Interview with Coach and Professional Illustrator Alex Mathers
Alex Mathers introduces his illustration websites and shares his journey to becoming a professional illustrator.
Alex Mathers Bio
Alex Mathers is an illustrator and writer from the UK, currently based in Bangkok, Thailand. He’s worked with clients like Dots Games, Saatchi & Saatchi, Google and the BBC. He enjoys drawing and writing on topics that help people live more confidently and creatively.
Please tell us about your work?
I’ve worked for myself for most of my adult life, dabbling in many things, including making money from working as a digital illustrator, selling ebooks and courses, selling stock graphics online, earning affiliate sales through my websites like Red Lemon Club, teaching, coaching, Kindle sales, and selling products like prints. The bulk of my work has been in getting commissioned for illustration work through clients like Google, the BBC, Mars and recently, Dots Games.
Please tell us about your websites RedLemonClub.
com and ApeontheMoon.com?
Both sites were set up in 2009. Ape on the Moon is a blog that shares the best in contemporary illustration with particular focus on the artists themselves. Red Lemon Club was set up as a means to share what I’d been learning as a freelance illustrator and independent creative, focusing on ideas around staying motivated and marketing.
How has blogging impacted your illustration
Blogging has most importantly been an outlet for all the ideas I’d gather working in a ‘creative’ business for myself and has provided a great sense of fulfilment in helping others out and being able to make new connections and interact with a wide range of people, on- and offline. On top of that, it has been a source of supplemental income, exposure for my writing, books and creative work, and most importantly, it has been a place for my own written ideas to develop and improve.
You have a very large social media following, how
important is social media to your success?
Social media has always been important because it is a source of new followers, and a means to connect with those who already follow my work. It also provides me with a great amount of incentive to produce and share new work, which for me is priceless.
Does ApeontheMoon.com drive a lot traffic and
business for your work?
Ape on the Moon is not as active now as it was, because I’m focused on developing the Red Lemon Club brand, and my own personal brand at www.alexmathers.net. But, like with any active channel, it has definitely provided me with a stream of new eyes to see the full spectrum of what I’m working on. The key thing was that it was a platform for sharing new content, which is very powerful for attracting people to my brands.
Does blogging and social media get in the way of
doing your art or is that the price of success?
Time spent on social media and marketing absolutely cuts into time that could be put to making art, yes. But I feel my art would be greatly compromised if I was not able to market it, and put energy into avenues other than making graphics, like writing, which is a passion I could now not be without.
I think it would be silly for me to say that I’d want more time to spend on illustrating if it weren’t for blogging, because I don’t need to blog or go on social media. I use them because I want to. I like to be connected, and I know the significance of using them to expand my personal brand – in turn bringing more attention back to the illustration work.
I believe you learned illustration after university,
how did you learn?
I taught myself Adobe Illustrator using Lynda.com video courses shortly after completing a university degree in geography. I never officially learned ‘illustration’ from a formal organisation. My ‘school’ was in creating art, sharing it, seeing how the market responded, and adapting, hundreds of times over.
How long did it take to be good enough to start
selling your work?
I sold graphics within weeks of uploading stock graphics to istockphoto. We’re talking a few cents here and there. Within about 6 months I was getting some bigger client commissions through places like Elance, and then larger clients would approach me about a year into having been putting work out there.
How did you get started with stock illustrations?
I wanted a way to make passive income having read Tim Ferriss’ ‘The Four Hour WorkWeek’. Stock graphics seemed like one way to do it, and – combined with a life-long interest in drawing and making art – that’s what got me to upload my first piece there.
You focused on map illustrations, is it important to
specialize or niche down like that?
Yes, I believe becoming known for one niche at a time is the way to go. By all means expand your skills in many things behind the scenes. But from a marketing point of view, you want to specialise. Over time, you can move into new specialisms if you want, but at any point in time, there should be a focal point. It helps you market and it helps clients understand who you are and how you can help them specifically.
Are there still good opportunities to supply stock
I have no idea because I have not been adding stock work for years owing to diverting focus elsewhere. Competition is more fierce for sure, but with a focused angle and a fresh style or approach, I’m sure there are still many opportunities. It’s all about meeting a demand.
If you were to get started in stock now, what would
I would focus on developing a unique digital illustrative style that is balanced between a unique look, but at the same time isn’t so ‘off the beaten path’ that no new customer dare touch it. It needs a certain amount of mass appeal, and this comes with research and experimentation. You need to take your work to the market. There is only a certain amount you can do to predict and plan how people will react to visual material.