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Q&A with Illustrator Alice Tye

Posted on 19 May 2016

Alice Tye is a London-based illustrator with a one-of-a-kind style. Her work is at once playful and sophisticated, both approachable and complex. Her catalogue of work is diverse, and she's found herself drawing for a long list of clients. I sent her a few questions, and she was nice enough to give me a little insight into her world. Our conversation is below... 

What led you to illustration? Did you play around in other mediums and art forms growing up? What was your path like to finding this current artistic exploration?

I already knew when I was at school that I wanted to go to art college but wasn't sure what I'd study there as I wasn't a painter or a sculptor and design wasn't really taught or discussed properly at my school. I went to Camberwell College of Art (UAL) to complete a foundation diploma in art & design which was required to do any of art degree at UAL at the time. It was in this foundation course that I realised I wanted to pursue illustration. We were encouraged to explore all media throughout the foundation so I tried a bit of everything really.

I actually didn't begin painting until the final year of my BA, before that I would only feel comfortable working in pencil. Switching to paint and printmaking totally changed my work and made me become a bit looser and more willing to make mistakes.

To me, your style is approachable but totally unique. It seems to combine a childlike simplicity, while still being sophisticated and artful. Can you identify where this style comes from?

I've never consciously chosen to work in a specific style, I just paint the way that my hand naturally moves! However it's possible that having never trained as a painter would lead to a slightly childlike quality.

You do a lot of commercial/magazine work. Was that always the goal? Or did you just pursue the art, and you’ve sort of fallen into it?

The commercial work was always my goal. Having studied illustration I'm used to creating work based on a brief, finding a solution to a problem like any design so commercial work comes most naturally to me. It's actually only since people have asked me whether I'm an 'artist' or an 'illustrator' that I've really started to see a difference between my self-initiated painting series vs. work I make for clients.Okay, a classic ‘process’ question. Do you sketch first and then move toward the final illustration? Is it a trial and error process?

I actually never sketch in pencil! I always make photo-collages using photoshop to generate ideas as these are easiest to amend during the draft stages of a project. I then begin painting the final painting once the collages have been finalised. I also often paint directly from photographs and film stills as that's always been a subject that I'm interested in - seeing something through an image that's already been filtered either by your own photography or by someone else's.What materials do you use in your illustrations? What are the bare essentials to achieve that Alice Tye style?

I pretty much exclusively work in oils now as that feels most natural to me. And I mainly work on paper rather than canvas as I prefer the smoother surface.

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be doing?

That's a difficult question! Maybe something to do with film as I'm fascinated by cinema. Or maybe something totally out of the art world - pursuing cooking perhaps as I'm really interested in health and wellness and love to cook.

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