The #NoBrief series is an ongoing look into our talented illustrators, animators, lettering and type artists’ minds – focusing on the passion projects they create when they become their own client. When they are free to let their imagination and creativity run wild, when there’s no client brief to stick to.
The first two instalments of our #NoBrief series saw Animation Director, Neil Stubbings and 3D illustrator and Animation Director, Design Lad chatting to us all about the highs and lows of creating (and finishing) a passion project and the benefits it reaps.
Continuing the series is illustrator Alice Tye whose sophisticated and atmospheric work has gained her an impressive client list ranging from It’s Nice That to Moet Hennessey.
When looking at any one of Alice Tye‘s illustrations, it’s hard not to be intrigued by both it’s photographic likeness and the textured quality that working in oils can achieve. Alice is a highly skilled artist, but we have come to learn that, when preparing for each piece, Alice also becomes set designer, stylist and photographer. Each and every one of Alice’s illustrations have undergone a process of careful research, close attention to detail and, when push comes to shove, excessive cake baking (we’ll get to that later).
Alice’s self-initiated projects, from ‘Cinematic Still Life‘, to the more recent ‘Hello America‘ showcase her ability to create and curate a scene, whether that be a sand dune-filled New York City, or an imagined table arrangement from Call Me By Your Name. Truth be told, Alice’s research is as in-depth as her illustrations. She takes time to experiment with her ideas until she gets the perfect result, that’s “the beauty of self-directed projects” she tells us, you “have no time constraints and can play around with compositions until they feel right”. That’s the power of Alice’s illustrations, they just “feel right”, in their detail, compositions and in the atmospheres they create.
“When I’m struggling with ideas for a new project, I always come back to the same two things”, Alice admits. And of course, they are film and travel. Alice’s interpretation of film in her work is open-ended, she really absorbs the aesthetic as well as the mood of a film, and creates her own worlds that capture the feel of any given scene. ‘Cinematic Still Life‘ is Alice’s favourite series to date due to her involvement in every stage of the project. She wanted to work on something that would involve her creating a scene from which she would paint, as well as ensuring she had complete control over what she was painting. Alice embarked on ‘Cinematic Still Life’ at the end of last year, and spent time building all six of her scenes. She sourced the props and made all the food for each still life, then photographed them and finally painted them.
The research involved sifting through dozens of charity shops and endlessly scrolling through eBay, “searching for niche objects like a Coca-Cola can from the 80’s or a cake stand to fit a 70’s aesthetic”. She even spent a week making and baking jellies and blancmanges from old “Jell-O” ad recipes. And yes, Alice has made the food look mouth-watering but after hearing how much cottage cheese and condensed milk has gone into some of the food, we’re far from tempted by the baked goods in Edward Scissorhands.
This project was all about “capturing the feeling” of a film or TV show. When photographing each still life, Alice would constantly be playing around with different arrangements, with the lighting and with extra props to swap in and out. Once she had the perfect photographs, she didn’t adjust them, “so the final paintings are representative of the photographs I based them on”.
In order to capture “the feeling” of The Grand Budapest Hotel, the arrangement had to differ from the Stranger Things illustration. Alice used a sugary pink colour palette and kept a fairly symmetrical composition, “in keeping with Wes Anderson’s direction”. Stranger Things, on the other hand, is a much darker scene, made up of primary colours to reflect an 80’s colour palette. Alice see’s her style as “a little ominous, which often comes from the emphasis put on contrast and heavy shadow”.
Colour plays a huge part in evoking mood in Alice’s art, and nowhere is that more evident than in ‘Hello America‘. Alice talks of bold and striking colours coming naturally when she embarked on this project. Fiery skies and purple buildings weren’t originally planned but “seemed fitting for dystopian landscapes”. However, an underlying pink glow was something Alice had envisioned when planning each piece. Alice tells us, “I knew I wanted the Las Vegas Jungle image to glow from the neon lights, so having a pink tone running through it was something I intended from the outset.” ‘Hello America’ is undoubtedly busier than many of Alice’s previous works, and is rich with contrasting images and frenzied landscapes.
‘Hello America’ was an idea that had been brewing for a while. Alice first thought up this series when reading J.G. Ballard’s novel Hello America four years ago. Earlier this year, she revisited the novel and became re-inspired to start the project, working with her own photographs to recreate Ballard’s scenes. From photographs Alice had taken when visiting California and New York, to trips to Kew Gardens, Alice combined all her references in Photoshop to create the dystopian landscapes she imagined from the novel.
Reflecting on this project, Alice told us that “it’s important to make time for both commercial and personal work and to make work you really want to make, not just what you think the internet will appreciate”. In fact, personal projects have proved essential for Alice’s process. They have allowed her to expand her portfolio in the direction she wants her work to go in, as well as opening up opportunities of speaking at Nicer Tuesdays, and exhibiting at Ad agency, Mother. Alice’s self-initiated projects have also led to work for It’s Nice That’s Printed Pages, The Guardian and Washington Examiner, amongst others.
In Alice’s Nicer Tuesdays talk earlier this year, she addressed her obsession with car parks, which she hints at in ‘Mono No Aware’. We were intrigued to know more about this, and learnt that, whether it’s “the familiarity of something so mundane contrasted with the unfamiliar landscape, or it’s simply the pleasing geometry of a grid” that draws Alice in, she’s not sure, but it’s consistently something she seems to gravitate towards. From the more obviously Japanese cityscapes, to something as universal as a car park, Alice became inspired by everything Japan had to offer. “I absolutely want to revisit Japan”, she told us, “I only scratched the surface, and would love to continue to explore.”
‘Mono No Aware’, arguably Alice’s most popular project to date, details her trip to Japan during the Spring of 2017. The series, which quite literally translates into ‘the pathos of things’, combines the transience of the cherry blossom season with the wonder of big Japanese cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Alice chatted to us all about her time in Japan, and ‘the visual overload’ that became so inspiring and influential to her work. “Everywhere I looked, there was a huge amount going on; from the architecture, to the busy signage, to all the people everywhere”, Alice remembers.
With travel projects such as ‘Mono No Aware’ and ‘USA IRL’, Alice waits until she has returned home to London before she starts planning her paintings. ‘I try not to set out with too many pre-conceived ideas’ she says, “I find that if I have a concept for a project before I arrive, I quickly realise that I’ve already made a judgement about how I’ll experience the place before I’ve even explored it”. Instead, she takes time to absorb the atmosphere and feeling of a place before illustrating it.
Each and every one of Alice’s projects is completely original, with its own unique aesthetic that makes her portfolio an array of beautifully captured scenes. Alice’s photographic eye, combined with artistic technique and the time and care she takes over each piece, results in a collection of stunningly intriguing illustrations.
From stretching Californian landscapes to refined still-life’s, Alice’s self-initiated projects have allowed her to develop her skill, her style and her ideas. We’re always excited to see what work Alice is going to produce next and with inspiration coming from every angle, we know that what’s to come will be a feast for the eyes.