The specific tone of the sky when it snows is something that must be hard to nail as an illustrator. Mainly because it has an intangible quality, something you only know when you see it. Raymond Briggs comes to mind immediately, as someone who captures that grainy, depthful tone perfectly in The Snowman. Now, I’m pleased to say, so does illustrator Julian Adon Alexander. This winter, when we thought of muffled snowy landscapes, his recent series of graphite drawings came to mind.
The Queens-based illustrator has always loved winter, mainly because it offers an excuse to wear big coats, he tells us. “I love how they can cover up the form of the body to make everyone kind of look the same. It’s like a security blanket.” His newest works are about people wearing coats, and how they offer protection from the weather. Although, for Julian, this is about more than preserving heat. His drawings explore how coats offer people autonomy by allowing them to hide and protect parts of themselves; “This speaks to a lot of the anxieties that I feel on a day to day basis, which often prevent me and others from expressing ourselves fully,” he says. Certainly, this is where Julian’s work lives, not just in the winter months, but at the intersection between vulnerability and concealment.
He made this recent series of static, “unglamorous” scenes using graphite and toned paper, capturing people walking in a fluffy downpour, as well as the stillness and wonky buildings that surround them. To achieve the atmosphere Julian conjures so well, he says speed is crucial. “Once I sit down to draw, I don’t get up until I’m close to done,” he explains. “I think it’s very important to keep a similar energy flowing throughout the work. If I have an idea, it needs to get out.” During this process, he says light and texture are the most fun bits to work on, while buildings and cars, “anything that has to have straight and rigid lines”, is a bit more of a challenge. Something you’d never be able to spot from how naturally he turns them into part of the shifting landscape.
Some of Julian’s primary inspirations lie in anime and manga; “my all-time favourite artists in that space are Takehiko Inoue and Kentaro Miura,” he says, “who created amazing comics called Vagabond and Berserk; which I do recommend reading.” While these comics helped shaped the illustrator’s approach to narrative, Jordan Casteel and Jennifer Packer’s paintings exemplify the kind of motion and texture Julian hopes to achieve with his portraiture.
Although the weather has begun to turn and spring is on the horizon, Julian is – thankfully – in no rush to halt his work on this meditative series. “I started making these when it got cold out, but I honestly want to keep doing them even when it’s warmer,” he reflects. “I think this is the world I want my work to live in for a while.” We can’t wait to return to its comforting moments, even after things heat up outside.
Julian Adon Alexander: Disclosure (Copyright © Julian Adon Alexander, 2022)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, she worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.