monkeys and octopi and squids. oh, my!

by - 11:50

After doing a teaching stint at an elementary school in Tokyo, I was exposed to several children's books full of wonderful stories and even more wonderful illustrations. Being a sucker for art in all forms, I think I paid more attention to the illustrations than the actual stories themselves! So imagine my surprise when I happened upon some adorable art that reminded me of these whimsical stories. All done by a young 24 year-old up-and-coming English illustrator by the name of Alex Mathers. How exciting! I had the great pleasure of interviewing him over the past weekend! In case you're unfamiliar with his work, feel free to take a look here. So enjoy the illustrations and read on!

©apple monkey.

Mathers, who describes himself as an illustrator "with too many interests for my own good" and "having perhaps an unhealthy interest in war movies" was born in Denmark to English parents in 1984. After having spent some time in Iran in the early 1980s, Mathers lived abroad in other locales including Jamaica and Sweden and is currently residing in England. His affinity for "making music, painting, architecture, the environment, property development, graphic design, writing, Japanese culture, volcanoes, tea and making new friends", no doubt add personality to his work, creating a feeling of familiarity and warmth to the viewer.

Let's jump right into it, shall we?

By the looks of your photo on, you seem like a fairly young guy. Are you in art school or do you do this professionally? Do you have your own studio space to work or do you do this in the comfort of your own home? What is your preferred medium?

I have recently turned 24 and have never been to art school. I illustrate on a part time basis, mainly working for but also accepting custom work, including from the Singapore Business Times newspaper in the past. I work from home on a nice desktop computer. The only medium I illustrate in at the moment is in digital vector, because it works well with online uploading.

When working, do you listen to any music that could possibly aid in the turn-out of a piece? Who do you listen to?

I have a very mixed taste and usually have some kind of music on when I work. At the moment I am listening to Benga, who is a British dubstep artist. I also enjoy listening to electronic music and I particularly like the Daft Punk ‘Alive’ album. My favourite bands include Bloc Party, Foals, Blur, Fleetwood Mac, the Black Keys, Dire Straits and BiffyClyro. I also love 1960s Jamaican dub and wouldn’t turn down the occasional Lionel Richie.

©squid attack.

TFH: Your work is very playful yet simple with no frills. It reminds me a little bit of Lane Smith illustrations in children's books. Is he an influence of yours? Who are your influences?

Thank you for comparing me to Lane Smith, who I like very much. I would certainly say that he has influenced my work like so many others. I am inspired by my favourite iStockphoto illustrator Simon Oxley, as well as work by Quentin Blake, Ronald Searle, Josh Agle, Maurice Sendak and my favourite Japanese illustrator Hokusai Katsushika amongst many others.

Are you familiar with the Japanese NHK (Japanese broadcasting network) mascot of Domo-kun? How do you feel about Domo-kun?

AM: I know that NHK is one of Japan’s main broadcasters, but I haven’t come across Domo-kun. I just looked it up and it looks like a funny character.

Through, I've come across illustrations of creatures / monsters / cartoons which are similar to yours. Does this affect your work in any way? Do you feel a sense of competition or is it very communal where you can share ideas with other artists?

Because of the nature of, there is undoubtedly a great deal of competition that exists amongst illustrators. There will always be other work on the site that will have an effect on an artist’s sales and how much of one’s work is noticed. The site itself has a very strong sense of community however, and everyone is keen to help each other out as much as possible. I think the competition is important and necessary, as it serves to improve the quality of the work of all contributors who aim to sell their work.

©river to sea.

©deepest fears.

How do you come up with the characters / ideas in your work? Do you have a specific audience that you are trying to affect?

Ideas usually come to me at unpredictable moments, so I carry around a notebook with me to write down ideas as they come to me. Many times, watching a film or listening to music will create an image in my mind of something interesting that I can illustrate.
I do not have a specific audience in my mind when I work. I create work I think will appeal to humankind in general.

In my research, it seems as though your portfolio is only viewable through Do you have an online site to showcase your work? Do you have plans on creating a site in the near future?

You are right. At the moment, apart from iStock, and some freelancing sites, where some of my work is featured, I do not yet have a professional online presence. However, I am currently in the process of building a personal blog with my portfolio that will serve as my website. This will be found at and will be ready soon.

While we're on the subject of your portfolio, do you have any prints that you are planning on selling online through DIY art/craft sites such as, and

A link to one of these online store outlets is definitely something I am considering once my blog site is up and running. I will hopefully have prints and other forms of merchandise up for sale soon.

What would you like to eventually do with your work? Do you have plans on creating art for the rest of your life? Would you like to experiment with other types of art?

I would like to continue illustrating, at least on a part-time basis for the rest of my life and hopefully become well known as an illustrator. Through constantly honing my work and aiming for simplicity, humour, and original ideas, I hope to achieve some kind of recognition. I hope to put together and write a children’s book with a twist at some point soon.
I would certainly like to work with other mediums such as painting in a similar style as well. It is just a matter of finding the time!

©the uprooter.

TFH: Lastly, tell me anything else you'd like to about yourself--it can be funny, sad, inspiring, etc.

AM: I make the best spaghetti Bolognese in town.

There you have it!
Thanks so much to Alex for being so willing to do this interview with me. Much obliged!

Please visit Alex Mathers' brand-spanking-new blog, and take a look at more of his work here.


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