Alex Foster is an illustrator influenced by his home; the sunny seaside town of Margate. Location is particularly important to Alex; from illustrated maps and posters of London, to personalised house portraits of the homes of Brits from all over the UK, his characterful illustrations, though geographic, are bursting with energy and personality. Having graduated in 2013, this year Alex’s house portrait service was featured on ITV’s This Morning, and Phillip Schofield thought the idea was an absolute dream.
This artist now spends his time designing and producing clothing, books, personalised prints and stationery, and selling via his shop, as well as teaming up with clients such as Anorak magazine, Hallmark, The Poetry Society, and the 2012 Olympics by way of Barnet Council. Being creative wasn’t always as much fun though. Alex took a chance and threw himself headfirst into a foundation course at the University for the Creative Arts, Canterbury, hoping to tease out the secrets of being a successful creative and discover his niche in the process.
He says, ‘My course helped me realise what illustration was and I found something to really get into. After this I moved to London to go to Middlesex University to study Illustration. While the course was very difficult and busy, it taught me countless things that have helped me massively.’
Though his creations often feature fixed abodes and cartography, Alex looks all over the place for inspiration. From botany to cinematography, studying fine artists in a bid to expand his knowledge of art history, and searching magazines, Instagram, Twitter and blogs for other good ideas, he’s inspired by many things.
‘There are so many brilliant illustrators that I discover every day, it really keeps you on your toes. I listen to a lot of podcasts too, these can provide some great stories to illustrate, like ‘The Cobra effect’ from Freakonomics for example. Also anything Nobrow put out. Their books range in theme but for me the theme doesn’t matter so much because it’s always something interesting, like a concertina book about space travel, bicycling or the big scenes in ‘Eventually Everything Connects’.
Alex’s illustration business has gone from strength to strength in a very short space of time. As anyone working within the creative industries knows, it’s both rewarding and encouraging to know that the public enjoy your work, and occasionally it can come as a bit of a surprise. Though feeling slightly strange about being asked to sign books he’d illustrated, Alex describes some of the best moments of his creative career to date as having a lot to do with the public reception of his work.
On top of this, seeing it around London, both on the tube, and in M&S by way of a Christmas card design wasn’t bad either. Christmas was a busy time, with house portraits featured in the Guardian and on TV, which has led to a new year filled with requests to lend painterly character to the beloved bricks and mortar of Britain’s family homes.
Alex plans to push on with his house portraits this year, and to add a few more special services to his shop, such as personal portraits. Why stop at an original illustration of your crib when you could go the whole hog and get a sweet family portrait too? He says of his plans for upcoming creative commissions,
‘A couples one for Valentine’s day could be nice. As well as that I will continue to find and reach out to great magazines and businesses who want to work with me. Other projects I’m working on in January include gift voucher and wedding invite designs for the Turner Contemporary, Margate, a bespoke area map print for a 10 year anniversary of a small business, and a print of Ramsgate harbour for Blue Swift gallery.’
Because he’s come so far in the mere space of a few years, I asked Alex if there were any rare gems on launching a flourishing creative business, or words of wisdom he’d like to impart and share. He told me, ‘I sat here for a bit trying to coin a revolutionary phrase that will inspire generations but, I’ll just say this; there’s always a way to make it work as a living. It may mean a part time job on the side but, at least to start with, that seems a fairly standard procedure. Work hard at what you love and keep going.’
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Words: Emily Beeson | @boogiemargaret