Alexander Mostov is our Featured Illustrator for July/August!
He was the 1st Place Runner-up at the 25th SCBWI Western Washington Conference for Writers and Illustrators this past spring. Alexander is a full-time freelance illustrator living in Seattle working for a variety of clients including local and national magazines, advertising agencies, publishers, and motion graphic studios. He originally graduated with a degree in architecture but quickly realized it didn’t satisfy his creative pursuits.
I work in several different mediums and am constantly experimenting with new ones. For commercial work, I usually work in a 2-step process where I first create ink drawings on bristol board and use a light table to create graphite and charcoal textures on top of them. I then scan all of these drawings onto my computer and use Photoshop to color and collage them until I am happy. I also work in gouache, which is probably my favorite medium, especially for achieving a naive, “kid-friendly” aesthetic. Recently I have begun playing with colored pencil and pastel pencil as well.
Where do you find your ideas? Do you have a process?
Books, movies, people, and increasingly the internet. I am constantly consuming images, both illustrations and photos. Pinterest is a valuable tool for me, and I would recommend using that or some other platform to organize and record inspiration. Also, I try to keep one of the pocket size Moleskine with me at all times in case an idea comes to me.
How do you deal with creative blocks?
Whenever I have an idea for an illustration, I sketch it on a little scrap of paper laying around. I have a collection of these scribbles in my apartment and studio. If I am stuck on a project, I look through the old scraps of paper and more times than not something from those will be usable. Additionally, walking and listening to music is usually helpful.
Who are your illustrator heroes?
I am a big fan of Miroslav Šašek and his ‘This is...’ series. I find the way he alternated between contrasting brush techniques very inspiring. I also love the work of Russian Folktale illustrator Ivan Bilibin, although his style is very different from my own. My favorite children’s book illustrators include Jan Brett and, of course, Ezra Jack Keats. There are also many contemporary illustrators I am regularly inspired by including Eleanor Davis, Carson Ellis, and Christian Robinson.
Did you have any favorite children’s books as a child?
Yes! My mom and grandma read lots of children’s books to me growing up. Reading was a big part of my early education. A few that stand out as favorites are Caps for Sale; The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear; Goodnight Moon; and Animalia.
Which literary character would be your BFF?
It would have to be Hobbes from Calvin and Hobbes.
I have been reading a lot of books by Murakami recently. He writes in a style of magic realism that I find comparable to my style and subject matter. I am always so disappointed by the cover artwork on his books, which I find to be a huge missed opportunity for whimsical illustrations. I am always buying new plants (to the chagrin of my girlfriend/roommate), which provide inspiration as I incorporate a lot of plants in my drawings.
Any words of wisdom you want to share?
One valuable lesson I have learned is to focus on pushing through and getting projects finished. Like many illustrators, I am a perfectionist and could spend an infinite amount of time trying to make one drawing perfect. I find it to be much more useful and productive to create as much as possible. You usually end up learning more that way. Also, you are probably more concerned with those nitpicky details in your drawings than anyone else will be.
Thank you, Alexander!
You can view Alexander’s portfolio at alexandermostov.com.