Aleesha Nandhra. A name we’d quite like to introduce to you. Currently living in London as a freelance illustrator, we decided to take a peek into Aleesha’s world. Having graduated from Cambridge School of Art last year, how have you found the transition between education and work?
A year has gone by so quickly – I can’t really believe that it has been that long already!
I think my tutors at university were very clear on how difficult (and exciting) the world of Art and Design can be to step into, so I felt prepared for things potentially taking a time to get moving, and all the hard work that goes into creating opportunities for yourself.
However, I was very lucky and was given an opportunity by my Sixth form Art teacher to come into my old school to teach and help out part-time. I guess that meant I was still ‘in education’ for a little longer..! Soon after that I started working for a company called Noodoll part-time as an Illustrator too, and I am currently keeping that up while working freelance. I think being pro-active about looking for opportunities definitely helped getting myself into the working world very soon after graduating.
Talk us through your time studying in Cambridge, did the three years go above and beyond your expectations of university of were there any surprises?
I went into my BA straight after completing my A-levels, so I really didn’t know what to expect from a degree level course! I was pleasantly surprised at how no one was pushed towards a particular method of working or subject matter, and how our tutors really made sure to teach us about the working and business side of being an illustrator (regardless of how ‘uncool’ it can be).
Overall, I loved my time living and studying in Cambridge. I found the studios at my university to be a very creative, beautiful and productive space to be in, and it makes such a difference studying and learning with other creative people. I made some very good and very talented friends in my time there.
As you know it’s the piece of the people eating their ramen, which really caught our eye – it’s literally delicious on the eye! How do you choose your subject matters within your work?
I’m glad that you like it! My subject matters in my personal work tend to be things that interest me, or that I like – for example music related imagery. Work can even be influenced by things that I have listened to, read about, or observed. The ramen bar piece in particular was influenced by a trip to Japan in May this year and I used sketches I made, and photographs I took there to build up the characters (and the delicious bowls of ramen) in the image.
Tell us a little about your working style and how you cross the traditional and digital mediums to create a final piece.
My work always tends to be a mixture of both traditional and digital media. Both ways of working always begin in my sketchbook as drawings, layouts and thumbnails. I make the decision whether to finish an illustration by using the computer or by traditional means by deciding what will lend itself to making the illustration the most successful, and the most complete looking. My analogue methods of choice tend to be gouache and pencils. When I talk about working digitally – it never is a completely digital process. I have been working on refining a technique of drawing or painting layer (colour) separations of an image (much like you would create layer stencils for printmaking) scanning these in, and then layering them up using my computer. Even if I end up using vectors to make an image – I still always scan in a drawing to work on top of.
If you were to sum up your illustration in five words, what would they be?
Fun, bold, pop, naive and sophisticated…..
Having aims throughout life is a pretty vital tool to go from one part to another where do you aim to see yourself in 5 years time?
I completely agree with having goals and aims! In 5 years I would like to be freelancing full time, with a studio space….. and a studio dog. Breed of dog undecided as of yet, but most likely something small…..potentially a curly tail too….
What, for you, are the pros and cons about working as a freelancer in London?
Well, I was born in London and have grown up here. So while the ‘Big City’ can be intimidating for some, it will always feel very safe and like home to me. Other pros include: Having a wealth of museums and galleries on your doorstep to visit and be inspired by (also very good for having a nice day out drawing!) being able to attend Illustration meetups and events, and it is well connected if you need to hop on a train and go to a meeting somewhere. Other than London being pricey for so many things, personally, I can’t think of any other cons. I don’t tend to think about living here negatively! I think because a lot of freelancing opportunities come via email or phone, it shouldn’t matter where you choose to work and live.
Tell us something that may surprise us…
This is a hard one….. It may or may not be obvious due to the nature of some of my work, but I love looking at food packaging (or just packaging). This can be frustrating for anyone that I may be in the supermarket with…! I would love to be asked to work on some packaging one day.