I have recently had the pleasure of meeting with Alys McAuley, an accomplished illustrator with many years experience including working for both the Disney & Fox Studios. her next project is Paper Lark and she is bringing something wonderful and new with her designs.
ASH: Working for Disney sounds like the illustrator’s nirvana. What did you take away from that experience?
ALYS: I was just out of University where I studied Graphic Design when I got the job at Disney. I worked in the Animation Dept and animated the ‘interstitials’ (break times) of the cartoon channel. As a company Disney encouraged us to take time out at lunch, relax, go to the gym, keep healthy and be a happy employee with the proviso that you get the work done by end of the day. My boss was amazingly talented, a great teacher and so funny and we are still friends today. The Disney offices in London are a very colourful and noisy. Every desk is crammed with cuddly Disney toys, merchandise, fluffy Mickey mouse pen tops or mouse mats, mugs…everything is ‘Disney!’. Made your eyes sore after a while.
Working for Mambo in fashion must have been quite a different experience. Did you find that fulfilling as an artist/illustrator? What did you take away from that?
Yes, Mambo was a fulfilling experience as their graphics were much more ‘my’ style of art. Art and humour is a great combo. The deadlines in fashion are relentless and you miss one at your peril. So the pressure was greater but so were the perks. I travelled to London and Paris on buying trips (yep, paid to travel and shop for clothes and inspiration!) and spent time in Hong Kong visiting factories where the garments were made.
Are you still inspired and finding time to work on you own work projects?
Yeah I am always still inspired to create my own work. I think deep down it’s what makes us designers truly content and happy. However finding the time for me was always a problem. So a year ago I made a decision. To make my own ideas and projects a priority over paid work and see where it takes me. It does sound like a recipe for disaster or more likely bone-crushing poverty ;D but sometimes you just have to make a plan, make the leap and have faith.
Have you experienced a large evolution in your own ideas and processes after working with different studios/writers?
Yes I have. That’s a great question. I think I have evolved quite considerably over the years. I felt I had to keep up with trends and styles and what the market wanted. Your own creative intuition adapts and grows over the years picking up from learning experiences, good and bad. So years later you know and trust the right answers will come from somewhere in your head.
What’s the one greatest experience you’ve had professionally?
It was starting a business with my older brother…a two year learning curve of epic proportions! We opened a co-working space in Sydney. We were an office that rented desk and private offices out to freelancers who were bored of working at home all alone. We built a great community. Trying to grow a business can be all consuming though, it tested me, pulled me in all directions, exposed my shortfalls and kept me up at night planning how the business could be the best it could be. The business lasted 2 years and when we closed, although it was not successful in terms of money, one of our customers said to us ‘you’ve changed my life for the better’ – and for me, in terms of success, that was all I needed to hear.
What piece of advice would you give to a fledgling illustrator?
You have to listen to the voice in your head that is your own creative intuition. It’s what YOU think that matters, that’s why people pay YOU for it. Don’t get too bogged down in what people are going to think of your work before you create it. It will only stifle you. Oh and don’t work for free. You only have to lie in a chair and open your mouth for a dentist to charge you $100. You are a Designer, it’s a profession, just like the rest of them, so why should you slave 10 hours over a design for free!
What is your worst experience?
Slaving over a design for 10hrs for free! I learnt the hard way
“Paper Lark” is your next project, tell us a bit about what you’ll be doing!
I have just launched an Etsy shop called ‘Paper Lark Designs’. I have always worked alongside photographers and so have an understanding of their needs and perspective about Graphic Design. Then one day last year a friend of mine sent me the most beautiful photo of her baby taken by a photographer, but that’s all it was, a static photo on an email. So I thought about designing cute products that photographer could use to offer their clients after a shoot. So Paper Lark offers downloadable artwork for iPhone covers, mini albums, luxe cards, dvd covers, bookmarks etc, all of which can be printed with the client’s photos. The photographer just buys the template and inserts their own photos before sending to the printers. The feedback has been great so far…and I am loving it.