Advice — 3x3: Alva Skog gets career advice from Bráulio Amado, Olimpia Zagnoli and Kelly Anna

Posted 12 March 2019 Written by Indi Davies
Interview by Alva Skog

If you’re just starting out in your career, it’s very likely that you’ll have: a) a whole heap of questions, and, b) a few role models. So we’re inviting emerging creatives to combine the two – kicking things off with brilliant rising illustrator, Alva Skog, who graduated with a degree in graphic design from Central Saint Martins last summer. Even though she’s experienced something of an explosion onto the illustration scene – picking up commissions from the likes of The Guardian, The New York Times and Apple – Alva will be the first to admit that there’s still so much more to know and learn. Here she’s pinpointed three of her most-admired fellow illustrators, appointing each to answer a question she’s found herself struggling with in her first few months of professional life.

Work by Bráulio

Work by Bráulio

Work by Bráulio

Work by Bráulio

Work by Bráulio

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Bráulio: So, when that happens, I start a new file – an empty canvas with nothing on it. If it’s an editorial illustration, I read the article then go to Google Images and collect visual references of the most important things I find in the text. Like, literally, if it’s a story about a man eating a cheesecake with a dog in Alaska, then I’ll get a photo of a man, a photo of a cheesecake, a photo of a dog and something related to Alaska.

I put them all in the empty page and force myself to play with those images as some kind of puzzle, making sense out of them while I try to tell the story I want to tell with them, without just showing, you know, a man eating a cheesecake with a dog in Alaska.

Then ideas start popping up, so I get new images and references that have the same meaning but are completely different. Or I’ll do some sort of digital collage in Photoshop with little pieces from each of the images, creating something new that makes sense conceptually.

“Not knowing what the hell you will or can do is part of the fun.”

It becomes more of a game, rather than me trying to create something. When I am moving those things around, new ideas end up coming to me and I’ll take it from there. Or, if this doesn't work at all, I leave the studio and go for a walk. Maybe I get a slice of cheesecake or go to a park and pet a dog. Or sometimes I just go to a record or book store.

Other times, none of that works, and I end up being honest with the client: I show what I have and tell them I couldn’t get anywhere smart – but [if you do this] make sure you show where your process is heading. Maybe they’ll have more ideas, and show you a different way to look at it.

If everyone’s brain was always ready to solve problems and do things easily, we would live in a super-uptight world with solutions for every single thing. That’s not fun – not knowing what the hell you will or can do is part of the fun.

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Bráulio Amado is a New York-based graphic designer and illustrator, originally from Portugal. Previously he worked full-time at Pentagram NYC, Bloomberg Businessweek and Wieden+Kennedy, before going freelance.

badbadbadbad.com
Instagram/braulioamado

Work by Kelly

Work by Kelly

Work by Kelly

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Kelly Anna: I only decided to get a studio about a year ago. I was still working freelance for a company two to three days a week, so I didn’t know if it was worth doing. I did it anyway because I felt like I was at the point where I wanted to have my own studio to go to.

However, I don’t think it’s imperative if you have, for example, just graduated. It can take years to really figure out your own style and work out which path you may actually want to take. So allow that time to just work it out. Then gradually over the years start to build up a client list. Once you feel ready, go get a studio, but don’t feel like you have to have one to create amazing work. Some of my best work has come out of something I’ve drawn in my kitchen at 4am in the morning!

“Some of my best work has come out of something I’ve drawn in my kitchen at 4am in the morning!”

If it starts to feel a little claustrophobic to be working from home, then maybe head out to some cafes and work from there (if your practice allows this). I worked for years without a studio because I just wasn’t at that place yet, but I knew one day I would be.

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Trained in fashion illustration, Kelly Anna worked as a print designer for multiple fashion houses before going her own way as an illustrator. Her expressive female forms can be found in work for Nike and H&M, and she currently works from a studio space in Peckham, London.

kellyannalondon.com
instagram.com/kellyannalondon

Work by Olimpia

Work by Olimpia

Work by Olimpia

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Olimpia: Yes, I happen to turn down several work proposals a day. In the past I used to say yes to as many assignments as I could. This was because each one represented a chance for me to grow, learn new things and make a little money. Now, after ten years working as an illustrator, I have a more defined perception of my priorities, and so I decline many projects in order to protect them.

Having the privilege to transform a passion into your job is a little bit like finding Aladdin’s lamp. It’s a great fortune – but you don’t know how long it’s going to last, and you have to be careful not to lose it.

“It’s ok to say no to a new job and take a train to the seaside.”

Therefore, I think it’s essential to cultivate your spirit to keep this dream alive. If too many emails, deadlines or taxes are clouding your creativity, it’s ok to say no to a new job, and take a train to the seaside.

I’ve turned down projects that were uninteresting to me, but also a few so-called dream jobs. This was because I felt like it wasn’t the right time for me, or I wanted to concentrate on something else. It’s certainly not easy, but it’s a kind of instinct, which gets sharper with time and experience.

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Born, raised and rooted in Milan, Olimpia Zagnoli has worked as an illustrator since she graduated in 2008. Her distinctive work can be found in editorial pieces for The New York Times and The New Yorker, up to fashion collaborations with brands including Fendi and Prada.

olimpiazagnoli.com
instagram.com/olimpiazagnoli

Find more from Alva at alvaskog.com and instagram.com/alva.skog

Posted 12 March 2019 Written by Indi Davies
Interview by Alva Skog
Collection: Advice
Disciplines: Illustration
Mentions: Kelly Anna, Olimpia Zagnoli, Bráulio Amado

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