You may not know Alicia Souza directly, but you’ve definitely seen her work across the country whether you realize it or not.
One of the first employees at Chumbak, and now an independent artist with her own online store, she is quite a force to be reckoned with.
She’s a full-time illustrator in India, and what that really means is she:
- she sells,
- she takes up design work,
- she speaks,
- she works from home,
- she sends invoices
- she deals with client briefs
- she travels the world with Adobe and other brands
- she social media influences
- she leverages the power of Instagram for growing her business and
- she pretty much lives the entrepreneurial ethos we’ve all grown accustomed to.
I just love it.
I started following Alicia years ago on her ever-popular Instagram, but of course, although we more or less “knew” of each other, we never met.
We both took similar projects, similar talks and hung out with similar people, but just never really crossed paths.
Luckily for you and me, Alicia is quirky and funny as her work would have you believe and stopped by my studio *cough* living room *cough* to talk about her journey and share the wisdom I think would benefit a ton of you.
The major takeaways from our one hour chat are:
- You have to initially take whatever you can get. Logos, restaurant menus, ad work, whatever.
- Eventually, after doing that for a while, you’ll have to figure out what you want to be known for. It will be painful.
- It takes time to find your voice. Alicia keeps her style the way it is because it’s true to what she wants to do, but she opens up that she didn’t really have a style.
- Work just kind of got her there, and then she stuck with it. I love this kind of anti motivational nugget honesty. Real-life is just like that, sometimes things just happen.
- In art, just like we’re seeing with film production…higher production values or crazier photoshop tricks doesn’t mean better. I struggled with this personally for years.
- You need to learn your fundamentals and then play around and experiment. But if you don’t have that strong foundation, well…you’ll be broke and you’ll also have no creative output that fulfills you personally.
- A graphic designer or illustrator does not draw all day. In fact, just like a film producer goes for meetings and budget and market research and probably is on set for a fraction of that, well, the graphic design industry feels similar. (and comedy, ditto).
How To Grow in Illustration and Graphic Design in India
The entire podcast is an hour, so if you just want to jam in the car or at the gym those audio links are above. But I wanted to also split out some of my favorite moments in which Alicia talks about something I hear daily.
“Sir, Madam, I don’t want to do engineering. I want to draw. I want to act. I want to make movies.”
“Ok have you tried to draw or act or tell someone what you like to do, or even take an online course for the price of a beer?”
Alicia on Work and Life Balance
I remember taking a few weeks playing WhatsApp ping pong to finalize a day for us to shoot. And in that time I noted the timings she’d be responding to me, so I asked:
Sanjay: So you work from home, that’s nice. What’s the average day of an artist?
Alicia: I get up at 5AM, walk my dog, get started on my…
Sanjay: Wait huh?Hustling as an artist is no joke bruv.
No wonder the Alicia Souza planner is what it is.
People like to think that “doing what you love” and “quitting engineering” are some simple, easy thing that takes guts and once you do it, everything falls into place.
I just did a talk today at Mt. Carmel for that Under 25 summit thing and in fact, I realized a lot of kids thing that.
In fact, most of us do engineering or medicine because that’s simply a blueprint instructional manual to the middle class.
But the grind of a creative entrepreneur is anything but glamorous.
It’s rooted in discipline and time management that only the most seasoned managers would ever understand.
In fact, as someone who left engineering for stand up comedy, I can tell you I’ve never worked harder in my life.
How did you Find Your Style?
I have no clue about art, so thankfully Alicia gave a quick primer.
Sanjay: What’s the difference between Illustrator and Graphic Designer?
Alicia: I mean there’s a lot, but a fun definition for our purposes is that illustration is drawing, and graphic design is solving a design problem.
If you follow Alicia on Instagram and Social media, you might have realized that one of the beautiful things about these mediums is you can see the progression of a person’s work.
Since she primarily uses it to showcase her art which also know includes peeks into her life, you get to go along for the ride and relate it to your own life.
You feel like you know her before you know her.
You see yourself in the work, you laugh at the jokes, and the wonderful illustrations of her husband and her I think can all give us all some #senti #coupleGoals.
Sanjay: How can someone find their style?
Alicia: You have to sometimes move backward. You can work for an agency and do hoardings and billboards and then use social media to create your own field on Instagram or stick figures like XKCD. It’s such an exciting time!
Alicia: Most people don’t have their style. In fact it takes time to find a style, and even longer to stick to that style. And then it evolved since then.Birdy Num Num Podcast
Finding your style, just like finding your voice, or your passion is something you still can’t use google maps for.
Alicia Souza in 2020 | Dearest George
What’s next for Alicia?
Alicia Souza’s latest book about her husband George is set to release in January 2020, about well…life, love and the fun quirky parts about relationships!
Look for it from Penguin India.
It’s never been more of an exciting time to be an artist in the world. Social media hasn’t changed us many people say, but it’s exposed us.
And while that has it’s ups and downs, I’m glad to see that there is something as positive what you see with a simple scroll through Alicia’s feed.
She’s disciplined, she’s funny about her trials and tribulations and beyond everything else, she’s channeling all life throws at her into a blender and ending up with some lovely creative output.
Thanks for the chat dude!
And to the rest of you, please do follow Alicia and let me know if any of this was helpful. Would mean a lot.
Sanjay Manaktala is the host of the Birdy Num Num podcast, you’re guide to creativity from an Engineers blueprint.