Alex Jenkins: “You Can Get Away with Much More Under the Bracket of Comedy”
London-based illustrator Alex Jenkins has drawn for many famous editions — Vice, The New York Times, BBC, Mixmag, and even Hustler. It might seem that his drawings are full of anger, bloodthirstiness and horror, and that the author hates the planet he lives on. However, it is not the case: he only tries to speak about complicated, scary or disturbing things in a simple way, under the cover of black humor.
London-based illustrator and animation artist. Graduated from the Camberwell College of Arts in 2015. Has worked for BBC, Vice, Guardian, Society, and The New York Times.
People sometimes don’t know better than to think of illustrators as of someone who mechanically fulfils a given task. However, a good illustrator has the same, if not more, skills than a regular artist. Details, colors, and context are more difficult for an illustrator: he is working with a small image or a comic series which he uses to speak about topics that are important or exciting for him, often using absurdity to get across to the audience. Both William Blake and Andy Warhol were illustrators, but nobody could say that they didn’t occupy their place in art history.
— My first illustration was for Time Out London in February 2015. I was very nervous. I drew a lot as a kid, but I took it up again in my late 20s.
I didn’t really know how to go about making money or a career in illustration before. It all comes with getting involved as much as possible and the experience gained. I’m very pleased to have worked for well-known companies. It’s something I wouldn’t have imagined before.
I consider illustration my full-time career. But I often work other small jobs on the side to help make enough money. I like physical jobs as it is a nice change from sitting at a desk all day. Illustration is very time-consuming. I probably spend about 6 hours on each image. It all depends on size — if it is very big then of course this could be a matter of days.
I think bright colors come from watching too many cartoons as a kid. My heroes are artists like R. Crumb and Goya. Sarcasm and the grotesque are the qualities I admire the most in other people’s illustrations. These are something that has always made work appealing the most. So I like to bring them through in my work naturally, too. Humor is effective as it can act as a valve and help to balance an image.
I think the illustrations do reflect my humor somewhat. Often there is sarcasm or irony.
Working for Vans was a great experience. In 2015, Vans was on my list of who I would really like to work for. So I was very chuffed when the opportunity became a reality.
I think that I had luck with companies like Vice posting my stuff. So, of course, with their massive followings it also gave me great exposure. I then also made sure I created and shared work consistently and regularly.
As any illustrator, I have anxiety about not having a stable income and also of losing relevance.
Music and film are creative forms which are far more accepted by most, as opposed to illustration. I feel it is a misconception that it is viewed as a luxury or something that isn’t necessary. I would often find myself having to justify it with my friends.