All in a day’s work with Sophie Alp, Adobe Stock illustrator and designer
Image credit: Adobe Stock / Sophie Alp.
It took a while for illustrator Sophie Alp to consider art as a profession. The Toronto-based artist was nearing the end of university with a major in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic, but she noticed her interest wandering.
“When I was in university, I saw some friends that were in art school,” she says. “When I saw their homework and their projects, I was like, ‘Wow, I wish I would have time to spend doing these kinds of things.’ They would tell me about the different assignments, I thought, wow, that's really challenging. And I realized that I was just obsessed with their homework instead of my own.”
Having heard the call, Alp made the switch, first applying to art school, but leaving after attending for a short while to make her own way: “I just decided that I'll have to do this journey on my own.”
Design influences and her evolving style
Initially, she spent a lot of time developing her skills and working on her portfolio, which gradually evolved from highly figurative, hand-drawn and painted, portrait-style illustration into other less-traditional media.
“When I started, I was really into drawing people,” she says. “That was the way to kind of practice my craft and draw portraits. As I got more confident with my schoolwork and my technical skills, I started to experiment with the different mediums and my work became a little bit more stylized — and then I tried drawing other subjects.”
Alp started her own stationery line and found a love for pattern creation. This was perhaps an echo of her interest in Middle Eastern art, which includes Islamic art that forbids depictions of human or animal figures, in favor of geometric patterns.
“I draw very figuratively, but I think it's kind of important to have the opposite kind of style and skills to create something interesting,” says Alp.
Artwork inspired by family values
As she found her way, Alp drew a lot of support from her family, including a grandmother that encouraged her to find something that she loved to do. Though Alp’s mother is a scientist, she did not expect her daughter to necessarily follow in her footsteps — however, her mother’s example has proven influential to Alp’s work in a different kind of way.
“There was a school assignment in high school, where we had to draw something to do with science,” she says. “I automatically drew a woman scientist, without really thinking about, and then I realized that I was the only one. I did it because my mom was in the sciences, so that was kind of natural to me.”
Years later, when Alp saw the Artist Development Fund brief to create more diverse representation, she thought again about the power of having role models, especially in certain careers.
“I thought, this is a great opportunity to make more variety of what we see around us,” she says, “so we don't go straightaway to the one stereotype.”
Alp’s commissioned portfolio for Adobe Stock is full of women in all kinds of careers and recreational activities, complete with accurate details and funky hairstyles.
“Even though I never dyed my hair blue or anything, I enjoy seeing people around me do it,” says Alp. “And I think making stock images that include, for example, blue hair on a medical professional, is more about representing something that used to be seen a mismatch for many professions.”
Alp is also a stickler for details, determined to include aspects that would appeal to both laypeople and specialists in the fields she represented, which include medical science, robotics engineering, space exploration, archeology and paleontology, farming and bio-science, and the arts.
“When I was coming up with the list of subjects, first there were my interests, things that were top of my mind,” she says. “But then, when I was feeling helpless, I started paying attention to things around me and inquiring how they were made. I started asking these questions about daily things around me, it was like reverse engineering to find professions that are a little more specialized and not in the mainstream. I was really interested in illustrating professions that are not that we don't see everywhere.”
Playing the field
“When you can do whatever you want, it's really fun,” she says. “But having this box to work within is actually interesting, and sometimes in the end, I work more creatively and come up with something I wouldn’t have on my own. I like that, too.”
As Alp has developed her portfolio and her vision, she’s also hammered out a working process that enables her to meet the challenges of illustration as a career — which includes needing to design to a brief, as well as being able to produce at volume for something like the Adobe Stock Artist Development Fund.
“It was challenging, but I knew that it would be challenging going in,” she says. “It was a good experience, to see that I'm able to produce so much work and keep it to a certain quality within a very tight deadline. I’m happy to know that I can accomplish that.”
Alp starts slowly in the morning and favors nighttime quiet for working. Her process is usually research-intensive at the beginning, before giving way to a more regular rhythm of drawing. These days, she works entirely digitally, embracing the flexibility that new tools and platforms give her to create variations, experiment with colors, and parlay motifs into pattern designs that could be used for paper goods or textiles. It seems that Alp is not only able to represent women working across a range of professional fields, but able to draw inspiration from them as well, often looking to architecture or interior design to seed ideas for new projects.
“I would want to illustrate a children's collection, textile or clothes,” says Alp, when asked about her dream project. “I look at a lot of fields that are close by, but not within illustration to get inspired, and to stimulate ideas.”
With her fun, graphic style, and expanding opportunities ahead of her, it seems likely Alp will continue to chart an interesting creative path, with her varied interests guiding the way.