Aleisha Earp is a Melbourne based digital artist whose bold and quirky illustrations are inspired by everything from her favourite foods to 90's childhood nostalgia. Working across multiple design programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Procreate, Aleisha's style is heavily influenced by pop art and 8 bit graphics in her use of bright colour, love of commercial and pop culture imagery and distinctive line work.
When Aleisha is not designing a book cover or illustrating a unique pet portrait on commission, you can find her putting stylus to screen creating zines, illustrations for a group art show, or more excitingly, new art for a solo exhibition which is in the works for the coming year.
We've absolutely loved printing Alicia's work for the last 6 months as her art is so fun and playful - it really brightens up the workplace!
Read on to find out Aleisha's thoughts on the power of nostalgia, the process behind her artistic practise and how MS Paint shaped her career as a digital illustrator.
Tell us about your creative background. How and when did you decide to become a digital artist?
I was always making things as a child. Luckily, I was very encouraged to indulge in these creative pursuits. My mum let me draw on the walls and I was allowed to take over the dining room table with whatever project I was working on.
After school, I completed a Bachelor of Arts, focusing on literature and visual art. The visual art course was quite limited so I began to focus my interest on theory and gallery operations.
One day, in a burst of boredom at a museum job, I re-discovered the joy of MS Paint. I think I started playing with it ironically, until I discovered how much it actually suited me. I became obsessed with the 8 bit style, the bold colours, and the eraser tool! I started to create themed illustrations which people really seemed to like.
Have you always created art digitally, or have you experimented with more traditional mediums? What led you to primarily create illustrations in a digital format?
I have always enjoyed drawing with pen and paper, using watercolours and making ceramics. I think it’s therapeutic to get your hands dirty every once in a while.
While studying, the only fine art units on offer centred on painting. I was always terrible at mixing paints and couldn’t create the colours that I imagined in my head. I convinced myself I was terrible at painting, but in retrospect, I think they were pushing us all to follow a particularly traditional style.
After this course, I rejected colour and painting all together, going through a black & white fine-liner phase. This period allowed me to focus on my drawing skills and gain back the confidence that I lost at uni. I would draw my surroundings mostly, and used the medium as a kind of journal.
Discovering digital drawing eventually led me to buy an iPad and use programs like Procreate, Illustrator and Photoshop. Using this digital format allowed me to fill the gaps in my skill base. I was attracted to the colour options and the ability to experiment without impact. After painting for a few years, the flat, even tones were so refreshing and vibrant.
Talk us through your creative process. Do you start with pen and paper sketches before rendering in digital?
My process changes depending on what the project is and what’s required. I have always struggled to pull images out of my head, so I like to work from a photograph or by having the scene/object right in front of me.
Sometimes I draw with pen and paper, take a photo of my drawing and turn it into a vector image. I love this method as I get the digital perks with a hand drawn aesthetic. Mostly, I jump straight into an illustration without much planning and see what comes out.
Who or what has been your biggest creative influence?
Milk bars, Pop Art, my toy chest, my grandma’s floral illustrations, 90’s ABC kids programming and spaghetti.
Your illustrations frequently portray pop culture and foods that reference the typical Australian childhood during the 80s and 90s. Would you say nostalgia is an important theme in your work?
I am definitely partial to drawing anything that reminds me what it was like to be a kid. I’m a very nostalgic person and find comfort in objects, shapes and colours that evoke a memory of a different time (even if that time was last year). I particularly enjoy drawing things that are left behind in childhood - food that you aren’t meant to eat as an adult, toys, animals, nature, games.
Your art has a very playful, lively and sometimes humorous style. Would you say this embodies you as an artist, or are you always developing and refining your style?
I have accidentally adopted a particular style, but even 2 years ago, that style was quite different. I think what I make will change as I change (and hopefully grow). I’m not tied to being recognised for a distinct style. I think having the opportunity to experiment with different styles and topics is what is so great about creating things.
Your artwork spans pet and people portraiture, still life illustration, pop culture, and everything in-between! What is your process in deciding what to illustrate next?
If I’m not directly responding to a commissioned piece, I am most likely responding to something I have come across in my day-to-day encounters. Conversations with friends, seeing an advertisement, watching a great film, food, TV, video games etc. I think I still use drawing as a visual journal.
Where can people buy prints of your artwork?
You can find some of my work on display at Incube8r Gallery on Smith Street. Alternatively, check out my website that has a selection of print options available: https://allyearp.com
How have you found having your work printed with Image Science?
With colour being the predominant feature of my work, I was beyond impressed with the quality and vibrancy of my first print. The pigment inks create depth and really bring the works to life. The staff are extremely helpful and make it an easy process for anyone new to printing.
Do you have any long-term goals for your creative business?
I really want to spend the near future honing my illustration skills, expanding my knowledge of programs and experimenting with different ways of presenting my artwork. In an ideal world, I would love to be represented by an agency and get the chance to see my drawings in a variety of places. But that seems very, very far away!
What’s next on the horizon for you creatively? Do you have any exciting projects, news or exhibitions in the pipeline for 2019?
In the next year, I’m aiming to put together my first ever solo show. Stay tuned!
For commission enquiries you can reach Aleisha through her Instagram or via email on [email protected] You can purchase prints of Aleisha's work on her website. The best way to keep up to date with Aleisha is to follow her on Instagram where she posts her exhibition dates, webshop updates and new print releases.