Featured Freelance Illustrator

Alexandra Hartford

September 2019

We recently caught up with the wonderful Alexandra Hartford, a multi-disciplined illustrator from Dublin currently living in New York City. We chat about how traveling can help you gain some perspective on your career; how the key to finding your style is patience, plus Alexandra tells us about the time they taught design classes in a prison!

Any hilarious stories about you as a kid being creative?

When I was 9, I attended a summer camp in my home town of Dublin, Ireland. On one of many rainy days, we were stuck inside and given a picture of a clown to color in to pass the time. Being the weird creative kid that I was, I decided to leave the clown colorless, and fill in the background with bright colors and all the glitter I could find. Upon completion, the camp counselor asked me why I decided not to color in the clown. I explained to her that the colorless clown represented his sadness, and the rainbow of colors surrounding him was the happiness he faked everyday to make children happy. Needless to say, I got a lot of concerned looks!

Did you have a plan for graduation and what actually happened?

After completing an undergraduate degree in Architecture, I planned to work for a year and then do a masters in a design related field. Feeling totally burnt out after my final thesis, I decided to work and travel for the summer to gain some perspective on my future career path. One night, a friend suggested we move to New York City for a year and 3 weeks later, I was on a plane with all my belongings crammed into one suitcase. I worked as a bartender, taught design classes in a prison, and worked at an architecture firm. By working all these jobs I discovered my true passion was in illustration. Here I am 3 years later, still living in NYC and working for myself as a freelance illustrator!

How does the local culture of where you live affect your design work and getting clients?

Living in such a culturally rich city like New York has greatly impacted my work. I have some of the world's most amazing museums at my fingertips, as well as an abundance of local art shows and design workshops happening every day. I’m greatly inspired by New York architecture and love to walk around the city and just soak it all in. The key to getting clients is networking, and that requires you to show up. I worked 50+ hour weeks at a full-time job and would attend talks by my favorite designer or a local art show after work. The city is saturated with creatives so if you’re not there, someone else will be!

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If you end up in a job you hate, leave. There is an abundance of opportunities out there, be brave and get them.

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What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Do what you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others?

My illustration style has completely changed over the years and is always evolving. My advice is to try many different styles using all different kinds of mediums. Just keep creating. The key to finding your style is patience. Watch films that inspire you, listen to your favorite music, and read all the books. The minute I stopped obsessing over having an identifiable style, it suddenly started to appear in my work.

What advice would you give students graduating in 2019?

Afford yourself the time to discover what truly makes you happy. You don’t have to jump into a career straight away if you’re still unsure of what exactly you want to do. Say yes to opportunities especially if it takes you out of your comfort zone. If you end up in a job you hate, leave. There is an abundance of opportunities out there, be brave and get them.

Website: alexandrahartford.com

Instagram: @alexandrahartford

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