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Interview with Nate Williams, AKA Alexander Blue

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Read Time: 7 mins

Nate Williams who is also known as Alexander Blue is an artist, illustrator and designer based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Nate is an incredibly prolific artist and has worked extensively in various facets of the illustration industry with a wide variety of clients.

His illustrations have a unique whimsical style, filled with vibrant colors, imagery which combines creatures and doodles. His work has appeared in magazines, advertising and products. He is also the founder and head guy of Illustrationmundo, which is dedicated to illustrations. So let's have a digital chat with this talented artist!

1. Nate, please introduce yourself, give us your bio. Did you have any formal training in this field or are you self-taught?

I am an artist/Illustrator originally from the Western United States but currently live in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  I studied sculpture in University but worked many years as a web designer and Art Director in the Video Game Industry.

2. Tell us about Alexander Blue, your alter ego, why these two personalities?

I created the alter ego Alexander Blue, so I could do another style of illustration, but not confuse "Nate Williams" clients. I think every illustrator realizes you must have a strong unique consistent style, but struggles with committing to one style, so this is how I deal with the struggle. I just created another personality, problem solved!

3. You’re a designer and a programmer and have worked for Microsoft Xbox, when did you first become interested in illustration? What is it about illustration that attracts you?

I have always like illustrating, but always thought of it as a hobby, and not a job. About five years ago, I wanted to try something new.  I wrote illustrators I respected and they gave me advice on how I could make a career out of illustrating.

What I really like about illustrating is it's so simple and all types of people can appreciate what you do, whether they are old, young, speak another language or are from a culturally different part of the world.

4. Please tell us about your creative process for a typical work. Do you doodle a lot or note down your ideas? What tools or software do you use?

You can see my process here. I use Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and Corel Painter for Alexander Blue. For Nate Williams I use lots of traditional techniques, pens, markers, india ink and Photoshop.

5. What is your favorite vectoring or illustrating trick or technique, the one that you find yourself using the most?

Hmm that's a hard one! I guess it would be drawing crazy and then using "simplify" to get smooth curves.

6. Your illustrations have a unique, organic and hand drawn style. How did you develop this style? Is your work the result of experimenting or do you have a clear picture in your head of the end result?

After working for a number of years in high tech 3D rendered video game industry, I visually craved the opposite. I wanted to create things that are simplified to their essence, more organic, handmade, textured and incorporated the human touch, such as accidents, mistakes and discoveries. I really like doing hand drawn lettering because it combines something that is mechanical and adds a human touch. I like that mixture of mechanical and organic. I have a general idea of what I am making, but the majority of the creative process happens when I am actually creating the work.

7. You use a lot of text elements in your illustrations. Why and how do you think they compliment your illustrations?

I think it adds a handmade organic element to the work. Everyone knows what the letter "a" looks like, but there are a million ways to draw it.

8. You founded Illustrationmundo, what was the inspiration and motive behind it? Where do you plan to take it?

When I used to do  more programming there were numerous web sites I frequented where I could discuss programming, get advice and find inspiration.  When I decided to change my career path and become an illustrator I just assumed  the same type of sites existed for illustrators, but when I looked for them, I wasn’t able to find any web sites with the features what I was looking for so I decided to create a site myself with the following objectives in mind:

  • Just Illustration - A place where ILLUSTRATION gets all the Love.
  • Showcase all the great Illustrators in the world today and make it easier for Designer, Art directors and others to find them.
  • Provide current information about the commercial illustration industry.
  • Provide a central location where people can get inspired, share information and seek advice.
  • Free!! Participation is absolutely free. The only barrier to entry is that content submitted is relevant to illustration and of great quality.

The future of illustrationmundo.com is the same...The objectives remain the same, although their may be new tactics to achieve those objectives.

9. Which amongst your works or projects is the one that you consider your favorite or the one that you enjoyed working most and why?

I liked working on an animation for Coca Cola. I really like learning about the process for creating animations, learning about Storyboards, transitions etc.

I also really like doing the Mil Faces Magnets because it was an idea I had and publishing didn't change my original vision of the product. You can play with an online version here.

10. Does any culture or artist inspire you to create artworks? Do you ever get stuck with creative blocks? What do you do to get out of it?

Learning about most cultures inspires me.  I really like Latin and Asian cultures, but I am sure if I knew about other cultures I would dig them as well. Luckily, I don't hit many creative blocks. I think, the best way to get out of a creative block is to do something else, go running, have dinner with a friend, read about history, when you come back the creative block is mysteriously gone. ;)

11. In your opinion what is more important skill, technique, or style - and why?

Style. Skills can be learned, style is something more intuitive.

12. Apart from art and illustration, what other things do you enjoy?

Not only is personal work very important to me but personal time. Having free time to discover, reflect in other areas of my life apart from art  is extremely important (learning, thinking, inventing, exercising, being in nature, programming, eating, laughing, social interactions, relationships,  relaxing, sleeping, etc). All these experiences influence my art and fuel my subconscious with information, ideas, feelings that might eventually end up in my work. 

13. Nate, thanks for the interview. What advice do you have for young people considering illustration as a profession?

Well apart from having a unique consistent style and great concepts I think personality is key. When I was an art director for Microsoft Xbox I hired numerous agencies to create online marketing tactics for our games (web sites, windows media skins, viral campaigns, etc). Having great work is mandatory but being easy, fun and flexible to work with can give you the edge. At the end of the day people are people, and it's always nicer to work with someone that will make your job easier, not harder.

Word of mouth is the strongest form of marketing and services like Twitter, Linkedin, and social networks, which are really starting to facilitate word of mouth, so much so that sites like Twitter  are becoming a real threat to traditional search engines, such as google. This is because instead of indexing web sites, it's indexing real conversations, it’s indexing word of mouth.

All this being said, every person you work with can have a positive or negative impression of working  with you. This impression is passed on like a snowball and can help or hinder you. Value your relationships.

Nate Williams on Web:

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