Growing up in Abu Dhabi, Alicia Souza had her eyes set on a stable career as a banker. However, little did she know fate had other plans for her. The 30-year-old illustrator is known for cutesy, kitsch approach to art. From illustrations of people cuddling with pets to binging on chocolates, Alicia’s quintessential strokes invoke a feeling of warmth among most of her fans.
She also was one of the co-founders of Indian cartoon kitsch brand Chumbak, known for its witty one-liners and sassy products. However, she parted ways with the brand to launch her own label, Alicia Souza.
The 30-year-old artist’s first memories of drawing date back to the time before she learned to write. Her earliest memory of drawing something is of her drawing a scooter on a wood divider in her childhood. “In my head, it looked exactly like a scooter, but now when I think back, the fact that I couldn’t even write my name makes it hard to believe it was anything but disjointed lines,” says Alicia.
The illustrator says that she is inspired by everything and everyone around her. Take her pets for example. A good reason why Alicia’s work is so popular is that they are an extension of her own life. A lot of her work features caricatures of her own personality or her pets—Henry Oats, the guinea pig, and her dogs Charlie Brown and Lola Bear. In fact, her Instagram feed is loaded with videos featuring Henry Oats nibbling up snacks.
Her stint in banking may have been short-lived, but it did teach her a few lessons—managing her money and an ability to interact with people from different backgrounds being the most memorable ones.
However, her experience didn’t make the process of launching an independent label to sell art any easier. Recalling her experience, the 30-year-old illustrator says the paperwork involved in starting a new business in the country can be a little overwhelming. “Starting a business in India is very different than in most countries. The paperwork alone can kill you. I am lucky to have a wonderful little team and a fantastic partner because honestly, doing it alone would be a nightmare. Together, it’s a challenge,” she quips.
For someone who manages to find inspiration everywhere, it’s tough to have a single favourite artist. Talking to the Woman at Work team, Alicia said artists like Quentin Blake are joy to follow because of their “happy drawings”.
Commenting on the bigger picture, Alicia said the country needs to accept that there’s a business side to illustrating and art. “I think everywhere, not only in India, they teach illustration like art only when there is such a big business side to it. Especially since many illustrators end up being freelancers and have to handle the business side themselves. I found that to be my biggest learning.”
On a parting note, Alicia offers a piece of advice to all women who are battling unsurety about taking a plunge into business, “Persist and do!”.
Image credit: Stories from KnowYourStar, Alicia Souza