Alicia Souza calls herself a ‘happiness illustrator.’ And quiet rightly so. Her illustrations on social media – mostly around her daily life – are as humorous as they are adorable.
In fact, today she is not just one of India’s top illustrators but an entrepreneur and a published author as well. A regular presence at Comic Cons, TEDx Talks, and once even at the international art exhibition, Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2014), Alicia is immensely popular about her relatable content Her firm, Alicia Souza Studio (which she co-founded with Saurabh Sharma in 2016), makes quirky products which have got a fan-following even among corporates.
Talking to MAKERS India over a Zoom call recently, Alicia (34) talked about her journey. Sharing that she was an introverted child, Alicia reveals how she connects with the masses through her art. “My core - storytelling - lies in the drawing itself. It’s that story that matters at the end of the day.”
An artist who was meant to be
Legendary Spanish artist Pablo Picasso has said, “All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.”
Luckily, Alicia is that child who remained an artist throughout. Born and raised in Abu Dhabi, Alicia was the youngest of three siblings in a Goa-origin family. Since both her parents had 9-to-5 jobs, Alicia had similar ambitions as a child – but life had big surprises in store!
Since the walls of her home and pages of her school magazines were all Alicia’s canvas while growing up, it was not a surprise when she decided to pursue Design as a career. “Nobody in my family was “art-inclined.” But my parents let me choose my path,” she says.
After pursuing her Bachelor degree in Communication Design from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, Alicia moved to Bangalore in 2011. She co-founded the quirky design and products platform Chumbak, but left after two years to freelance as a designer.
A list of ideas
Although she dons multiple hats now, Alicia says she is an illustrator over everything else. “Everything else comes secondary. I started off as an illustrator. I started the company because of the illustration.”
Besides her own firm’s work, Alicia is always busy with freelance projects too. “I truly have ants in my pants; I'm always doing something. And I only pick projects that I absolutely adore,” she reveals, when asked how she motivates herself.
Her clients include titans like Google, Accenture, Lenovo, Dell, OPI, Times of India, and Air Asia, as well as startups like T4Tales, Fizzy Goblet, The Souled Store, and Heads Up For Tails, among others.
Unlike projects for clients, where she just has to adhere to the brief provided, her personal projects are all her original ideas. But what is the creative process behind the her endearing illustrations?
“It's not that I sit at my desk and think of ideas. I randomly make notes of ideas to draw about. If I'm going for a walk or if I am working for a client and I think of something, I would make a note on my phone. I also keep a book and an Excel sheet also for the same,” she says.
Between her freelance work for clients, personal drawings (which we see on Instagram every day), and the art work for her own firm, Alicia does around 20 illustrations in a day. “For the illustrations going on social media, it would take a couple of hours on an average,” she adds.
Ali, Charlie, Henry & George
Alicia’s social media is full of titbits about her work and domestic life - with her husband George Seemons, their pets Charlie, an Alsatian, and Sir Henry Oats, a guinea pig.
Was it a conscious decision to ideate around them for her doodles? Alicia notes, “I tend to draw about everyday topics. I work from home and they are the ones closest to me at all times.”
Alicia has also collaborated with multiple authors for providing illustrations for children’s books – including Das Din, and Kahaani Purani.
Earlier this year, Alicia turned into an author– with Dear George published by Penguin Random House. The comic-book is based on Alicia’s relationship with her husband George. “When I started drawing, the girl-character was representative of me and the boy-character was representative of George. It was about relationships and living together. Ultimately, I felt it was too representative of our life to be called anything else,” she laughs.
Coincidentally, Penguin Books had reached out to her project last year – which did not take off; but instead, Alicia presented this idea. “I had too many drawings on relationships and dogs! I knew the market for dog-comics is much smaller than that of relationships. So I proposed the idea to Penguin. I work with products; so instead of a written proposal, I ended up making a book and sent them,” she recounts.
Now close to embracing another adventure – motherhood – Alicia is the ultimate multitasker, and a very disciplined one at that. She elaborates, “I'm a morning person; so I start my day early. I do all my e-mailing in the morning so that it won’t distract me during the day.”
And it’s all worth the effort for Alicia, who now commands more than 303,000 followers on Instagram. She hearts all the positive feedback from her followers, but does not entertain online trolls. “If someone messages something silly I won't even reply. But if my work genuinely hurt someone, I would take that to heart and reach out to them,” she says, adding that she is especially touched when older persons commend her work.
“Even while growing up, and as a young adult, some of my closest friends were much older people. So if a 60-year-old person likes my work, I am really touched. I don't know why!” she giggles.
It’s hard to catch Alicia without a smile when talks – this is the exact warmth and charm that makes her art close to heart for the masses. And what makes her a success at whatever she does.