VSS Illustrator Interviews

In doing these interviews, we hope to give you a glimpse into our artist members' unique personalities, a new perspective on their wonderful work, and the opportunity to know what inspires them!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Alex Colombo

It's been a while since we had a new interview here and so I'm excited to introduce Alex Colombo today! Alex has a lot of irons in the fire including a new blog featuring her children's illustrations and interviews with other illustrators at talesforcreativeminds.blogspot.com Thanks for stopping by to meet Alex and take a look at her artwork.

How did you get started in illustration?
It seems I have been doing this all my life, in some form or another but I am sure I started at some finite point…let's see, when I was five years old I helped my aunt, who was an artist, to paint a mural. When I went to art school, illustration was my favorite subject.  Even when I worked as a textile designer I continued creating illustrations. Later, while working as an interior designer, I'd create renderings (architectural illustrations) to show my clients how a room would look.  I did all of this by hand, of course, no digital illustrations at all.  One day I was on the phone with a client and my imagination took off - I started to sketch out some funny little doodles. From that point on, my creative drive kicked in. I learned a couple of key digital software programs, turned my sketches into full watercolor illustrations and finally into digital images.
What is your favorite medium? Can you describe your usual work process for us?
Colored pencils, gouache and liquid watercolors on an off-white, 100% acid free aquarello paper or cork paper. Cork comes in very fine sheets that can be used like paper. The texture is smooth and it's a pleasure to hand paint on it. It's an unusual medium but very fun to work with!  Photoshop and some Illustrator are also my favorite programs to render my illustrations digitally.

Do you write as well as illustrate your own stories? Which comes first for you?
I don't write, I only do illustrations – my husband is the wonderful author and we collaborate on our children's books.
Do you illustrate full time or do you also have a day job? How do you balance the different aspects of your life?
I used to do interior design full time and did illustrations only when I could fit them in my busy schedule. I am now full time doing illustrations and art for licensing. I occasionally do interior design consultation and graphic design.

Where in the country do you live? Could you describe your studio?
I live in the San Francisco Bay area, in the Santa Cruz mountains – I am surrounded by beautiful redwood trees and colorful flowers. The deer come by at times in the mornings, while gypsy cats and cute quails seem to peacefully share my backyard. I am thirty minutes from the ocean and I love to go biking along the shore when I can.  My studio's a bit messy but very quiet and full of light!
Tell us about your education and training. Did you learn more through school or your own experiences?
I attended the Art Institute and the European Graphic Design in Milan, when I was young. I studied the classics and learned about architecture and fine arts. Throughout the years I learned a huge amount from my design jobs as textile designer, interior and graphic designer, and finally as an illustrator. School only gives you a taste of your potential, and I firmly believe experience shapes one's knowledge. But they are both necessary.

Please list any of your publications and let us know your website.
My first publication was in 2009 when my first illustrated book was published. It's called The Adventures of Mr. P, The Case of the Missing Cheese. My illustrations are from my doodles, all hand painted with liquid watercolors and gouache on cotton paper, as mentioned above. You can see part of the story on The Adventures of Mr. P site. 
Tell us about your current project.
I am working on several projects: my second book, the Adventures of Mr. P, The Case of the Hidden Hives, on a part-time basis and the rest of the time I am working on my art licensing collections - a different type of artwork for commercial use on products like paper goods, apparel, textile and more. I am also collaborating with other companies on creative crafts, such as children's fabrics made from my designs and even custom baked goods. I recently partnered with Sugar Doodle Cookies to create a set of cookies based on the characters and illustrations of my children's books.
Who are your favorite children’s illustrators or authors?
I grew up with Walt Disney stories and classic Italian authors. I loved the Disney original black & white hand sketches and their micky mouse children's magazine. I liked to imagine that the cute little characters in the stories I was reading were actually alive… lots of imagination there! I tend to also like traditional stories and illustrations of all kinds.

If you could be any children’s book character, who would you be and why?
Never thought about it but in recent years while illustrating my children's book I came up with a female character called Ms. C, an artist friend of Mr. P that somewhat resembles me…but then she could be anyone :)

What inspires you?
Beauty in general. I learned to appreciate a bit of everything, as beauty depends on the context in which it gets viewed.  There is hardly anything ugly, it all depends how it fits in or integrates, how it's presented, and so on. Caravaggio, Monet, Van Gogh, Modigliani, are some of the many fine artists I love and I go see their works of art when I can. Their stories inspire me, their passion for painting. I like whimsical folk art probably the most. Everyday life and nature inspires me, too. A child's laugh or a beautiful song. A bit of everything. I think life in itself is an art form.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A classic painter, like Botticelli or Leonardo, or maybe a Caravaggio - and … a downhill ski instructor - I grew up close to the Alps ;).

What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
Travel, go to art galleries, bike, hike, read, garden, and sometime volunteer with some local humanitarian groups.

What job would you like to have if you weren’t an artist?
Can't imagine I would do anything else, although I have done many other odd jobs in my life. Maybe a florist?
Any advice you’d pass along to illustrators just getting started?
Figure out a purpose or goal for yourself and create on it! 

Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
I use images from my original paintings for stationary, cards and prints. Currently, my primary professional interest is art licensing, a design field I now chronicles about on The Moon from My Attic blog. I also have an illustration blog called Tales for Creative Minds, where I feature other artists.  I enjoy making things with my hands so I host a third blog for handmade crafts called A Basket of Hearts.
If you want to say hi or connect up with me, you can find me on 
I'll soon be launching a new website for my business called Creative Concepts Design Studio where I will showcase both children's illustrations and other art for licensing purposes.


  1. Love the interview Alex! I enjoyed getting to know you better as well as a little of your process.

  2. Hi Alex, nice interview! I love the whimsey in your little characters. The cookies are especially adorable! It was fun to read about all your creative endeavors. You certainly have lots going on in your life, and lots of ways to get your work out there to the public. It's both impressive and inspiring. Thank you for sharing!!

  3. Oh my, two of my most loved illustrators! You're both so nice, thanks for your lovely comments :) Hope to keep juggling all the projects to a successful result!

  4. Enjoyed this- so interesting. Thanks