Playful by nature and playful by hand, Surrey-born and London-based illustrator Asha Wilson is as exuberant as the work she produces. Bursting with character and typography, there’s never a dull moment in Asha’s artistic choices. “My favourite work is based in character design and I would probably describe myself as more of a cartoonist than anything else,” Asha tells It’s Nice That.
As for their handwritten type, Asha tells us that “sketchy and illegible graffiti tags” are their first port of call, followed by “big wobbly chunky 3D letters, letters that look like acid clouds [and] gnarly looking characters with aged, collapsing faces wrapped around a bin". With such an eclectic mix of inspiration, there’s no surprise that every piece of work Asha creates brims with something exciting for the audience to feast their eyes on. “Throughout my degree I grew progressively agitated by the prescriptive and careful nature of traditional typography,” they explains. “Myself and my brother are very dyslexic and struggle to digest and retain information from big chunks of text, so I want to use my work as a communicative tool and hand-illustrating my type is what helps me to engage with and retain what I am reading.”
Asha relishes in being able to control the “line work, positioning, scale and ratio” of hand-drawn type. “I think if I created the work only for myself, I would complete the line-work process using analogue illustration methods,” Asha says. “However, for scalability's sake and in an effort to make my images ‘cleaner’ I am always happy to digitally finalise the line work when working with clients.” As for the abstract, cartoon characters of Asha’s artistic repertoire, there is something delightfully juvenile about them all that recalls the childhood glee of shows like Yu-Gi-Oh. “Most of my work is hugely narrative and often comedic,” Asha adds. “I am a very silly person that likes to chat and be around people constantly, and I am very lucky that so much of my life revolves around play, which illustration very much is.”
From drawing people on trains and planes to interpreting the people she comes into contact with every day, Asha is fascinated by anatomy and reality in their illustrative work – despite the style’s inherent lack of realism. “In my illustration work, I want the characters to have a solid foundation of human anatomy but stretched to ridiculous extremes and often warped to fit within the space they live in,” they explain. “I think I have a fairly established style now, but I am excited to keep stretching my people and see how far I can push the medium.”
At present, Asha aspires to imbue her characters with abstract and figurative qualities, while simultaneously utilising perspective as a means of storytelling. “I love for my characters to spill out and fill the space, warp around the text, to really become a part of the overall image rather than a feature,” Asha says. Most importantly, however, comes Asha’s incorporation of LGBTQIA+ themes in to their work, as it stems from their own personal experiences. “I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have received love and support throughout my gay journey and I would love nothing more than my work to represent the LGBTQ+ community in all its wonderful facets and promote some of the more everyday, joyful, loving and silly sides to LGBTQ lives,” Asha says. “There is a power in seeing yourself and your story represented and I hope to extend the feeling of empowerment and belonging to the queer community through my work.”
Asha Wilson: “A Goblin’s Day Out” - Exhibition Poster (Copyright © Asha Wilson, 2022)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. They were 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.