We sat down with Alix Campbell, the founder of designsoup by alix to learn about her creative process and tips for aspiring artists.
First off, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Hi, I’m Alix. I’m a writer and artist. I create original paintings & prints as well as surface patterns for lots of different products like throw pillows, tote bags, notebooks, laptop covers, etc. under my brand name designsoup by alix. At the moment I’m selling on Society6, but hopefully soon in my own online shop. I’m originally from Austria, but I’ve been living the digital nomad lifestyle as a freelancer for several years, spending time in Madrid (Spain), Copenhagen (Denmark), and Amsterdam (the Netherlands) as well as Chile, Peru, and Nicaragua. The latter is the country where I met my Aussie husband, and about two years ago, we settled in Portugal in a small fisherman’s village on the west coast called Carrapateira. Here we found an idyllic little spot where I can write and create my art.
I love painting with gouache and ink on paper and I work in Adobe Illustrator. I’ve also recently launched my monthly newsletter called ‘my joyful year’ where I talk about topics like creative practice, mini-adventures, morning routines, goal setting, repurposing, ways to trigger joy, etc. (https://alixmcampbell.com/newsletter/)
Where do you find the inspiration for your art?
In nature mostly. We’re surrounded by the Costa Vicentina national park and the coastline is absolutely stunning with its hills, dunes, and red-coloured cliffs. I go for a run most mornings and that’s when ideas pop into my head. I love looking at the ocean and the vegetation here like agave plants or cork trees. As soon as I get home and before I even hit the shower, I need to write everything down or do a quick sketch to remember my new ideas. I also love going for beach walks or hike into the hills behind our house. I’m actually planning to paint a new series of pieces inspired by the traditional white houses in the village, the cliffs, hills, and plants around here.
Other sources of inspiration are photos from past trips, watching our two cats run around, going to the market to buy fresh produce (I love painting fruit), and flipping through coffee table books. At the moment I’m in love with Accidentally Wes Anderson by Wally Koval. I think there’s also an Instagram account with the same name. It’s so satisfying to look at the colours and the composition of the photos.
What has been your biggest accomplishment (or challenge) so far as an artist?
Even though I’ve been drawing and doodling ever since I can remember, and I’ve spent my teenage years equipped with oil paints and canvases copying Van Gogh’s masterpieces to gift them to friends and family, I only started getting serious about my art in 2020. This mindset shift happened after doing a course on surface pattern design in Adobe Illustrator. During this time, I also formed a peer group with three other artists and we’ve been sticking religiously to our weekly calls ever since. Thanks to this group I felt brave enough to put my art out there, which I think was the hardest part of my journey so far. I’m also still developing and refining my style and my dream is to create a lifestyle brand with different products but a cohesive feel to it, which is also my biggest challenge at the moment, I would say. This and learning how to use Procreate as I just bought an iPad.
Do you have any favourite pieces that you’ve created? If so, which ones and why?
I’m not sure about other artists, but my favourites tend to be the latest pieces of art I create. However, I do have a pattern I made last year, which is still one of my favourites, and my husband loves it too on our throw pillows (I created various colourways). As far as my painted pieces are concerned, I love painting women at the moment, and ‘Ideal Morning’ and ‘Spring is Coming’ are my favourites, together with ‘Stone Pines’, which was inspired by the landscape here.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Be patient with yourself. I think everyone does it, but comparing your art with someone else’s is never a good idea because you tend to look at people who have been on this journey for longer and are more established. It takes time and practice to develop a signature style. Keep improving and keep challenging yourself, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
Look at other artists, not in terms of comparison but in terms of what you can learn from them. They might share what materials they use and love, or how they carve out time to paint and create regularly. I love watching Skillshare classes to learn something new or dig deeper into a medium. Experiment. Try different media, brushes, inks, paints, colour combinations. There’s no limit when it comes to expressing yourself. Have fun with it. You can find inspiration everywhere. It’s very handy to have a little sketchbook with you at all times. Spend some time in nature if you can. That always seems to do the trick for me.
Lastly, connect with other creatives. Start an accountability group you can share your wins and challenges with and get the support you need. I love connecting with other artists to follow their creative journeys. A big plus of this is that my feed is flooded with beautiful art (Instagram: @designsoup_by_alix)