On graphic narratives, retro aesthetics and longevity – Meet IA's Alex Mankiewicz

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Meet Alex Mankiewicz!

Website | Instagram | Portfolio

Alex is moving into a new studio space in the Arts & Industry estate in Byron Bay, and has work in two publications launching in the upcoming months:

So That’s What’s Happening! –
picture book on puberty, published by New Holland January 2018.  

Home Free: women’s journeys to safety from domestic violence 
to be launched 30 November in Sydney.

image content warnings: domestic violence, slurs/swearing

Do you have an art practice outside of illustration?


Who and what inspires your art and creativity?

Human psychology. The ever-shrinking but critical details of cultural difference. The palette and symbolic design of retro signs, advertising, and packaging.

A major influence for me has been Japanese art and culture. I was a printmaker in Kyoto for a few years and that’s had a lasting effect on my imagery. Illustrators whose work I admire include the superb Tenniel, some French ‘bande dessineé’ creators – Clement Ouberie and Joann Sfar in particular – and of course Shaun Tan.

What excites you about illustration?

The variation – there’s no other art form that encompasses such a wide range. What an illustrator might be asked to do in the space of a month would be the equivalent of a musician composing an ad jingle, pop song and documentary soundtrack all at once – doesn’t happen in any other field.

What do you love illustrating?

The challenge of the brief. Connecting with viewers so they engage with ideas, topics, and stories they might not when it’s presented as only text. Using humour and unexpected imagery to present an idea (especially a challenging or confronting one) or product, effectively and originally.

What’s a typical day for you as an illustrator?

For an hour in the morning, emails with current client, new inquiries, and all the business matters a freelancer must deal with, especially with international commissions. Then double espresso and analogue pen and ink outlines, or Photoshop for the rest of the day. If the illustration is at the conceptual stage, I sometimes take the brief to a café to work up thumbnails. The change of venue can be freeing and the sound of other voices healthy!

Images from The Home Free: women's journeys to safety from domestic violence

Do you regularly exhibit your work? Why or why not?

Occasionally. Much of what I’ve been doing lately is sequential, so time to work on pieces that will suit a gallery show has been rare.  Ideally soon.

What are your thoughts on social networking and marketing yourself online as an artist? How has this helped you gain a following or given you opportunities?

I’m sure I need to do more of it, but it takes time and needs to be constantly nurtured.

Given what you know now, do you have any advice for yourself in those early stages?

Keep working, do your own projects if nothing is coming in, you never know when they can be recycled. Also don’t think an assignment or topic is necessarily out of your range or interest – sometimes the most challenging and long term relationships come from clients that may not seem especially ‘exciting or ‘cool’ initially.

Image from So That's What's Happening!

Could you give some experience of roles with clients (how you came about them and your overall experience)?

Past briefs have of course led to new clients. As have self-initiated projects. Much of my personal work has had an environmental or social concern and that has led to jobs with a similar focus. As a lot of recent work has been graphic narrative, there is a fair amount of back and forth over what should be told vs. what should be shown. It’s a fairly new area so I find clients are very receptive to input and to a point, experimentation.

There’s also the issue of being based regionally.  Even though everything is done online, there can still be a bias with art directors re: city vs. country based illustrators.  For a book bio going to a European fair I was even told recently not to mention I’m Australian. However, that is changing – and of course increased internet speeds have helped!

Do you have any advice for illustrators interested in joining Illustrators Australia?

Some excellent and diverse clients have found me via IA. It’s also a reminder via updates, forums etc. that there’s a growing community and professional support in Australia. Important in what is usually a very solitary work environment. Join!

What’s your favourite weird colour (or weird paint shade) name?

Eucalypt green (suppose that’s not so weird as it we’re surrounded by it)...

Like Alex Mankiewicz's work? See more of her work on her portfolio page!