We recently caught up with Graduate Jake Alexander to talk about his brilliant illustrative work and winning entry to The Macmillan Prize 2019.

See the full chat between Alex and Martin in the video above. We promise you will leave feeling inspired!

Creative Process

Jake starts his process by working with good old fashioned pen and paper! He creates loose thumbnail sketches so he can think about the composition, scale, hierarchy and perspective in a piece of work. It's important to understand these artistic principles when developing illustrative work.

After drawing initial thumbnails he takes these sketches into ProCreate which is the tool he spends most of his time working in. It's also one of the leading creative apps for the iPad pro and well worth downloading.

Before having an iPad Alex worked in Photoshop and used a graphics tablet to draw with. He occasionally still uses this set up for formatting or to make more complex adjustments.

His final illustrations are made up of many layers of shapes and mark making. If you look closely at the images below you can see the marks and brush strokes which make up the image, pretty cool!

You can see more of his brilliant work over on his website.

creative process  jake a work
design process jake a work

"Constraints are really useful when you are working."

Jake Alexander


Jake developed his distinctive style through experimentation and analysing lots of other illustrators work. He looked at their work-flows, style, influences and lives so he could get a good understanding of their work and ended up drawing inspiration from all sorts of people like contemporary illustrator Jon Klassen to traditional artists like John Singer Sargent.

He also uses sites like Pinterest for research and to find visual inspiration especially towards the beginning of a project. Find out more about how he developed his visual style and language in the
full video interview.

example of Jon+Klassen's creative process

Above: Book trilogy by Jon Klassen.

design process Miss_Frances_Sherborne_Ridley_Watts

These paintings are by John Singer Sargent.

illustrative work elsie-wagg-john-singer-sargent

Jake has been heavily inspired by the way other artists make marks and work within constraints. This led him to create new work and really push his illustration style using the iPad pro.

Most Illustrators are constantly exploring new ways of creating work so they can increase their skills and make better outcomes. You can try to use new materials, explore different social topics and even personal interests. 

The Macmillan Competition

The Macmillan Prize for Children's Picture Book Illustration was established by Macmillan Children’s Books to support new and upcoming illustrators from art schools.

Find out more here.

Jake won first place with a 32 page picture book about systemic racism that he had created for his final project at University!

We discovered that Jake never expected to win because he had never worked on this kind of project before!

 first sketch design process
train illustration design process

Here you can see that his illustrative work is made of layers which start with an initial thumbnail sketch. The colors and shapes slowly come together to make the final composition.

illustration design process
sketch design process

Find more of Jakes work over on his Instagram profile! 

We hope you enjoyed this post. If you want to learn more about the The Macmillan Competition and illustration process take a look at the full video!

We have interviewed other talented graduates to find out more about their working process.
Click here and find out more about one of Alexes classmates. What a talented bunch...

About the author 

Emily Melling

Emily Melling studied a degree in Visual Communication, after graduating she became a freelance graphic designer, specialising in Branding & Identity. She enjoys developing working relationships with clients and other creatives who are open to exploring new and innovative ideas.

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