Alice Bowsher's illustrations are always a delight to behold. Brimming with all the life and energy of the best spontaneous doodles, her portfolio is bursting with a range of entertaining characters, including trendy pickles, rollerblading puppies, and the fanciest pigeons you'll ever lay eyes on.
Based in South-East London, Alice's joyful work spans packaging design, murals, book illustrations, brand identities, animations, shop displays and more, all united by her deft line work, distinctive use of black ink and charming creatures. The long list of clients enamoured with her work includes Apple, The Guardian, Hato Press, Camden Town Brewery and Orchard Thieves.
When she's not creating incredible illustrations, Alice also spreads joy through her Easy Peeler newsletter, and more recently, she has started to engage with her audience via the online publishing platform Substack. We caught up with Alice to hear how she turned marginalia into a career, how she chooses clients, and what she loves most about being an illustrator.
What made you want to become an illustrator?
It was a bit of an accident, to be honest. I've always enjoyed drawing and making, and creating things. At school, I studied fashion and textiles then, during Foundation, I branched out into the world of Fine Art. As I began my BA, I realised it wasn't for me and switched to Graphics, where a tutor saw a silly little drawing I did in the margin of my notebook and asked why I never did work like that. And that's when I fell into illustration.
Who are your biggest artistic inspirations and why?
I have always loved characters, and Dick Bruna's Miffy has always been a firm favourite. As well as Tove Jansson's Moomins and Richard Scarry's Busy Town.
I admire so many contemporary illustrators, but Christian Robinson is a current favourite. I always go through phases with who I'm obsessed with, and it's currently Jim Henson and The Muppets. I can't get enough.
How has your style evolved over the years?
I think doing projects and working quickly and efficiently has tightened things up a lot. It's become a lot more consistent and neat, which is a good thing for the most part. But I think it's good to remind myself to stay loose and experiment with other materials and mediums so I don't feel too much like a robot.
Your sketchbooks are a joy to behold. Tell us about your sketching habits.
Thank you! I use sketchbooks as a place to experiment and get ideas down quickly. I usually have two on the go. One is more written ideas with very fast sketches, and the other I take on trips with me for more observational drawings. During lockdown, I started trying to do one drawing from life every day, it's a nice record of that weird time, and since then, I've gotten into a habit of taking a sketchbook on holiday. Those drawings usually look very different from my work for commercial projects. It's nice to have space for both.
How do you go about choosing the clients you work with? Do you have a list of criteria they need to match?
I have been very fortunate with the clients who approach me and have worked with lovely clients, including many charities, over the past couple of years. I don't have a list of criteria per se, but I tend to go with my gut, and if something doesn't feel right, it's not worth taking on.
Which project are you most proud of?
I think it would be my first book, 'The Line'. It was a concept I came up with at uni, and I got picked up by a publisher at my degree show, and we turned it into a colouring book. My work has changed so much since then, and I don't think they're my strongest drawings at all, but that project reminds me of the first time I really thought I could make being an illustrator a full-time thing.
How does it feel to see your work out in the wild?
I LOVE it!! I get so excited. My friends and family send me photos if they see anything, which always makes my day. It is so much fun to become part of people's everyday lives.
You've recently branched out into Substack. What's that been like?
I decided to start a Substack as I was getting disenchanted with Instagram; no one saw anything I posted, and I was constantly getting spammed with adverts. Substack allows me more time and space to explore my ideas, reflect on my practice and share with a more engaged audience. I feel a lot less restricted with my newsletter, and I write about things that entertain me, and if anyone else enjoys it, then that feels like a bonus.
What advice would you give to budding illustrators?
My advice would be to stay true to your work and your practice. It's hard but try not to be too dictated by trends as they come and go so quickly. Whereas if you're making work that makes you happy, hopefully, there will be some longevity in that. It's not a super simple career path, but what it lacks in stability, it more than makes up for in being interesting, exciting and stimulating.
What's your favourite part about being an illustrator?
I enjoy creating things that make people smile. Sometimes it can feel a bit pointless drawing silly things all day, but I think there is some importance in giving people some sweet relief from relentless bad news.