Spotlight on Illustrator Alexandra Bowman
This is a bold statement but I truly believe, illustrator and designer, Alexandra Bowman and I would be great friends if she still lived in Chicago. I was already obsessed with her artwork but when I read, “I hang out with my cat, pour a glass of wine, and put on a face mask.”, it was confirmed. You’ll certainly feel the same way after reading her interview. The California native is truly relatable and honest about the difficulties of being a full-time artist. When asked about what she wants people to take away from her artwork, Bowman responds, “I want people to see themselves and feel represented in my art”. This statement made me quite happy because as a black woman I can confidently say I don’t feel represented in most art. So when I see artwork that features women of color, it brings me joy! Thank you Alexandra Bowman for the beauty you bring into the universe!
What sparked your interest in art and illustration?
I have always loved drawing, even as a child. When I was in college(SAIC), I never imagined illustration as a full-time career, so I focused more on graphic design and printmaking in my coursework. Studying printmaking allowed me to practice my technical drawing skills and experiment with different mediums, while my design-focused classes taught me to be able to communicate visually to a large audience. Once I graduated and moved back to California, I was missing all the physical spaces and art studios I once had access to in college. I found that illustrating was the easiest and most convenient way for me to make art, no matter where I was. I could draw on a smaller scale in my apartment without needing a printing press or studio space. I eventually fell in love with the process and art of illustration.
Are you a full-time artist? If so, how did you make the decision?
Yes! After college, I started my career as a graphic designer working with typography, layouts, and icons for print and web. In the design world, I always felt like an imposter. I knew what I was doing, I studied it for years…but it didn’t seem to come as naturally to me as illustration did. Meanwhile, I hung around a lot of musicians and charged small fees for creating posters for shows, album art, or t-shirt designs. People around the city started recognizing my work, and I slowly gained more visibility with local businesses, which led to more freelance jobs. I worked as a designer for 4 years from 9-5 while growing my freelance business on nights and weekends. I was terrified to quit a stable job with health insurance, but the longer I worked in an office, the more time I was taking away from my current goals. Last February, when I had saved up a couple of months worth of rent, I decided to take the leap and become an artist full-time. It might have been the best thing I have ever done for myself.
Who or what inspires you?
Life experience inspires me. I guess in that way I try and inspire myself. I collect pictures from magazines, newspapers or found images and tape them to the wall by my work station. I take a ton of photos and screenshots on my phone and am constantly writing and sketching ideas in my journal.
What is your artistic process?
Most of my work tends to be editorial illustrations for magazines and newspapers so my process starts with reading the article that will ultimately pair with my artwork. I read the article a couple of times, highlighting important words or phrases. I take a lot of notes and spend some time thinking about how I can visually communicate the most important ideas in the piece. I send the art director a couple of sketches, and once the favored sketch is approved I turn that sketch into a digital illustration, rotating between illustrator and photoshop. Most of my editorial work is digital because it moves at a fast pace and often involves revisions. If I read an article and feel like it would be better communicated with another material like watercolor, I am comfortable switching up my normal process to meet those expectations.
Do you have a favorite medium?
I like working digitally because nothing is permanent and its fun to play around with composition and color. However, I love the unexpected accidents that come with the process of physically painting, particularly with acrylic and gouache. It’s nice to step away from the computer and let go of control once in a while. I always carry around microns and oil pastels. My favorite brand is Neocolor II. They are water-soluble so they can create some really beautiful textures.
Is there a theme to your work?
I tend to illustrate topics about the female experience and issues dealing with race, culture, and relationships. My favorite things to draw are the human form and plant life. I enjoy playing with scale in a lot of my work.
Has your style evolved?
Yes! It has taken many years of personal and artistic growth for me to develop my style. I taught myself to look beyond what is in front of me to expand my way of seeing.
What is the average amount of time it takes to finish one illustration?
It depends on the size of the image and level of detail. One illustration from concept to final will take me anywhere from around 4-10 hours.
What is the most challenging part of being a woman in the art world?
I think its probably the same challenge that all women in any business face; getting people to pay you what you deserve is a huge problem in this country and the world. Especially as a woman of color, we statistically make less than our white counterparts. When I want to make sure that I’m being paid adequately, I reference “Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines”. It’s an amazing resource for my business to make sure that am not undercharging clients.
How do you stay motivated when you experience a creative rut?
When I need to spark inspiration, I read and research different topics at the library, work in my community garden, travel, or take a class to learn a new skill. Artists need breaks from creating, it’s important to step outside of your routine to find fresh ideas.
What is your ultimate goal with your artwork?
A lot of my work showcases very interesting articles that have been written by all types of people. Ultimately, with editorial work, my goal is to create an interesting piece of art that gets a second look before the reader turns the page.
What do you want people to take away from your artwork?
I want people to see themselves and feel represented in my art. I want to build a sturdy connection between the viewer and the topic being illustrated.
What has been your favorite project or creation so far?
I recently painted a mural for the Girlboss Rally in Los Angeles. I had a lot of creative control so it was thrilling for me to be able to design and finish such a large scale work all on my own.
What's a fun fact about you people will be surprised by?
I love salsa dancing! Also, I’ve always been interested in the nail salon as an important cultural and feminist space. If I wasn’t an illustrator, I would want to be a nail technician. I always grow out my nails and have a fresh coat on!
How do you relax when you have free time?
I hang out with my cat, pour a glass of wine, and put on a face mask. After a big job like a mural, I will treat myself to a massage to keep my muscles happy. If I can, I travel. Anywhere near water is where I want to be.
Any last words?
Words of wisdom to any budding freelancers: Save your money so you can make the leap. Financial freedom is so incredibly important. When you have to spend money on your craft, support local art stores and businesses owned by women and people of color.
I will be painting another mural in the next couple of months, follow my account to see what I am up to! @alexbowman