beautiful and definitely increase my goal of creating my own one day.

Obvious first question, and one you're probably sick of answering but how did it all start? Where did your style come from?

creative interview with alexandra snowdon - portraitWell, I've always loved art, ever since I was very young. My grandad was a graphic designer, or commercial artist as they were known in his day. He recognised my interest and ability and really nurtured it. I used to spend the school holidays with him watching him work in his garden shed. He hand painted lettering for huge banners in his garden shed and I was just fascinated by the whole process, he was an incredibly talented man. I left school at 16 to go to art college and even though I loved fine art and illustration I decided to go into graphic design as I've always loved lettering and typography.

To cut a long story short I ended up working as a graphic designer for 25 years and even though I loved it most of the time I really missed the 'hands-on' element of drawing and creating mockups by hand. At the start of my career in the late 1980's ideas were still presented to clients as marker visuals on art board, Apple Macs weren't really mainstream tools in the graphic design world at that time in the UK. Eventually though everything went digital and I spent my days sat in front of a computer screen instead of at a drawing board.

When I was in my mid-thirties I asked my employer for a year's sabbatical and went travelling around the world for a year with my boyfriend (now husband). We had an amazing time and I did a lot of thinking about the kind of work I wanted to do and the kind of life I wanted to live. When we got back to the UK I went back to work but also enrolled on a part-time degree course where I focussed on illustration, it was during this time that I discovered my love for hand lettering.

When the course finished I set up an Etsy shop selling cards, prints, and tote bags, mostly featuring hand-lettered designs. After a couple of years my little side business was so busy I was in a position to finally leave my graphic design job and realise my dream of becoming a full time, self-employed illustrator and hand lettering artist. That was almost 6 years ago now and I've never looked back.

creative interview with alexandra snowdon - print the world is your oyster

At what point did you feel comfortable sharing and selling your work? Did you ever suffer from imposter syndrome?

I felt OK about sharing my work pretty much from the start, I think because I'd already spent a long time in a creative career I was confident of my abilities. I knew not everyone would like what I did but that didn't really bother me as enough people seemed to like it to make my business profitable and to allow me to work at it full time. Sharing online always feels pretty easy to me as I don't have to do it face to face. If I had to stand up in front of a group of people and present my ideas in person it would be a different story altogether, I'd find that quite hard.

The only time I really get imposter syndrome is when I'm working to commission rather than producing my own, self-generated work. For example, I've hand-lettered several book jacket titles for a  big publisher in the US and I was absolutely thrilled to get the work but terrified that they wouldn't like my ideas. Fortunately, it all worked out OK and they seemed pretty happy with what I came up with!

What's your favourite piece you've ever created and why? 

That's a tricky question but after giving it some thought it would have to be my 'Home is Wherever We're Together' print. With most of my work I look at it months after I've completed it and see things I could have done better, but with that design I feel like I got everything right, when I look at it, it makes me smile. I also like the concept behind it, that it's not material things in life that are important but the experiences you have and the people you share them with.

creative interview with alexandra snowdon - home is wherever we're together nature camping print

The thing I always struggle with when creating is what quotes to use. How do you come up with your ideas, do the quotes come first?

The quotes always come first. I have to say I've always loved a good quote! This is going to sound really geeky but for years I've had a little notebook that I've filled with quotes I love or just encouraging words and paragraphs I've read in books and magazines. When I'm going through a challenging time I sometimes get it out and flick through it and it always makes me feel better. That's why I love to hand letter quotes, I want to pass on that comforting feeling of reading certain words that offer encouragement or at least make you feel less alone in what you're going through.

creative interview with alexandra snowdon - close up illustration hand letteringDo you think you stick out from the crowd of other illustrators? If so, how did you manage it?

I think every illustrator sticks out from the crowd in their own way. After all, we're all unique people with our own ideas and take on things. I think if you stick to producing work that you love and are genuinely interested in rather than following trends too much or just doing what you think will sell you'll always stand out in your own unique way.

Who creatively are you loving right now? Feel free to pick more than one!

Mary Kate McDevitt has always been a huge inspiration for me. I really love her style and sense of humour. I was lucky enough to meet up with her and her boyfriend Fred in New York a few years ago and she was just lovely.

Finally, if someone was wanting to pursue their creative dream right now, what would you tell them to remember?

I would tell them to go for it wholeheartedly, don't wait till you think you're ready or your work is perfect, practice every minute that you can, share your work on social media including your sketches and progress. That way you'll be able to gauge reactions to it and work out whether or not you might be able to sell your work and make a living from it.

One thing that worked well for me was committing to a 12-month project. A few years ago when I was newly self-employed I illustrated one hand-lettered quote every week for a year and posted it on a Monday lunchtime on all my social media platforms. After a few months I noticed my followers and interactions had increased by quite a bit, then people started asking if they could buy the quotes on prints and cards. Eventually, I started getting hand lettering and illustration commissions from art directors and they all used the hand-lettered quotes as examples of the kind of work they wanted me to produce. Also, with the regular commitment and practice my skills quickly improved.

I would just say give it a go, the biggest regrets in life are always the things you didn't do rather than the things you did. Throw yourself in at the deep end, bite off more than you can chew. Confidence comes from doing the things you think you can't possibly do and then proving yourself wrong.

** I shouldn't have to say this, but just in case we have any keen eyes on this page, all of the artwork belongs to Alex so please don't take and repost them anywhere without her permission!

But if you do want to check out more of her work (because it's amazing am I right?) check out her links below:

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