London-based and Hertfordshire-born illustrator Alanah Sarginson is brimming with talent, so much so that it’s hard to believe just how early on to her career she is. Between studying, Alanah has somehow managed to carve out an impressively cohesive and realised portfolio, fitting somewhere in a blend between bauhaus and tarot cards.
“Growing up I was mainly drawing portraits with pencil, which was not necessarily very creatively engaging or expressive for me,” Alanah tells It’s Nice That. “I’d always dabbled in illustration in the form of Tumblr-inspired doodles as a teenager, but by the time I was around 17, I just became horrendously aware that there was no uniqueness in my work, and I needed that if I was to take myself seriously as an artist.” After facing such a fatalist crisis of originality, Alanah spent months experimenting with her illustrative craft, looking to new colours, shapes, and patterns in a bid to awaken something new in her. Eventually, it was digital illustration which Alanah found to be the key to her creative expression. “Digital illustration has been the medium I credit for enabling me to find my style and giving me the confidence to experiment with few boundaries.” It was one fateful day after school, upon receiving her first ever pay cheque, that Alanah bought herself an iPad with Apple Pencil and “never really looked back since.”
Her software of choice is Procreate, something she feels keeps her in a constant state of experimentation. “Every time I use Procreate I feel like I’m always learning how to use it in different ways,” she says. “Being able to constantly play around and explore is what excites me most about it.” Whilst Alanah doesn’t consciously steer in any particular direction with her style, she notes how there is a consistent use of “blocky and minimal” compositions with an overall “playful and expressive” feel to them. It’s chaotic, but controlled. “It definitely reflects me as somehow both an organised but messy person,” she says. “Subject-wise, I love the natural elements, with the sun being the object you’ll see most in my work.” It’s a fitting motif in a body of work which feels genuinely positive and warmly uplifting.
On her artistic practice, Alanah often lets curiosity lead the way. “I’ll have an urge to present some kind of feeling, thought or situation in some abstracted way, and start there,” she describes. “When I want to create but don’t really want to engage with my brain much, sometimes just drawing a frame and a circle inside it gives me enough stimulation to push it further.” It’s the age-old maxim of “just get something down on the page” that illustrators and creatives alike bounce back and forth between when stuck in the rut of an artistic block. Alanah however, seems to have mastered the slow and steady pace which enables her to climb out of such spaces. “I take inspiration from my studies in philosophy and my general reactions to life,” she explains. “I’m a sensitive and self-reflective person and I think that shows in my art.” She also lists Instagram and Pinterest as sources of inspiration, but only for the “technical” aspects of her art. “I’ll really zoom in and try and understand how they achieved a certain texture or line, for example.” Most of it is plucked straight out of Alanah’s own thoughts and feelings, a far cry from her days spent deep in the realm of photorealism where everything was a direct reference of something. “I have tried my best to avoid references,” she adds, “as I definitely prefer exploring the abstract.”
As for a particular recent project of hers that caught our eye, Alanah talks of her work she did for her childhood best friend and viral TikTok singer Sophie Odira. “I recently did the artwork and music video animation for her second single Little Love,” Alanah says. “She’s recently been signed to the very talented Tom Rosenthal’s record label, and when asked who she’d like her artwork to be done by, she went straight to me – I was so flattered.” A collaboration between friends is always special, but for Alanah it ran even deeper considering their history together. “We used to spend hours in my bedroom together as pre-teens with her singing and me playing guitar, so to see us both doing what we love in a professional manner just gave me so much pride for both of us,” she tells us. “I was singing along to the song on repeat the whole time I was working on it, I just really enjoyed myself.”
Now, as Alanah’s rapidly exciting career continues to evolve, she’s avoiding attachment towards milestones and achievements and enjoying the general good spirits of her art. “I’d love to take the confidence I’ve developed on my iPad screen and put that on other surfaces, by painting walls and canvases,” she says. “But I’m already so happy with where I am, as all six-year-old Alanah wanted in life was to be an artist, so just knowing how stoked she’d be if she saw me now is enough.”
Alanah Sarginson: The Orange, Wendy Cope (Copyright © Alanah Sarginson, 2020)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. He was part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.