Sophisticated whole out of the fragments with Alice Isaac
After having worked for over 10 years in admin related roles, Alice Isaac is pursuing her career in collage and animation realm, creating evocative and juicy works which triggers wide spectrum of moods in the viewer. With a growing audience’s splash and an impressive clientele that includes brands like Prada, Nike and Reebok, as well as a singer Billie Eilish, Alice creates unique imagery ranging from ethereal animation to surreal stills. We caught up online to discuss her approach to self and work, the mixed media blessing, and why you don’t have to expect work to land in your lap swiftly.
Was there an eye-opening moment or encounter that made you realize you want to work as an image maker?
There was definitely a tipping point that pushed me into returning to being creative again after nearly 10 years of working in admin related roles. If I’m honest with myself, it had been eating away at me the entire time but I didn’t really believe in my artistic abilities beyond making colorful spreadsheets… But by the end the frustration was definitely (not so quietly) bubbling away under the surface.
The day I was, er, ‘made redundant’ from an amazing animation studio where I was working as a producer was my tipping point. In my mind this was the ‘now or never’ moment to rethink what I wanted to do next and figure out what was genuinely going to make me happy in the long run after being so miserable in my career for so many years.
It seems like through collage you articulate yourself in the fullest. What do you find the most precious and fulfilling while working with mixed media, and why do you think you are particularly prone to express yourself amid this technique?
Mixed media chose me! I’m not the best at drawing, I’m absolutely not a graphic designer… But I have always loved fashion, editorial photography, film and imagery since training and working as a make-up artist. Collage just felt like a very natural progression. Mixed media is the best because it’s not perfect, it’s very forgiving, and there are no rules or parameters to work within. You can do whatever the fuck you like! I really enjoy, and am most fulfilled by, the experimental side of it. It allows me to lean into so many different disciplines and genres, like animation, photography, film, illustration…pretty much everything, and then mashing it all up together.
What three words describe your work best?
Chaotic, DMT, Seizure.
Sometimes creatives face hurdles in standing out from the crowd or getting a new clients. What’s your advice for people who just graduated or want to get started in the animation world?
I think it’s way too common to assume ‘success’ happens quickly. It doesn’t, and you have to be kind to yourself and not expect work to land in your lap straight out the gate. The truth is that it also takes a while to develop your own style and skills and you can’t rush that.
The best advice I could ever give would be to learn from working alongside others with experience in the industry (and get paid while doing it!). Take paid internships, placements, assistant or junior roles at a variety of different places. Experience what it’s like to work at a big studio, a small studio, with a solo artist etc. It’s naturally going to give you a unique voice from picking up things from different people. While you learn, take time to develop your own voice and share the work you are most proud of and want to make more of! But I can’t stress this enough… It can take years, so take your time and enjoy the journey.
Do you think idols are important and if so, who are yours?
Ha. I used to. The phrase ‘never meet your idols’ comes to mind, but actually I’m kind of glad I did meet my idol and found out that in reality they were a bit of a dick and I got a pretty good insight into how they were so successful… I’ll leave that one there! I think it’s fine to admire, but idolizing people is a bit daft. So, that said, the people I most admire creatively would be Harley Weir, Nina Chanel Abney, Braulio Amado, Elizaveta Porodina and Isamaya Ffrench.
How do you keep track of your ideas? When it comes to organizing them, do you use any apps or are you keeping it old-school, writing notes?
I’m a bit all over the place with it. I have multiple folders of reference images on my phone, hard drives, desktop, laptop, iPhone notes, screen shots, voice notes, hand written scribbles… its endless. To an outsider it might look like I need to be sectioned, but to me it all makes perfect sense.
Regarding the prep part, do you normally do research for your works? If so, what comes next and how is your workflow structured?
My workflow varies so much from project to project, it’s actually never the same process twice but without fail I always do research for my work. It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the whole process. The research part comes in two phases for me as, especially when working with clients and pitches, they are always looking for you to articulate the creative direction before actually doing any work and this comes via references. Researching and collecting references would be the first phase. The second phase, unless I’m being supplied with images by a client, I will need to research to find or create my own to work with. As a collage artist I’m always treading a very fine line of legality when it comes to sourcing images, so it’s important for me to find things that are usable (or to make them usable). These very often come from my collection of vintage books and magazines where the copyright has expired.
By combining hand-collaged imagery with digital effects you skillfully manoeuvring beyond analog and digital. If you could only pick one tool from each realm – what would you go for?
That’s such a difficult question because I use so many different tools and my work goes through so many different processes! Scalpel for analogue – you got to get those clean lines somehow! And Scanner for digital – I’d be pretty fucked without my scanner, and there is so much you can do with it as a medium to create distortion and some cool effects.
Some of your works seem outright emotionally attached and intimate. Do you have any important issues behind your personal projects?
I find it super interesting that it comes across that way – if they do it’s genuinely not really intentional! I try not to overthink anything, I create things based on how i feel at that moment. The imagery I choose to work with tends to just be aesthetically what I’m drawn to that day. I’m really just not that deep HA! That said, I have things in the works that do actually have a lot of thoughts and purpose behind them.
I’m in the process of making a personal short film with a working title of “Night Terrors” which is a bit of weird, twisted visual exploration into how severe anxiety, fear and mental health issues manifest themselves.
Tell us more about your interests beyond your practice which inspire you the most.
After so many years of work literally being my personality it’s been massively important to make time doing things that actually have nothing to do with my career! I had a baby mid pandemic and (like so many people) missed out on everything the world has to offer through the lockdowns, so taking time to do fun stuff with her is my priority over everything else. I also love hiking up mountains, running, I’ve recently got back into strength training and, in another plot twist, I’ve been taking ceramics classes – basically anything that is the antithesis of sitting staring at a screen.
What’s up next? Do you have any specific creative plans for the future and with whom you would like to collaborate someday?
I’ve got a lot in the works, including the short film but I think the biggest part of the next chapter for me is carving out more of a Director role and acting as a Creative Director on more projects. I still plan to keep my hand in the more practical side of things though, I love it too much to give up! Music videos are definitely something I’d like to do more of. My dream collaborators would be Tyler The Creator, Sault, Frank Ocean and anyone on Warp Records!