Alex Finkeldey is a freelance illustrator based in Ottawa, Canada. She is the artist behind Scatterbee Illustration & Design. She uses both traditional and digital mediums to capture her favourite subjects, which typically include animals, people, plants, and food. She has long been inspired by nature, animation, travel, and video games, which has translated into vibrant and often unreal colour palettes as they appear in her work. She uses both traditional and digital mediums, and hopes to bring a sense of joy and light-heartedness to the spaces in which her work is used and displayed.
Carrie: When did you first realize the importance of art in your life?
I think I first realized the importance of art in my life when I was able to read children’s picture books. I would spend hours poring over the illustrations and details, long after I was finished with the written story. I have memories of keeping illustrated books by my bed, well into adolescence, where I would admire the artwork and stories before falling asleep. There has always been something magnetic and comforting about illustrated storytelling to me, whether it be books, poster design, comics, animation, or video games.
Carrie: How would you describe your art?
I would describe my art as bright, cheery, whimsical, and familiar. It typically features organic subjects, most often animals. I use highly saturated palettes with a focus on natural textures like fur, foliage, and textiles. I enjoy capturing things I experience in day to day life, from the food I eat to the people I meet to the buildings I see. And I really, really like drawing my two cats. They appear in my work whether it’s intentional or not. The way I draw animals is almost entirely based on their personalities!
Carrie: What does your workspace look like?
My workspace is a constant work in progress. Since my studio and online shop are also my bedroom, I find it hard to stay on top of organization and cleanliness. I keep my art supplies tucked in and around my drafting table. Paper, packing supplies, and products (i.e. prints, stickers, enamel pins, tote bags, etc) can be found anywhere there is space for them. I like to decorate my desk area with trinkets and prints by other artists that inspire me. Throw a whole pile of plants and two cats into the mix, and it makes for a cozy arrangement. It’s one of my very favourite places to be.
Carrie: Can you describe your artistic process to readers? For example, do you follow the same pattern and track when you develop an artwork from idea to product?
I’ve noticed that an idea will usually form when I’m not actively looking for one. I often get that “spark” when I’m out on a walk or run, reading a book, listening to music, or doing art studies. When this happens, I jot down the idea down in my day-planner or keep a running log on my phone. When I’m ready to tackle it, I move on to drafting. This either happens in a sketchbook or on my iPad Pro (I use the Procreate app). Lately, I’ve been enjoying the flexibility of drafting digitally—even if the final piece is traditional—because it allows me to easily manipulate each aspect of the illustration. I find this especially useful for colour testing.
At this point, the process splits off depending on whether the final illustration is digital or traditional. If traditional, I’ll use a lightbox to transfer the sketch onto the final paper. I typically use a combination of coloured pencil, ink, gouache, and watercolour. If digital, I’ll use a combination of Procreate and Adobe Photoshop to render the final piece. I’ve also dabbled in Adobe Illustrator for screen-printing and enamel pin designs, but I still feel very rusty with that one!
Carrie: What do you hope viewers take from your artwork?
When viewers see my work, I hope they experience a sense of warmth, comfort, and familiarity. As I mentioned, I love to capture to details of daily life. I hope that viewers can see a bit of themselves, their homes, their friends, and their pets in my illustrations. There is so much to notice and appreciate in the humdrum of the day-to-day, and I hope that my work highlights the gratitude I have for these things.
Carrie: What do you wish you knew that you now know about your creative process?
If had a time machine, I would tell my past self to spend less time consuming others’ work and more time doing studies and creating artwork in a mindful way. Overall, less screen time. I would also tell myself to be patient when the creative going gets rough. These feelings are almost always temporary, and it takes time and effort to work your way through them.
Carrie: What strategies do you use to help yourself when you feel “stuck?”
When I feel stuck, the following strategies work best for me:
- Reduce stimulation. For me, this looks like less screen time, going for a walk, or reading a book. I easily get swept by anything on a screen (i.e. social media, video games, TV), so it’s so critical that I unplug when I’m feeling stuck creatively.
- Talk to someone about it. It’s no secret that freelancing can feel like a lonely pursuit. I find it helpful to talk out my ideas with fellow creatives in my community. It’s nice to get perspective, especially when it comes from someone in a completely different field.
- Disengage completely. Sometimes I feel like I’ve completely forgotten how to draw. Deadlines notwithstanding, these are situations where I allow myself to walk away from a project for a while. With enough distance from a project, I feel like I’m able to breathe again. This usually gives me the clarity I need to hop back in at a later time.
Carrie: What has been one hurdle you’ve overcome as a creative and how did you navigate that problem?
One creative hurdle that I’m constantly navigating is that of consumption vs. creation. Specifically, I’m always trying to find ways to optimize both my workflow and social media use. It’s unfortunately very easy for me to fall into a zombie-like state when I’m using Instagram, which is my main social media platform. I’ll find myself scrolling mindlessly without interacting in a meaningful way, which ultimately takes time away from my creative practice.
There are two things that I’m doing right now to strike a balance between consuming others’ work and making my own. The first is to use social media mindfully. Once per day, I’ll set a timer for roughly thirty minutes where I focus on actively liking, commenting, and sharing work that inspires me. I’m always surprised at how much I can accomplish in that small amount of time. The second thing I do is commit to stress-free drawing or art studies first thing in the morning before I look at my phone or laptop. This does wonders to warm me up for the day!
Carrie: What advice do you have to artists still uncovering their unique voice/style?
Make art often, and be a critical consumer of your own work. Think of your voice/style as something that is already in you, and needs to be excavated from the outside in. Think hard and think critically about the individual components of the work you admire most. I’d highly recommend checking out a course on Skillshare.com by illustrator Dylan Mierzwinski. It’s called “Leveling Up Your Art Game: The Elements & Principles of Design”. Among many other resources, this course gave me a useful jumping off point in figuring out what story I wanted to tell with my illustrations. At one point in the course, Dylan suggests reflecting on all the creative work you appreciate in your life. Get specific about what you notice. Are there certain colours you gravitate towards in your clothes, decorations, etc.? What types of posters and marketing materials are attractive to you? What type of music resonates with you the most? There’s so much value in staying curious about the things you consume. I’m constantly trying to reverse-engineer and distill the things I appreciate about the world around me into my creative practice.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
YouTube. Like most of us, I’ve been using it for entertainment for well over a decade. But I’m surprised at how much I’ve come to appreciate it as a resource for artists over the past couple of years. From studio vlogs to time-lapses to tutorials, there are countless creators who work hard to share their creative processes and resources. I love to throw on a studio vlog or Q & A video while I do my work. It inspires me, helps me focus, and makes me feel a little less lonely! Making art is already such a vulnerable act, which makes me feel even more grateful that so many artists willingly share their creative struggles and triumphs, for free, on such a large platform.
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
Other Illustrators and visual artists, musicians, nature walks, conversations with friends, comedians and comedy writers, great food, travel, books, podcasts, my cats, my partner, and any and all plants.
Carrie: What does the word artist mean to you?
To me, an artist is a person in any creative pursuit. Everyone has creative inclinations; you grandmother whose cooking is unparalleled; your dad who knows how to fix anything; your friend who keeps a beautifully organized and decorated home; your sibling who makes a killer playlist. Making art is one of the most uniquely human things we do. It highlights, shapes, and helps us make sense of the human experience.
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