- About Alice Meichi Li
After I recently blew an audition to become the lead singer for a prog-rock band, I decided that I should know better than to cheat on my true love: illustration.
Art is a demanding mistress and I am her willing and masochistic slave. You can find me in Queens, NY painting at all hours of the night in a vain attempt to satiate her desire, or in a karaoke lounge flirting with my failed rock-stardom. Sometimes my husband, Michael Vincent Bramley, joins in for a kinky, caffeine-fueled threesome. (For a British/Chinese household like ours, there is much tea involved. And imperialism, but that’s not quite as tasty.)
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Alice Meichi Li
- How did you first get into illustration?
I actually started out majoring in Cartooning at School of Visual Arts, because I’ve been passionate about comics since I obsessed over X-Men, The Maxx, and The Crow as a child. Eventually, a love affair with painting emerged midway through Freshman year and my classmates convinced me that my artwork would be a much better fit in Illustration. I ended up switching majors, but have been toeing the line between the illustration and comics worlds ever since.
- How would you best describe your style of illustration?
Painterly, atmospheric, surreal, dreamy, with nods to fantasy and anime. Imbued with symbolism, emotion and esoterica. A lot of my conceptualization process has roots in the metaphysical, of which I've always held a deep interest. For a while in college, I only painted on canvases proportioned to the Golden Ratio. It didn’t take long for me to realize that was pretty impractical.
- Please take us through your design process, where do you start?
I do my best thinking in the shower or subway. I usually either quickly get some sketches down after I step out of the shower; or whip out my sketchbook on the train, where – I have discovered – it is infinitely easier to draw. It may or may not be a secret that I’m a huge nerd and like to store lots of trivial facts in my mind to pour into my artwork (or more commonly, to impress people with my geekery). Otherwise, I like to do extensive research into the subject, and then try to translate the connections I form in my head down onto paper.
- What tools do you use for your work?
Mechanical pencils, acrylics, and Photoshop. Usually I work in my sketchbooks with cheap ballpoint pens to prevent me from being too precious and so that the permanence of the medium can force me to take a good hard look at my mistakes. Every so often, I also play with mixed media if I feel like the piece calls for it.
- When illustrating, do you sometimes get blocked for ideas? If so, how do you overcome that?
Barely ever! I usually just free-associate in my sketchbook until concepts start precipitating from the ether. If I’m ever truly stuck; I research more or toss some ideas at my husband, then go back to the sketching until something clicks.
- What would be your ultimate goal as an illustrator?
My childhood dream was to work in comics, and that's pretty much still my ultimate goal. Sam Kieth, Dave McKean, Bill Sienkiewicz, David Mack, and J. Scott Campbell were my biggest inspirations as a kid. Their work motivated me to pursue art in the first place. Whether it be painting covers for some of my favorite titles or painting an entire book, it would be a dream come true. I would also like to publish a Tarot deck one day, but the time investment in it is too prohibitive at the moment. I love doing music-inspired work too, so I’d like to be able to work more with illustration for album covers and band posters in the future. And live vicariously through them. Of course.
- What style music do you mostly listen to when you work?
Indie pop, trip hop, and chillout are my standbys. I’m really digging The xx, Florence + The Machine, Loquat, and Stripmall Architecture lately. I think that sort of shows through in my style. When I feel the need to be extra-productive and energetic, I bust out some angsty rock. I still love grunge... I’m not ashamed!
- Do you have any advice for aspiring illustrators?
Be nice to everyone you meet. This is good advice for life in general, but even more so in an industry that’s relatively small and incestuous. I’ve met clients in the most random of ways, and clients are normal people too – most would rather hire people they can get along with.
- What web sites would you recommend viewing?
My husband’s sci-fi anthology webcomic, Hadron Colliderscope, is pretty awesome. http://www.hadroncolliderscope.com/