Far too often you can hear of unsupportive parents, friends or tutors who don't believe in the same dreams as you do. Sometimes it's enough to hear the wrong sentence from the right person, and one might end up on a path they're bound to regret further down the line. We are enormously grateful it wasn't the case of Alexandra Wong.
Her art is reminiscent of pastel and watercolour, her style of a passion for fine art that was supported and cultivated from the very beginning. Alexandra now lives in Florence and her works are a kaleidoscope of colours, details and careful geometry.
For this Member Spotlight, we were lucky enough to hear her story and help her share her work.
How did you get into the industry?
Originally, I studied fine art and was subsequently a watercolorist for a few years. Going into illustration was my original plan but I didn’t actively pursue it until after going to graduate school for communication design. There, I had a few supportive professors familiar with the industry who prepared me well enough to launch myself into the world of illustration the second I tossed my hat into the air at graduation.
I am now based in Florence, Italy, my home for the past six years. I am a freelancer and my clients are from all over the world- including Florence.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
If I weren't an illustrator I would probably be involved in academia somehow. Being an art historian would be fitting as it's always been a passion of mine. A lot of my studies still influence my work today and I've never been scared of wading through dense research.
Can you explain your creative process?
Before starting a new project I like to know as much background as I can before I even start sketching. For travel illustrations, for example, I'll start off by reading about the history of the city in order to get a feel for what makes it stand out. Then I'll gather reference images of the city's outstanding monuments, streets, or food items- depending on the topic, which is also helpful to determine a palette. After that, I begin to sketch. It sounds strict, but I always draw things on a grid from start to finish just so I'm confident the composition has a rational balance.
How has technology affected the way you work (if at all)?
As a former painter, I was hesitant to switch to digital work. The second I did though, the transition wasn't difficult as there are some really responsive tablets that feel just like drawing. As a graphic designer too, I tend to use several Adobe programs at once and that fluency tends to ease the workflow of my illustrations as well.
What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?
I'm originally from Wisconsin, in the midwest, so having an intense work ethic is ingrained into me. I feel like this has helped me accept rejection well because I believe there will always be more opportunities if you keep working.
Maintaining inspiration is hard, but I feel like it's important to work through bad or ugly ideas just to get them out of your system. Not everything you make is going to be a success, so there's nothing wrong with throwing ideas away until you find one that fits.
What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?
The package illustrations I did for Absolut Vodka. I've always loved their ads and special edition bottles so it was so cool to be included in one of their projects.
How do you recharge away from the office?
I’m fortunate to live in a beautiful area, so I take any chance I get to visit the countryside around Florence. It’s great to drink some nice wine, walk around in the fresh air, and let my dog run loose for a bit.
What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?
Don’t be scared to ask people (politely) for work, always look at what other talented people are working on, and keep drawing even if it’s just for yourself.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the creative industries?
It’s hard to say in this moment of change. A lot is going to be different after the pandemic has passed, but I hope that many companies continue to value the creativity and life that illustration can bring to the table.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
There are many things that make being an illustrator challenging so It’s difficult to pinpoint just one thing. I will say, however, I’ve been very happy to find a lot of communities where women illustrators and creatives gather to support each other. Supporting and celebrating others’ success is really meaningful in this field of work.