When we first saw Alex Heslop's illustrations in her website we immediately wanted to tell the world what was there. Very simple, beautiful ink line drawings, depicting farm animals, people, plants, utensils and food, are presented with captivating clarity and charm. We made a big mistake, we thought she was a boy, as in Alex short for Alexander, and sent off Tweets talking about "his work". Then, too late, we looked at the photograph in her Biography page and saw a very pretty girl in a beautiful, green Fair Isle cardigan and bright nail polish. We made our apologies, and to show there were no hard feelings she even answered lots of questions. What a good, kind person.
Question: Alex, when you graduated from University how did you get your first job and where did you work?
Answer: After I graduated back in 2008, I spent a good few months working away in coffee shops, saving to go to London. I later went onto do a long-term internship at the British Museum (Prints and Drawings department). I had a great time helping curate and hang exhibitions. I then moved to Wales to work part time at the Do Lectures and started doing freelance illustration.
Question: Was it very hard to get your first illustration commission?
Answer: My first big commission was the Do Lectures portraits (it helped that I was working for quite a creative company). I have had bits and bobs in the past, mostly from my degree show, but this was the biggest project I have done, drawing over 100 faces in less than a month. It was hard work, but great fun.
Question: Your work is so simple and captivating: what inspires you when you are creating it?
Answer: I like playing with line. I try to draw exactly what I see as simply, as honestly and as immediately as possible. It’s pretty tricky, but I have found that there can be something quite fun, beautiful and innocent about a simple line drawing. I majored in printmaking at University. When I was designing for print, I liked to make lines clear and simple to make it easier to translate into print. So I guess that comes through in my illustrations too.
Question: Tell us about the media you work with: pencils, paints, paper...
Answer: At the moment, I am having fun working with thin black pens (pigma micron 005 is my fave), dip-pens and colouring pencils. This year, I hope to get back into the print studio. I miss getting my hands dirty (literally), the physical effort of producing a print and working amongst others.
Question: Does living in Wales and being surrounded by the Welsh landscape inform and inspire your work?
Answer: Yes, it really does. I work on an old farm and my studio overlooks the river Teifi. It’s pretty hard not to be influenced by such a magical setting.
Question: What other artists have inspired you and why?
Answer: Gosh, that’s a tricky question, because there are so many. Subject-wise, I guess living in the country, I’m quite a fan of the (pretty great) engravers of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Two of my heros from that time are Thomas Bewick and J.E. Millais. Bewick’s tiny vignettes of simple county life and Millais’s pastoral scenes are pretty special. I guess, quite strangely, I also take inspiration from the Ancient Greeks. They had mad skills. Their sculptures had a particular beauty of line and they had a great eye for form.
Question: You work part-time at the Do Lectures, do you work freelance the rest of the time?
Answer: I work Tuesdays & Thursdays in the Do shed, organising the event. That leaves me the rest of the week to draw. It’s a nice balance.
Question: Do you enjoy doing the portraits of all the lecture speakers? Do you do them from photographs or do you sketch them while they are actually speaking?
Answer: They are fun to draw. So many interesting faces and characters. I use photos because they have to be finished before the lectures. But it’s nice to finally meet them in person at the event.
Question: Have you approached any cook book publishers or magazines with your work?
Answer: Not yet but this would definitely be something that I would be interested in. doing in the future
Question: What are your hopes for 2012 and the future?
Answer: This year is going to be fun. I leave my role at the Do Lectures in March 2012 to freelance full-time. I move to Bristol in March, then onto Berlin in June and finally to San Francisco in September. I hope to find interesting people doing interesting things in these interesting places. I'm excited to get back into a print studio too, there’s a bit of a lack of them out here in the country. I also miss history of art, so would like to look into doing a few courses at some point in the future.
To see more of Alex Heslop's work visit her website at www.alexheslop.com or follow her on Twitter: @alexheslop