Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Interview with Illustrator Ali Douglass

A friend of mine lives in the same house as the rollerskating-creator of colorful compositions-energetic-artist Ali Douglass. Hence my passageway to meeting her and getting in an interview.


Ali Douglass grew up in Muncie, Indiana, where she spent long afternoons playing dusty old records, rollerskating, building a treehouse, and drawing. She studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute with a BFA in Illustration. She lives in San Francisco and
takes rollerdisco classes.

Ali works traditionally using gouache on watercolor paper. Her illustrations have been featured in advertising, books, magazines, and newspapers, as well as on greeting cards and apparel. Her work has been recognized by American Illustration, Step Inside Design, and the L.A. Society of Illustrators.

Your tree house is rad! Was it your idea to build? Did you ever spend the night in it and find yourself trapped in the morning after an intense rain?

When I was sixteen I asked my Dad if he would help me build a tree house. Mostly Dad and I worked on it, with the addition of some friends from high school that would come by after school to nail a few things together. The frame is new wood, but everything else is reclaimed. I did spend the night there, it was always fun to wake up with daddy long legs climbing over your sleeping bag and look down and see animals wandering around below. I did get trapped there once. I was on the porch and a board fell inside the house against the door (the board that eventually became my top bunk), so I couldn't get back inside and was stuck out on a porch with no rope or ladder to get down. I yelled until a father and son who were canoeing stopped and helped me out. I think they were more freaked out than me. It is built next to the river in a flood plane, so I have had to canoe out there before, but only because I thought it would be fun.

Have you always been inclined to draw people? What were your first drawings or art creations like?

I have always liked to draw people and include lots of details. I loved making my own greeting cards when I was little and always included a copyright symbol with my name on the back. I liked to think that whoever received the card might think that I bought it at a store because it was so much like a "real" card.

Art is your playtime and means of living. How did that come to be? What do you enjoy most about working independently?

I decided to pursue illustration in college so I could draw, be self-employed, and hopefully make some money. I originally wanted to illustrate childrens books, but like so many, broadened my scope after realizing what a narrow and difficult field it is. I really do enjoy being self-employed and working out of my home/studio. It lifts the pressure of having to be creative only at certain hours. If I can't come up with an idea or need a break I go for a walk, do errands, etc. and then afterwards I usually have a solution or am more focused. It also gives me time and space to work on my personal work.

Roller skating! Your life is so fun. Does your time to play feed into the creativity in your art? Where do you find your inspiration?

Play time definitely feeds into art. I'm working on a drawing that will be a map to roller skating heaven with different sections of heaven for different types of rollerskating. Disco skating will be in the center since it is the best. I think most inspiration comes from where I live or travel, people around me, things people say when you pass them on the street and over hear a bit of their conversation, some one's clothes, buildings, pop culture, colors, music, friends. I love lots of color, plastic, Japanese art and packaging, 1950s and 60s commercial art and furniture and Pee Wee Herman.

I know you are from the east coast originally. What brought you to California? Do you call this home now?

Hmmm. I suppose I call it home, but just for now. I seem to like to move every few years and I've been in San Francisco the longest, but I'm not planning on staying there forever even though it may just turn out that way. I grew up in Muncie, IN then lived in Philadelphia, Boston, Kansas City and New York City and a stint in Asheville, NC. I dreamt once that NYC went through a complete design overhaul and beautification plan. I sat in on the meetings and saw their blueprints. They painted all buildings and houses bright colors and planted lots of manicured shrubbery and changed the sky to a nice bright cyan. I woke up and thought it was time to move to California.

Do you listen to music when creating art pieces? If so who?

Lately I've been listening to lots of Mum, Kinski, Explosions in the Sky, Electrelane, Japanther, Mogwai, Quintron, Ultravox and The Go!! Team while working.

Her website:

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