In this week’s spotlight series we chat with the incredibly talented illustrator Alex Lehours, who has the unique ability to really capture the rich history and community of the area’s he paints. Here’s a little insight into his creative career, what drive’s him to keep painting, and tips for aspiring illustrators.
What led you into illustration?
Growing up I always enjoyed drawing and painting – I liked studying different forms and art styles and tried to replicate them. A lot of my time was spent drawing my favourite athletes and musicians. I think a career in illustration was just a natural progression from here – I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
If there was ever such a thing, what would a typical working day look like?
My typical day starts by snoozing my alarm! I always set it for 6am but it is very rare I actually get up that early.
If I am at my desk for the day I start by making sure I have one of my favourite TV shows playing the background. Then I check emails and do boring but essential adminy stuff and from there work through the list of projects I have on.
This could include anything from concept sketches and development for different mural and illustration projects to working on paintings in the studio for private commissions or exhibitions.
If I am on site for a mural job I actually do start very early. Most of the time I work through lunch and eat on the go. When I am on site it’s paint, paint, paint as I get so immersed in what I am doing. I love it.
What pieces of work are you most proud of? And why?
I have been lucky enough to work on a large range of exciting projects throughout my career.
Honestly I am satisfied when I illustrate or paint something and the final result is exactly how I had hoped. It doesn’t happen often but when it does it makes me proud.
If I was to select one recent project as a favourite, it would be a large scale mural I painted in Marrickville earlier this year.
I was commissioned by AMP Capital Shopping Centres in conjunction with The Inner West Council to create a public mural for the new development of Marrickville Metro Shopping Centre. The current building sits on the site of the iconic Vicars Mill.
The mural installation is a celebration of the site, the Vicars Mill, the suburb of Marrickville and its rich history as well as the people of the area, both past and present.
The artwork pays homage to the original Indigenous inhabitants of the land and area and it also symbolises the generations of people who kept the site running for so many years.
I love those types of public projects where you get to engage with the local community and it was such an honour to be able to add my own stamp on such a historic site in Sydney.
What tools / techniques / approaches did you use to create these projects?
The tools I use differ depending on whether it is a digital piece or a hand-painted artwork.
For the digital work I use my Wacom Cintiq tablet. For painting and drawing I use anything from Sharpie pens to paint brushes, acrylic paint, Posca markers and spray paint.
No matter what project I am working on I have the same approach. I like to create a sketch of what I am creating and from there I plan out each section and what parts I will tackle first. I like to be prepared and have a good idea of my process for each job.
What’s the best part about being a freelancer?
The best part is the freedom – the freedom to focus on work you are passionate about.
Other than clients there is no one to answer to. It is scary but I think that helps to drive and motivate me to keep pushing myself and try new things that are out of my comfort zone.
What are the most common challenges you encounter in the job/industry?
The most common challenge is trying to stay one step ahead. A lot of the time it’s easy to get completely caught up in the particular project I’m working on at that moment in time. I have to remind myself to look forward too in order to manage upcoming work and my future schedule.
One of the other challenges is constantly trying to sell yourself and your craft. Although I am lucky to work in a fun industry, I frequently deal with clients who do not have much experience using an artist or illustrator so it can be hard to convince a hesitant person or business that they need my services. However, as with everything, the more you do it the more you learn.
How do you keep evolving and growing as a illustrator?
In order to evolve and grow as any sort of artist you have to look back at what you have produced in the past. I am constantly reassessing my work, discovering what I can change and potentially do better next time. If you settle and don’t push yourself to be better you remain stagnate and won’t ever develop as an artist. It is so vital to be completely honest with yourself and your work.
I also find taking on projects that are a little out of my comfort zone and that can be somewhat daunting help in pushing you that little bit further.
If you’re in a creative rut, do you have go-to places either physical, virtual or both where you go to get inspired?
If ever I am in a rut I like to step away from the computer, pen or canvas. After that I like to look online, through books and even the television and search for different forms of creativity, artists or even TV shows that are completely outside of the field. I love being inspired by other creatives and medium – it always helps and gets the creative juices flowing again.
What’s your key advice for aspiring illustrators?
Just keep doing what you are doing. Work hard and as a result you will develop. The more you develop the more you work will be sought after. Nothing comes easy. I find that if you are truly passionate about something then it doesn’t feel like a chore developing your skill set and working hard.
Any projects you’re involved in at present that you want more people to know about?
I have a lot I am working on at the moment which I am looking forward to sharing. Some fun illustration work is about to be released with clients in Europe. And a few more public murals are coming up later in the year in Sydney, which I am really excited about.
Unfortunately I can’t say too much about these just yet but keep your eyes peeled around Bondi Beach in late November and December. You may find some new creations on the walls around there!