Alexis Eke is an illustrator and designer whose work focuses on illustrating black women in a contemporary light. She has collaborated with major clients; including AGO, CBC, Nike Jordan, Palm Bay Spritz and more.
On November 30th at Artscape Daniels Launchpad’s SUMMIT, she will be speaking about how she got started as an artist, her method behind collaboration with brands, and she’ll share actionable tips on how to build your style as an artist to gain recognition.
We chatted with her about her work this week.
SDTC: Who has been your biggest mentor for the business side of your work? What did you learn from them that you’ve employed?
I have two! My mother and Kiana Eastmond have been my biggest mentors. I’ve learned so much about knowing my value as an artist, artistic integrity and navigating my way in the creative industry from the both of them. They truly saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself and gave me that push to keep going.
Walk us through your process to refining your signature style. How has it evolved over the years?
My style has evolved over the years through experimentation. I think it’s important for artists to not get comfortable in “what works”, but to always test their technique on new mediums. I constantly played around with my work, whether it was color, composition or shapes. Over time, the visual elements I liked during my experimentation, I stuck with. In addition, I never stopped perfecting my craft. I’m always open to learning new techniques and programs, because it will only make me a better artist. I believe through experimentation and being open to always learn, artists can create a more authentic, original style.
Who are your biggest influences artistically?
Kadir Nelson & Cleon Peterson are my favourite artists. When I came across Nelson’s work a few years ago I fell in love with his portrait style and vibrant colors. He usually stuck with the same color palette which is something that influenced my work. What I love about Peterson’s work is how beautifully he’s applied his artistic style to so many mediums. This is something I aim to do a lot more in the future.
Do you ever feel reined in by client work? How do you maintain your own voice while satisfying client demand?
I haven’t felt reined by client work. I am fortunate enough to have worked with clients that respect me and don’t box me in creatively. Usually, If I come across a project that doesn’t offer a space for me to have a voice or align with my mission as an artist, I won’t do it.
What was the most satisfying project you’ve worked on, and why?
Definitely the book cover I illustrated for Amanda Parris’s The Other Side of the Game. It was the first book cover I did and seeing it printed out was such a surreal moment for me. It’s nice to think that I’ve created something that will be around long after I’m gone.
Walk us thru a typical day in your life, from getting up, til going to bed.
A typical day in my life starts at 6:30 a.m. I wake up, talk to God for a bit then get ready to go to school. I’ll usually have a studio class in the morning and another class in the afternoon. In between classes, I work on both my school and professional projects. I’ll either bring a few snacks or buy food at school. I’ll get home at around 6 or 7 p.m. and continue the work I was doing at school. I’ll eat and try to squeeze in one (or two) episodes of This Is Us. I continue working on my projects til around 9-10 p.m. Then I take a shower, pack my things for tomorrow, pray and sleep!
What do you love most about what you do for a living?
I love that I can have a positive impact on my community and help & inspire others. The fact that I can do this by doing what I love, is such an amazing feeling. I never feel like i’m “working”. I love that my work can provide people with a space to reflect on themselves, which is something I want to focus more on developing.