Email correspondence with Alexandra Francis

Throughout the illustration: connections course, we were encouraged to reach out to illustrators that I have admired to connection with. As you may know I have struggled with digital illustration; asking a digital illustrator has been helpful, with understanding the importance of embracing different features within illustration and hopefully encourage me to start practicing digital illustration. I do long to have the confidence of promoting vast amounts of digital illustration. Though it may take a while. Alexandra Francis is an illustrator and graphic designer based in Manchester. Alex’s work is subjected to digital illustrations of characters and editorials. I really love her choice of colour and tonal values throughout her illustrations. I want to thank Alexandria Francis for answering my questions. I really enjoyed reading them.

Culture trip Manchester illustrated by Alexandra Francis

Here is the email correspondence below. I hope you enjoy reading this.

1) why did you to become an illustrator?

Alex: “I studied Fine Art and at the end realised I didn’t want to be a Fine Artist! I soon discovered a course called Shillington which taught me Graphic Design. I loved combing my drawing skills with design and using my craft in a useful way for other people.”

2) what would you say to someone beginning a career in illustration?

Alex: “Don’t feel like you need to have a style or have it all figured out. This is a time to push, pull and experiment. Try lots of different techniques, see what you’re drawn to – don’t overthink it.”

3) which commission did you enjoy creating the most? 

Alex: “Last year I worked with Ancestry to commemorate the anniversary of The Blitz, it was really nice to draw from historical records and have it inspired by my community in Manchester. Seeing my work on a billboard was a proud moment too.”

4) what is your typical working week? 

Alex: “As a lover of routine, I stick to a usual 9-5 schedule. It most likely includes lots of client calls, proposals, sketches and listening to podcasts”

5) how do you begin to create your digital illustrations and did they improve over time? (Digital illustration is not exactly my forte) 

Alex: “I always start with a thumbnail sketch, something so rough that only I can understand it but enough to figure out the composition and forms. My illustration has definitely improved over time, constant practice and absorbing inspiration has improved my knowledge of balance, composition and colour.”

Throw and Co – Textile store by Alexandra Francis

6) Do you usually get repeat commissions from people? How are they obtained? 

Alex: ” Yes! It’s always important to give your client the best experience possible. Commercial illustration is a people-facing role, having good people skills will ensure your client feels happy at all times in the process.”

7) were there any illustrators or graphic designers who inspired you? 

Alex: “I’m constantly inspired by illustrators and graphic designers, people like Laura Bee, Molly Mendoza and Sarah Beth Morgan.”

‘The worst’ – title (cover) illustrated by Molly Mendoza
Drip for Drip, October Coffee cup edition by Laura Bee

8) what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of being a freelance illustrator? 

Alex: ” Being freelance means a lot of control, you decide which projects to take on, when you will work and how you will work. However this is also the downside, you have to illustrate, project-manage, client liaise and market yourself all at the same time.”

9) what lessons have you learnt from being an illustrator?

Alex: “Having good communication skills is just as important as being able to draw. If you can convince, explain and form relationships with clients then you’ll be able to build yourself a portfolio of clients who love working with you.”

Intercom editotial illustration, an introverts guide to collaboration by Laura Bee

10) how do you deal with a difficult client? 

Alex: “Its easily to immediately feel annoyed but its often a misunderstanding that has made the client seem difficult. Trying to think logically about what from their perspective isn’t working helps. Asking someone else about their opinion can put things in perspective.”

From this correspondence, I have learnt from Alex, to continue to build essential connections with illustrators and continue to seek inspiration. I do admire Alex’s work extremely, and hope I can understand the lessons she learnt as an illustrator. The overall module has been exceedingly interesting to discuss. It was also quite amazing because I have looked up to Alexandria Francis for a while, especially the illustrations being created.

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