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The latest content and news from the Barbican. Book tickets at barbican.org.uk

Designing Nevertheless She Persisted

Just like the women it depicts, our Nevertheless She Persisted campaign knows how to make itself known in a room. You may have spotted the bold lines and bright figures in our illustrated campaign on posters, our trailer, Instagram and our digital zine series, celebrating the stories of some of the women the world should know about.

We spoke to illustrator, Alexandra Bowman to find out more about how she approached our brief and to hear more about her work and advice for those looking for a career as an illustrator.

How did you get into illustration?
I studied drawing and graphic design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and graduated with a BFA in 2013. In 2014, I moved to the Bay Area and started taking jobs illustrating and designing for small businesses and local bands. The more jobs I took, the more my client base and portfolio grew. Since then, my side-gig as a designer has become my career.

How would you describe your artistic style?
My artistic style is a dynamic balance of graphic design and painterly elements. The juxtaposition of soft and strong lends itself to a feminine energy within my work.

How did you approach the brief for ‘Nevertheless She Persisted’? 
I started by watching trailers to pinpoint interesting moments and important scenes in each film. Then, I researched each woman I was to illustrate. This step in my process gives me a deeper understanding of the person in the portrait. I typically spend so much time looking at the features of their face that I start to get a sense of their personality, as if I’m becoming acquainted with them. That extra research gives me an understanding of their story and the power behind their eyes.

I typically spend so much time looking at the features of their face that I start to get a sense of their personality

Can you describe your process when it comes to creating the illustrations?
Creating pencil sketches comes first. Then, I outline my sketch in ink and scan the drawing into the computer. From there, I start to play with color and texture.

If you’re not getting commissioned for jobs, create your own passion projects

Do you have any advice for artists looking to work in illustration?
My advice is to keep making work and exploring your process and style. Even when you’re not inspired to create….research interesting topics, read or open conversations with other artists. And if you’re not getting commissioned for jobs, create your own passion projects. Don’t give up! Update your website frequently, and if you are female identifying, join the website Women Who Draw.

Which woman do you think everyone should know about…?
Shirley Chisholm, the legendary American politician, who famously said ‘If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair’. She had all the odds stacked against her and still put her heart and soul into her campaign for US president. She didn’t run to win, she instead ran because it was her right as a citizen and she strove to push the envelope and start a national dialogue. She was absolutely fearless and a total bad-ass.

Visit Alexandra Bowman’s website: alexandrabowman.com

Read our #ShePersisted zine series, illustrated by Alexandra’s graphics: barbican.org.uk/shepersisted

Nevertheless She Persisted: Suffrage, cinema and beyond is showing in the Barbican Cinemas from 18–24 April.

Part of The Art of Change, our 2018 annual theme which explores how the arts respond to, reflect and potentially effect change in the social and political landscape.