As someone who came to the medium fairly late on, it’s no surprise that Aless Mc describes “the fact that you are constantly learning and adapting” as her favourite thing about illustration. With a practice based on “communicating ideas in a simple, attractive, and sometimes comical way,” Aless’ work combines bright colours, flowing shapes and cultural references, executed using silkscreening and Risograph.
Although, like most of us, Aless spent her childhood in Laval, a suburb of Montréal, drawing, she was discouraged from following an artistic path and so, instead, went on to study languages and communications at university. For two years, she worked as a marketing coordinator in a finance firm before discovering the world of illustration and making the leap to change careers. “I first heard of illustration on a trip to Germany back in 2014, when I picked up a book: How to be an illustrator by Darel Rees. I was so impressed that there existed a job where you could draw, have your own schedule, work on amazing projects and live off your art!” she recalls. Having completed a BA in graphic design at Université du Québec à Montréal, Aless is currently based in Montréal where she shares a small studio with a friend and fellow illustrator.
Looking at Aless’ portfolio, there’s a clear style that rings true. Block colours combine to form shapes, which in turn, allow us to understand the composition, which is often devoid of any outlining. Currently, it’s an aesthetic informed by her interest in vintage ads, design and printing techniques. “[I] have found many sources of inspiration by looking at object shapes and colours and how the appropriate typography can be united with an image to create a strong visual message and feeling,” she explains. “I am also into using patterns and textures to add visual complexity and second levels of meaning to my images.”
This style is then applied across myriad projects, from editorial illustrations to branding and also murals. Aless even conducts workshops with children and young adults from time-to-time. Keeping on her toes in this way is something Aless particularly enjoys about her medium: “I like the fact that you can’t really rest on your laurels because the field is constantly evolving and there is so much amazing talent out there. It makes the job more challenging and interesting knowing that you have to keep your work fresh and relevant.”
One series which particularly drew us in to Aless’ portfolio is titled Fifty Shades of Green, a project she’s been working on since late 2018. It sees her illustrating various strains of cannabis and it’s a work which has “been really important in defining my style and technique,” as well building upon her love of integrating typography with illustration. Off the back of the series, Aless was commissioned by a Canadian cannabis producer to illustrate their strains.
“This is both an exciting and challenging continuation to the series because I have to work around legal restrictions,” she tells us. “For example, in these new strain illustrations, I can’t illustrate characters or faces at all because this would make the strain too appealing to children. This has led me to explore objects and symbolism in my work and has brought an increasing importance to typography and design in the images.” We recently explored the creative potentials but also the moral dilemmas and restrictions of designing cannabis in a feature titled The cannabis conundrum: How should designers navigate the marijuana business?
Looking ahead, Aless is starting to work on an illustration book on volcanoes in collaboration with Montréal-based publishing house La Pastèque. “The content has been developed by a volcanologist and covers different aspects of volcanoes throughout the world. I see this as a great opportunity to work on finding different ways to illustrate a recurring subject,” she adds. With other commissions also underway, a longer-term goal of Aless’ is to turn Fifty Shades of Green into a line of unique objects and gears for smokers.
Aless Mc: Green Crush
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.