Brooklyn based illustrator Alyssa Andrews recently made the move from part time to full time artist. We met up with her at Williamsburg’s art and design market, Artists & Fleas, to ask her about her inspiration and what it’s like to make your hobby a full time job.
You recently took the step of making your art into a full time business, what was that like?
To be honest, it was a little terrifying. It took a push. I had been freelancing a bit, but I was working for an LGBTQ non-profit in the city and we lost our program grant, which put me in a position of being laid-off. I started the tedious process of looking for jobs, and one night I had a conversation with my partner that essentially resulted in “let’s just do this”. I read up everything I could get my hands on regarding start-ups, basic business practices, started designing a more user-friendly website — the works. I really just quite literally leapt into it. It’s been a lot and will continue to be a lot of work, but is ultimately really rewarding and satisfying.
Do you have any central themes for your illustrations?
It sort of depends on the project. I have a few major on-going projects that each touch upon different types of themes. I draw a lot of wild animals, usually out of interest in traits they have that I identify with. I started making greeting cards, likely because of my background in Art Therapy, and my desire to share more effective communication. A lot of them are silly and funny, but I try to create a tone of empathy rather than sympathy, and create cards that speak to milestones and live experiences that you just don’t see in the card industry. This includes stuff like sobriety anniversaries or celebrations of milestones for those of trans experience, or even just a “this sucks and I’m sorry,” no angels or “everything happens for a reason(s)” required.
Apart from the card project, I like to tell stories. I write and illustrate a weekly web comic on my website chronicling random life experiences. I like to use comical and exaggerative styles to talk about difficult things in ways that don’t make a viewer want to turn away. I use this exaggeration to kind of make sense of all the messiness in life, and to confront the chaos, I guess. I don’t ever want to be a person who takes myself too seriously.
Where do you get your inspiration and what does your creative process look like?
I read a lot: graphic novels — particularly memoirs, psychology journals, and books on anatomy — all kinds of stuff. Usually when I get a spark for a project, I write it out like a short story. After I’m happy with where it’s going, I break it down into images, or even a single image, and go from there.
We met up with you at your first time at Artist and Fleas. What was that experience like?
It was really exciting and humbling! At the start of an art business, the hardest thing to accomplish is networking, and getting your name and work out there. A&F was a great experience to have connected with the community, make sales, and get great feedback. I’ll be there for a few weekends in July, I believe the weekends of the 9/10th and 23/24th, and look forward to improving my booth, and making bigger connections now that I’ve had that first experience.
Does living and working in New York impact your art?
There is nowhere in the world like New York. Trying to “make it” in New York is so intimidating — particularly when you’re a queer, disabled, female, print artist. There are a lot of barriers. But at the same time, there is this rich community that very much supports one another, and it’s really a cool network of people to meet, collaborate, and work alongside with fellow artists. Opportunities are everywhere, but there’s a lot of hustle, and with that, comes a lot of disappointment. But I’ve found that for every time I’ve felt disappointed, or had something fall through, I’ve gone back to the drawing table and tried again and again until it works in one way or another. I think that’s the New York way – there’s going to be failures, so you’ve got to be willing to keep going anyway.
Check out our calendar for Alyssa’s upcoming events.